Dateline: New Orleans. At the 2010 Tales Of The Cocktail gathering Milagro Bartender Competition which showcased 14 bartenders from around the country, another sort of cocktail was on offering. Months earlier Gaston Martinez and Jaime Salas of William Grant & Sons had asked Milagr0 co-founder Danny Schneeweiss to create a special offering for all the competitors. Danny concocted a special blend of 3 of
Milagro's main offerings, the Barrel Reserve, the Silver and the Anejo. At a dinner the night before the big competition (and, this being Tales Of The Cocktail, the obligatory blow-out party) Danny talked about creating the blend, and how he'd hand numbered all the bottles. Competitors all received bottles, and the blend would be served to guests at the next evening's competition & party as a one-night-only, ephemeral tequila meritage. Like the apocryphal flash of green that is said to appear some evenings over the Gulf of Mexico, it would exist merely for that one moment. "I love it so much I don't want to give it away," he said wistfully to the table of bartenders participating in the competition from all over: Dallas, Boulder, San Francisco, St. Louis. I was reminded of a sort of mien that's come up recently when discussing really great cocktails--that quality a drink can have of being so amazing and irresistibly delicious that you just want to get as much of it in you as quickly as possible. It sounds like a binge, and it is, but a binge on a fine taste arc and perfect balance as much as just the power of mood altering spirits, if not more. "I love it because I can taste all the different tequilas coming through--I can taste everything we do," Danny said with unfettered enthusiasm. There was a clear glow of pride in his face as he shared the ratio he finally arrived at after a month of trials: 50% Milagro Silver, 30% Select Barrel Reserve Reposado and 20% Milagro Anejo. The result was, in fact, a super tequila, in the same sense that a tuscan can be super: flavors elevated from their standard pitch to a heroic intensity, a rigorous riff on existing flavors and just some damn fine drinkable stuff. Like a meritage it pulls from each of its elements' flavor profiles and pushes them somehow farther, bigger, grander. Why haven't artisanal blended tequilas existed before? There's the Joven category, where one tequila is used to offset another's weakness(es) and "soften" it, but in this case all the tequilas were great from jump, so it's a bit different. Like Maker's 46, this blend took a page from the viniculture playbook in its technique and basic concept, delivered something rooted firmly in the brand's trademark flavors and pushed it into a new, compellingly drinkable realm. Smashing good stuff.
The next evening, at the competition, William Grant's Charlotte Voisey was pouring the blend into snifters, neat. Charlotte's pretty measured in her compliments, and so her clear enthusiasm for the blend was persuasive. "I thought I'd be pretty quiet at this station just pouring a blended tequila, no ice or mixer, but it was incredibly busy--and people kept coming back." At the end of the evening she was positively beaming over the blend's reception. "It was almost a Hendrick's moment, where people would drink it and say, I don't like gin but I like this. People were drinking it who said they would never drink tequila but they loved this and they came back."
By the end of the evening the conversation was already happening about putting the blend out commercially. "It has to be done," said Charlotte, shaking her head, clearly certain that this was something crucial for Milagro to put out there. I commented that it could take the young brand that was still finding its identity in the marketing space and move it to another level. Her look seemed to imply that it was already happening, as we spoke. Perhaps it was.
It would be silly to resist Voisey's inception* of how great this blend is. It helps that the blend is actually astonishingly spot on, not too oaky, not too smokey, not too buttery, just very just right. Very Goldilocks perfect. You want to drink it fast because it's so good, but its so complex and interesting you are compelled to nurse and savor it.
Charlotte and Milagro's Jaime Salas
She was doing tastings as workers were clearing away tables. The party was over, but she was on point with this stuff. Again, very persuasive. I'm calling it now. Milagro Special Reserve Blend on shelves by Christmas.
"Ten out of ten," she said on the response from those who sampled the blend, with return visits. I'd have to say of all the cocktails I had that night (10 out of the 14 entries, perhaps, some good ones to be sure, but all batched and not in their ideal state) this cocktail of tequilas alone was actually the best.