People have been drinking agave for eons beginning with the ancestors’ witches brew called pulque to the more refined modern tequilas. The traditional ways of harvesting remain the norm, as machete weilding jimadores whittle agave plants down to the pina to begin the roasting and juicing process, while distilling technology continues to modernize the industry. The latest evolution for tequila is its ability to penetrate the luxury spirits market and make fantastic modern cocktails, far from the mixto margaritas and shooters that became synonymous with its name decades earlier.While we should thank the Aztecs for bringing us this agave revolution, we can also hold our glasses high for Manny Hinojosa, the brand ambassador for Cazedores and Corzo tequila, who lives and breathes agave. In Honolulu last week to host and judge the Corzo Throwdown at the Trump Tower Hotel, Hinojosa is intense about Corzo Tequila, and the challenge to create beautiful drinks with it. As one of the newest tequilas launched in ‘04, Corzo came in the ring swinging, with a gorgeous Fabien Baron designed bottle and a unique aging process to ensure some of the smoothest distilled agave delivered to your palate.
Hinojosa says, “This Corzo Throwdown is more than an excuse to get me to Hawaii. It is in its 2nd year. This year the set up is better, the event is bigger, and it is the perfect opportunity to see the best bartender talent in Hawaii create cocktails using Corzo.”
At the Corzo Throwdown at Trump Tower, ten of Oahu’s top bartenders had to compete without knowledge of what they were going to make. After being informed privately that their secret ingredient was blood orange they had ten minutes to search the well stocked “kitchen” for the components to make their drinks, and five minutes to prepare it. The heat was on.
“This format is really fun,” says Sommer Meyer, Regional Sales Manager of Bacardi USA, who owns the Corzo line. “All the mixologists wait in anticipation, and the level of cocktails that come out of this competition really let us see their ability to think on their feet.”
The ten competitors go toe to toe in rounds of two with the judges scoring on nose, palate, balance, ettiquette, and proper use. Judges included Hinojosa, Juan Coronado, Bacardi Brand Master, and Joey Gottesman, Young’s Market Hawaii Mixologist. Gottesman says, “This competition separates the boys from the men. Using the right glass with the right proportion can take your drink from mediocre to amazing.”
1st place: Tim Rita, Lewers Lounge, created the Hot Love
2nd place: Dave Newman, Nobu, created the Hinojosa
3rd place: Manny Billegas II, Quinns, created the Candy
Tim Rita won the first place prize of an X-Box with his Hot Love creation that used Corzo anejo in an absinthe essenced cocktail class. Rita explains, “My approach was a perfectly balanced spicy and sweet cocktail that had an appealing color as well. I used prickly pear puree because mostly for it’s color second for it’s unique tart flavor. Then I went to tequila’s best friends lime and agave nectar. And to spice it up fresh jalapeno. Last I wanted to use a spirit of resurgence, Absinthe. So basically I muddled sliced jalapeños along with all the non-alcoholic ingredients. Then add the tequila. Shake and triple strain (my signature move), into a martini glass that I rinsed with the absinthe”
Dave Newman’s Hinojosa cocktail utilized B & B, ginger, pineapple and lime served in a rocks glass and garnished with a blackberry and took second place. He took home a bottle of Corzo Anejo. The only bartender from Kona on the island of Hawaii, Manny Billegas II placed third with his sweet sensation called Candy that married melon, cerrano pepper, cinnamon with Corzo blanco and local made soda. “It was an honor to share the battlefield with these guys.” said Billegas.
“Manny’s drink was refreshing.” Gottesman said, “It finished sweet but that was in the name. I drank it right down.” Manny takes home a bottle of Corzo Reposado. A phone call to Tim Rita revealed his X-Box was proudly on display but unopened.