July 24th marks the worldwide celebration of Tequila Day, an occasion entirely dedicated to the distillate obtained from the fermentation of agave originating from Mexico and, more specifically, from the Tequila area in the state of Jalisco. It is one of the first American distilled spirits, produced as early as the 16th century, which today is widespread and enjoyed all over the world simply on its own or as part of creative cocktails.
The creation of the first fermented agave sap began over 1,000 years ago as part of festivals and religious ceremonies. It was also used as an antiseptic and as a cure for fevers and headaches. Around the time of the first Spanish conquistadors, people began distilling the drink, whose popularity began to spread not just as a spirit but also as an ingredient used in medicines and skin care. This year, this is how Italian bartenders are paying homage to Mexico’s prized spirit. Discover the cocktails on offer at some of Italy’s best bars.
Azotea – Turin
At Azotea, a cocktail-restaurant located in the center of Turin, drinks pay homage to tequila drinks every day. In fact, the mixing idea of Matteo Fornaro, the bar manager, is built around the Nikkei culture, born from the encounter between the Japanese – who emigrated from their own country – and Peru, the country that welcomed them. South American alcoholic bases, such as tequila, are often featured in Azotea’s cocktails, which are not infrequently paired with culinary ingredients.
These include Cynara, a spicy, citrusy drink with Tequila Cimarron infused with mallow blossom, Cynar, Mezcal Vida Del Maguey, pink grapefruit, Cointreau, lime, and agave syrup, and Azotea spicy homemade bitters, made with cayenne pepper, allspice, ginger, long pepper, and black pepper infused in overproof rum and bourbon whiskey infused with mint.
Lobby Bar 5*L Il Sereno – Torno (CO)
At the Lobby Bar of the 5*L Il Sereno hotel, in Torno (CO), on Lake Como, Sri Lankan bar manager Don Vidura Nilaksha Colambage offers a signature menu paired with haiku. Haiku are Japanese poetic compositions that originated in 17th century Japan, similar to our sonnets and composed of three lines and seventeen blackberries, divided into five, seven, and five.
One haiku in particular, “Even the hermit goes out to drink moonlit night,” inspired a cocktail that the bartender made with tequila. It is Eremita, a summery, light twist on the South American Margarita cocktail using Silver Tequila, Chartreuse Verte, vanilla syrup, lime, and lavender. To the tequila, which has not been aged, the bar manager juxtaposes Chartreuse Verte, an herbal liqueur made by Carthusian monks in France – hence the connection to the cocktail’s name – lime juice also present in the original recipe, and finally a lavender bitters and homemade vanilla syrup.
Gin Lounge 5* L Grand Hotel Fasano & Villa Principe – Gardone Riviera (BS)
From Jalisco to Benaco is the tequila-based creation of Bar Manager Rama Redzepi of the five-star luxury hotel Grand Hotel Fasano & Villa Principe, in Gardone Riviera (BS), on Lake Garda. A summery, aromatic, and thirst-quenching cocktail that, just as it is easy to guess from its name, combines the lively and animated atmosphere of Mexico with the more sedate and quiet atmosphere of Lake Garda.
If Jalisco, in fact, is one of the states of Mexico, the place where the tequila used in the drink is produced, Benaco is the Latin term – back to the Romans – for Garda. The vast expanse of water provides the backdrop for Rama’s imagination and inventiveness at the Grand Hotel Fasano & Villa Principe. In this case, as underlined by the cocktail’s combinations of flavors and colors, projected to exotic faraway lands.
Based on tequila infused with white tea, lemon and mango, fresh lime juice, and pink grapefruit soda, the sparkling notes of From Jalisco to Benaco marry perfectly with the aromas of kumquat or Chinese tangerine, the star ingredient of oleo saccharum. A preparation that, through the use of sugar, combines the citrus’s essential oils and allows the drink to have an extra touch of personality.
