Eduardo Gomez is the man behind your favourite weekend in October: Tequila and Mezcal Fest… the biggest Tequila and Agave spirit festival in Europe. The show’s in it’s 5th year this year and will run from 5th, 6th, 7th October at the Bargehouse, Oxo Tower. Originally from Mexico City, Eduardo’s been living in London for 14 years and is the sales director of Mex Grocer, the UK’s largest premium Mexican food importer… he’s dedicated his life to promoting authentic Mexican food, drinks and culture in the UK. This year is the biggest yet with over 50 agave spirit brands, four pop-up cocktail bars, three restaurants serving a fresh take on Mexican street food such as the delicious roadside chicken tacos from Taqueria (pictured) and a Mexican cinema in collaboration with Raindance.
How did you get the festival off the ground Eduardo?
I had the contacts from my previous jobs and my experience at Amathus meant that I’d been to all of the major drinks shows so I knew exactly what worked and what didn’t work from those shows and tried to combine them for mine. Right at the beginning of setting Tequila Fest up I spoke to Ian Burrell who runs Rumfest and had a good conversation to see how he’d gone about it. When we started the event was very small – just 1000 people over all the days. Now it’s over 2500. We promote all tequila brands from the big players such as Patron,Don Julio, Casamigos, Cuervo, Herradura, Jimador and Olmeca to medium and small brands such as Arette, Fortaleza, Herencia de Plata, Corazon, G4 among others, in addition to a lot of smaller artisanal producers of mezcal, Raicilla, Bacanora and Sotol. But I have Mexico as a country behind me. Mexico is as big as Europe. People don’t ever think that – from Tijuana to Cancun is 3000 miles. From Madrid to Moscow it 2700 miles. There’s a lot of land! There’s deserts, jungles, plateaus, mountains, coastlines. We have loads to offer! Mexico is the sixth most visited country in the world and the UK are the number one European country for tourism. We work with the Mexican Embassy and Mexican Tourist Board.
Most people are warded off tequila from too much Jose Cuervo when they’re 16…
Jose Cuervo is one of the oldest tequila producers in Mexico and make very good tequilas such as Maestro Dobel, 1800, Centenario but the image you have in your mind is of their entry level tequila, which is not 100% agave. Tequila has two categories: tequila and tequila 100% agave – most entry level tequilas are not 100% agave, which means that only 51% of their sugars comes form agave the other 49% comes from other sugar sources which usually are of lower quality. They had to do it for necessity because the agave rotation is 5-7 years for tequila so at the time there wasn’t enough plants for the demand. Mezcal producers learned from the tequila industry so they are not making the same mistakes. With mezcal you have three categories: mezcal only, artisanal mezcal and ancestral mezcal. Artisanal mezcal has to be cooked underground, it has to be ground with a tahona and the fermentation has to be natural, while ancestral is something much crazier. They grind it with wooden bats, it’s fermented on cows skin – all these things. It’s why a bottle costs £150 because of all the labour. We normally promote artisanal mezcal.
What’s the biggest misconception of tequila that we have in the UK?
That people don’t know how it’s made, people don’t know where it comes from and people think that it’s just a shot to get wasted with. Tequila is way more than that. Tequila is Mexico in a way – it’s heavily attached to Mexican roots. Many artists in Mexico will drink tequila or mezcal, a singer will sing with a bottle of tequila or mescal on stage, Frida Kahlo used to drink tequila; back in the day when Acapulco was famous, Frank Sinatra and all these people would have houses there and they were all drinking tequila. But properly!
So what happened to tequila and mezcal?
I guess Mexico became popular and Americans would come to all the resorts from Acapulco to Cancun. Mexicans look for opportunity and realised they could serve less quality at the same price and just put a worm in the bottle and they’d believe it. Same with shooting tequila with salt and lime/lemon, someone just made it up.
What cocktails are you bringing to convince us not to shoot it?
Tequila and mezcal are both very versatile. So you can twist any classic with them – an Old Fashioned with tequila is delicious as is a mezcal negroni. At the festival I want to be pushing the Margarita and the Paloma. 70% of tequila consumption in Mexico is in a Paloma – we don’t have time to shake the drink! A Paloma is like a gin and tonic for us but we mix it with grapefruit.
What do you think of pulque, also made from agave – that’s becoming more fashionable?
Pulque is indeed becoming more popular – it’s made from salmiana agave. You can make mezcal from any kind of agave, and in Mexico we have 150 different types. Salmiana is one of these and is a massive plant, which you make pulque specifically from. I don’t like it drinking it much because of the consistency and it’s constantly fermenting. After three glasses you can feel ill as there’s so much fermentation. But Mexicans are always trying something new – people are making mezcal from pulque!