Nightlife: As the worm turns

TJ Updated

Nightlife: As the worm turns

Forget the usual - Zócalo tasting features good stuff

By Lisa Heyamoto - Sacramento Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, April 27, 2007

It's not that I have anything against tequila, per se.

It's just that it had not, until recently, ever occurred to me to sip it.

In margarita form? Yeah, sure.

In shot form? Not so much. That stuff is going down as fast as I can manage it, and yes, I'll take a lime.

Unlike many of my barfly brethren, I've never had The Tequila Night, the one where, in a fit of ill-advised enthusiasm, you take down six shots and promptly revisit them in a much less appealing form, inspiring you to swear off tequila forevermore.

Well, OK, that did happen once. But I've always believed in second chances.

Since then, I've dipped a toe or two in the tequila scene over the years: I'll drink it, although I'm not exactly making a mix tape for it.

So when I heard Zócalo was offering monthly tequila tastings for the hitherto uninformed, I figured it was the perfect chance to give tequila, ahem, another shot.

The midtown Mexican hot spot hosts a tequila tasting on the first Monday of each month, complete with samples of the good stuff and an expert to tell you all about it. It's a great chance for Zócalo to bring tequila to the people, says beverage manager Joe Anthony Savala, and to educate customers about their signature sauce.

"We just wanted to be on the cutting edge," Savala says, "and make sure everyone likes what they're drinking and knows what they're drinking."

Tequila, you see, suffers from a bit of a bad rep. Too many people were weaned on the cheap stuff, too many people have had The Night.

But more and more, people have started to develop a new appreciation, helped in no small part by a certain Jalisco tequila called Patrón.

In the last few years, Patrón has joined the ranks of Cristal and Hennessy as a drink du jour of hip-hop culture. It's been lyrically imbibed in at least 22 songs, and the resulting pop culture cred has made it a staple of bar shelves everywhere.

Still, Patrón is not necessarily a favorite of the true aficionado.

Take Tequila Joe. Tequila Joe leads a local tequila-tasting group called the Tasting Aficionados, a 66-member club formed last year to drink and discuss the fruits of the agave plant.

He rates each tequila on the kind of meticulous scale that any wine buff would applaud, making notes in his binder on the liquor's color, aroma, flavor and finish, among many, many other characteristics.

He just so happens to rate Clase Azul, the brand of tequila we were trying at the tasting, as the best reposado (aged for anywhere from two months to a year) that he's tasted so far.

"It's extremely different from any other reposado," says the 28-year-old, whose full name is Joe Horrigan. "In very few reposados do you get a lot of caramel and vanilla."

Or, in the words of a novice:

"This is tripping me out," says Barry Brooke, 35, as he sipped his sample shot.

And indeed, the Clase Azul is far from your typical Cuervo. First of all, it's brown, evoking a peculiar feeling that you have a whisky in hand even as you smell that typical tequila tang. Second of all, it didn't make me want to retch when I tasted it, which, I'm sure, is the kind of praise any quality spirit maker just loves to hear.

Could it be? I actually like this stuff. A lot.

Too bad it normally costs about $15 a shot. Looks like I've got a way to go before I hop on the tequila train.

But not so for Brooke and fellow sampler Julie Eshelman, 31, whose experience at the tasting inspired them to do, well, a little more.

"I think we need to do shots at the bar," Brooke declares.

A fine idea. But do tequila a favor -- don't make it six.



1801 Capitol Ave.

THE SKINNY: Tequila tasting at Zócalo (at the corner of 18th Street and Capitol Avenue) at 6 p.m. on the first Monday of every month.

WHAT YOU REALLY WANT TO KNOW: With samplings of tequila you'd probably not otherwise sample, it's an educational eye-opener, with free food to boot.

THE DAMAGE: Free. ¡Hola!

THE DRINK: Rum. Just kidding.

THE DRESS: After-work casual. No striped shirts necessary.

THE BATHROOM FACTOR: The bathrooms at Zócalo, as always, are oddly joy-giving in their luxury.

GET CONNECTED: (916) 441-0303 or

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