Cloud9 Villa Sassi – Turin
At Cloud9, the American bar at the historic Turin mansion Villa Sassi, the signature tequila drinks from head bartender Roberto Palestini all have high-sounding names inspired by some of the most illustrious figures on the international art scene.
Among them, based on tequila, is Frida Kahlo, a savory, smoky twist on the Paloma, one of the best-known Mexican cocktails on Western soil. Its ingredients, blended together in a careful and balanced way, are Casamigos Tequila, mezcal, hibiscus syrup, lime juice, salt, and grapefruit soda. The result? A rosy, fragrant drink full of character and personality.
Sofitel Roma Villa Borghese – Rome
The drink thought up by Dima Ciocia, Bar and Restaurant Manager of Settimo Roman Cuisine & Terrace at the beautiful rooftop of Sofitel Roma Villa Borghese, is the Smoky Apricot Margarita. It is a twist on Tommy’s Margarita inspired by summer and made with seasonal fruits. Torch-burned apricots are crushed and combined with agave syrup, lime, and Patron tequila, all served in a rock with ice and garnish of burnt apricot slices. A fresh drink with smoky and sweet citrus notes.
Giulia Restaurant – Rome
A twist on Tommy’s Margarita is also the one proposed by Gianluca Storchi, Bar Manager of the entire Giulia building. His Tommy Thyme is made with thyme-infused tequila (Olmeca Altos) with added mezcal, agave mix, and lime. The drink, shaken vigorously, releases a disruptive aromatic force. Proud and complex, it is the cocktail pairing with Osteria Giulia’s carbonara on the ground floor while on the upper floors in the newly reopened restaurant’s new rooms you can sip it en plein air on the beautiful terraces or in the new taste house rooms at aperitif or dinner.
Aventina Carne & Bottega – Rome
Another example is the Margarita made by Giacomo Di Veroli, Barman of Aventina Carne & Bottega. This is a classic drink but with the addition of homemade sugar syrup (as if it were a triple sec but artisanal liqueur) with Sicilian orange zest and Espolòn 100% agave tequila. The drink is served in a classic sombrero cup and topped with a crust of Sicilian salt crystals from the WWF salt pans in Trapani. Both tequila and salt are also available for sale on the store’s shelves.
Il Marchese – Rome and Milan
Fabrizio Valeriani, on the other hand, the talented bar manager of Il Marchese, for Tequila Day is proposing the Cavaliere di Franciacorta – the Knight of Franciacorta, a cocktail perfect for aperitifs, elegant and fresh. It is made with a Franciacorta base with Patron tequila, Vermouth Martini Rubino, and Amaro del Capo Red with the addition of homemade mandarin syrup, fresh lime juice, and Franciacorta topped with damask rose spray.
Palm Court Bar Hotel Hassler – Rome
In the beautiful and lush Palm Court Bar at the Hotel Hassler, however, for Tequila Day, and throughout the summer, guests can find on the menu the Atzeca Trends created by Head Barman Stefano Santucci. It is a fresh and pungent cocktail made with Silver Tequila combined with freshly squeezed grapefruit and lime juice with the addition of spicy sugar syrup and jalapeño. In the glass, the warm colors of the sunset sky are reflected making it the ideal fruity and spicy drink for a toast with friends on summer evenings.
Rhinoceros Le Restau & Roofbar – Rome
A twist on the Espresso Martini served “on the rocks” is instead the proposal of Christian Comparone, Bar Manager of Rhinoceros Le Restau & Roofbar. It is called Rhinoceros Nero and is a fresh drink in which the intense notes of tequila are best expressed by recalling the typical herbaceous and mineral scents. Inside, the coffee obtained from carob seeds is enriched by a tamarind paste and a hint of agave nectar infused in jalapeño, all enhanced by the savory and toasted notes of almonds through the use of Apulian Amaretto Adriatico. An explosion of flavors, then, somewhere between vegetal and earthy but overall refreshing and perfectly balanced.