It was, to be sure, a night to remember.
My friend Doug was REALLY surprised when his family and a large group of pals, including my husband and me, celebrated his 50th birthday (which was actually this past Monday) two months early — on July 12th — at the Pelican Yacht Club in Ninette.
With a Hawaiian theme, complete with leis and souvenir T-shirts for the guests, everybody involved had a great time.
At one point, a bunch of us were summoned from the outdoor deck to the inside of the clubhouse for tequila shots. And while I’m not USUALLY a shot-drinker, this was one of those let-your-hair-down, let-it-all-hang-out kind of parties where it seemed exactly the right thing to do.
But when I got to the bar, where the festivities were about to commence, and I saw which tequila they were pouring into tiny shot glasses, my face blanched.
"You can’t shoot THIS tequila!" I cried, horrified by the notion.
"Oh yes, we can, and we’re GOING to!" the guest of honour’s daughter Kelby replied calmly.
I shook my head in disbelief. But I took the glass that was offered to me and joined in the collective toast to our friend’s health, happiness and the milestone he’d (almost) achieved.
But then I made a bold move, and believe me, I’m not often this forward. I asked Andrew, the oh-so-charming bartender, if I might have one more partial shot of the tequila, just to sip. He happily obliged, and I sat down in a quiet corner, away from the masses, to savour my bonus glass of the Silver Patron, which I considered to be an exceedingly rare treat. And believe me, it was.
I was never really into tequila until my husband and I made our first trip to Mexico in 1999. Anyway, the old when-in-Rome mentality was fully in play, so we figured we had to try some tequila on its own rather than just the stuff we’d been consuming in margaritas.
We’d noticed, at one eating establishment, that unlike what we were accustomed to — shots served with a lime wedge and salt — Mexicans actually sipped their tequila like brandy, often even from snifters, savouring each taste.
So we found an elegant little hole-in-the-wall bar across the street from our hotel after dinner one night, and decided this would be our tequila sampling evening.
When the waiter came to see what we wanted, we asked him to recommend a good tequila. Instantly, there were four other servers around our table, all of them good-naturedly arguing because each one had his own favourite for us to try. Between the language barrier and their loud banter, we unintentionally ended up with five different snifters on our table, and a bit of a shock when we got our bill, as they ranged in price from five to eight dollars a shot!
But it was really cool to do a side-by-side tasting of all these diverse brands. All were agave, of course — there wasn’t as much of a shortage of it then as there is nowadays — but they were all very different. And we found something to like in each one of them, although the eight-dollar one had a finesse the others didn’t. Sadly, though, all these years later, I can’t remember what the brands were.
Another tangent: I never realized how similar tequila is to scotch! A few years back, we celebrated one of my mom’s birthdays with a Mexican feast (at her request) at my place that included tequila as a start to the evening. My dad, a dedicated scotch drinker, was reluctant to partake of the tequila at all. But I persuaded him — well, no — I INSISTED — that he take one of the tiny onyx glasses I’d purchased down Mexico way and toast mom with tequila, and then he could move on to his favourite.
So he grudgingly took the glass, we made the toast, and then I offered to pour him a scotch. He considered his onyx glass of tequila, and took another sip.
"No thanks," he said to my offer. "I think I’ll stick with this."
You could have knocked me over with a feather! I’d never seen him drink any other hard liquor but scotch in the previous two or three decades! But here he was, converted by one daughter-mandated sip of this Mexican standby.
That’s not to say he switched his loyalty from scotch to tequila. But that night, the scotch stayed in the cupboard, and the tequila remained on the table, with the level in the bottle dropping steadily as the night wore on.
Anyway, back to the lake, and my love affair with the Silver Patron.
The bottle of said beverage had been well chilled, so it made for a great shot, and was extra pleasurable to drink slowly as well. And I sipped that extra ounce for a long, long time, just to let the subtleties surface as it warmed. But although I preferred it cold, it was wonderful at any temperature.
Made from 100 per cent Weber blue agave, the Silver is handmade in small batches to be smooth, soft and easily mixable, should you want to bastardize this gem by doing anything other than drink it straight. With flavours of fresh agave and a hint of citrus, the Silver Patron gives a white pepper kick on the finish, which has become one of my favourite things as of late (the white pepper finish, I mean, which I’ve also found in certain wines).
When I was next in the Liquor Mart, I checked the price. I knew the Silver would be expensive, but I was a bit floored when I saw the $75.99 tag on the shelf. Yeow! But it really, truly was and is something special. And there are two levels in the Patron line ‘above’ the Silver — the Reposado ($85.45) and the Anejo ($94.99). I can only imagine how fabulous those might be.
Anyway, despite my shock at the party-goers consuming the Silver in shots — it seemed like such a waste to me to drink something so splendid in one mouthful instead of savouring it like I did later — I felt much better about it after Kelby told me she’d bought the Silver in Florida "for like $20."
And what a great occasion to bring it out. Any beverage, whether simple or sensational, is almost always better in the company of friends and loved ones. Which was certainly the circumstance in which we found ourselves on that very special night.
» Diane Nelson is a long-time journalist and former Sun staffer who really likes wine. A lot. Chat with her online at vinelines.ca or on twitter @vinelinesbdn
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 21, 2013