Thursday, October 11, 2007

Have You Gone Platino?

There was a time when a ‘gold card’ was the symbol of success. Businessmen would whip it out to impress colleagues and clients, women would flaunt it like a 10-carat diamond. If you had a gold card, you were a hotshot.

Enter the platinum card. Suddenly keeping up with the Joneses meant trading in the golden hue for something that looked like silver … but was worth a lot more.

Now, let’s talk tequila.

I still enjoy the warm, molten gold of a rich añejo. The cognac-like qualities of a fine, aged sipping tequila will make it a staple in my bar forever. However, I’ve taken note of today’s tequila connoisseurs’ growing appreciation for a 100% Agave platino.

At first glance, the clear liquid looks like a freshly fermented silver tequila, or even a slightly ‘rested’ reposado. Under more scrutiny, the contents of the bottle seem to have a sharper transparency than a usual clear fluid. There is an almost mercurial-type sheen to the surface of the fluid.
Then there’s the flavor...

Platino (or platinum) tequila is so rich and authentic, so deeply rooted in the earth, so 100% ‘puro Mexicano,’ that once it has passed the lips, and permeated the palate, it is hard to imagine making a favorite margarita recipe with anything else, ever again.

My first platinum tequila experience was enhanced by the gold star atmosphere. Riding a shuttle from where I valet-ed my car to the Hollywood hilltop mansion, with an expansive view of the city at sunset, it became clear that this was no collegiate “shots and poppers” crowd.

Upon debarking the shuttle, we were presented tequila cocktails. A sucker for the bubbly, I was quite impressed at how tequila actually worked in this Mexican version of a classic champagne cocktail, Jose Cuervo Platino's sparkler, the Platino 96:

1 1/2 oz Jose Cuervo Platino
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
Dash of Angostura Bitters

3 Mint Leaves

3 oz sparkling wine

Muddle 2 mint leaves and simple syrup in mixing glass. Add Jose Cuervo Platino, bitters and ice, then shake and strain into a chilled flute. Top with sparkling wine and garnish with a mint leaf.

Sparkling tequila drink in hand, I wandered the ground, marveling at a living space seemingly built with only entertaining in mind. The house itself has been featured in multitudes of magazines, and many celebrities have been photographed there. This layout of Pamela Anderson was shot at the house, as have numerous others of playmates, models, rockstars and actors.

The all glass living room had built-in leather banquettes, which could seat about 40 - and we walked across a clear fiberglass bridge over a Koi pond to get there from the main

Judging by the Austin Powers-fabulous glass walled bedrooms overlooking the awe-inspiring vista, the hilltop dwelling has seen its share of paparazzi-stalked, ‘what-happens-here-stays-here’ soirees.

The next cocktail in the sampling line up was not so pleasant. The Platino Dirty Martini sounded a little cliché – but intriguing. Tequila mixes so well with many flavors, however it became quickly apparent that olive juice is not one of them
. I hope to never sip those two things from the same glass again.

Pursuant to the cocktail hour, we sat down at a beautifully decorated dinner table dotted with cactus centerpieces. For those who don’t know, agave is a cactus-like succulent desert plant, similar to an aloe, from which tequila is made. Read more of my agave coverage in this blog post from last year.

The guest of honor was Juan Domingo Beckmann, the 10th generation descendant of Jose Cuervo. For more than two centuries, the traditions of making Cuervo tequila have been passed along through the family line. In addition to running the Cuervo empire, Domingo Beckman is passionate about the economic evolution of his homeland, and has been president of Mexico’s Consejo de la Comunicación (advocating integrity and honesty in Mexico), since 2004.

The meal paired a wonderful little raw vegetable appetizer, then seabass or steak, and finally dulce de leche flan with tequila cocktails. To me, the skill of pairing cocktail and food has a lot to do with an understanding of a balanced drink, and not letting them get too sweet for the dish. The Platino Fresco was nice with the fish because the citrus helped cut the sweet of the St. Germain elderflower liqueur. I would have gone slightly less sweet for a main-dish cocktail, were it up to me… Still, I enjoyed the drink and would enjoy sipping it on its own. Here’s the recipe, should you like to try it:

1 oz Jose Cuervo Platino
1/2 oz St. Germain
2 slices of Cucumber
3 Mint Leaves

1 oz Grapefruit Juice

Muddle cucumber, mint and St. Germain. Add grapefruit juice and Jose Cuervo Platino. Shake, with ice. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with cucumber slice.

I was a tequila-lover going into this dinner, and I came away with a sincere appreciation for the onslaught of ‘platinum’ tequilas hitting the shelves. And, I can assure you, after experimenting with a bottle of my very own Jose Cuervo Platino, it will appear in many of my upcoming recipes!

(Let the Joneses keep up with me - and my platinum tequila!)

"Official" photos courtesy of: Lever & Fulcrum Photography for Joe Moller Events, with additional photography generously shared by fellow food / spirits writer (and dinner guest): Karen Loftus

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