Why The Bar Community Is Flirting With Tequila

From being a quick fix at a party to elaborate cocktails, this agave-based spirit has come a long way in India.

Published On May 31, 2024 | Updated On May 31, 2024


Vanilla notes leap out. Followed by a sweet trailing of toffee- caramel, a whisper of dry coconut, some funky vegetal notes and a hint of honey. The opening taste in the mouth is definitively agave-driven fruit, a mere suggestion of black pepper, opening up to a medium to full-bodied portal of vanilla notes, laced with oaky undertones. A pleasant lingering of caramel is a remembrance. 

We are in the tasting room of The Barfly Goa, a vibrant space in Assagao, housed inside a 150-year-old Portuguese villa and with a stocked agave bar. The guided tequila tasting is being led by Ajay Nayyar of Tulleeho, a beverage training and consulting company, The spirit we have just nosed and tasted is the Don Julio Reposado Tequila, aged for eight months in American white-oak barrels. 


It’s also the launch of an exclusive Tequila Club – arguably India’s first agave club centred around discovery, travel, and community. This community of agave lovers aims to offer immersive experiences such as tequila tastings, bar takeovers and curated cocktail and food pairings for connoisseurs, enthusiasts, and drinks explorers. 

With a pulse on the trend, Tulleeho Tequila Club intends to celebrate the agave-drinking culture through fiestas across Indian cities. This cross-pollination with the help of collabs and bar takeovers with agave in the centre aims to bring a fresh new dimension to India’s creative bar crucible. 

Since this was a rare evening where the city’s leading bar community had stepped out from behind their own counters and gathered here, I ask a few of Goa’s leading mixologists about their latest fixation with agave. So, how has tequila, once relegated as simply the fast lane to a quick fix, to be downed as shots with that wedge of lemon, become the liquid to be worshipped? 

“It's ultimately one reason, and that’s the flavour coming from the plant, precisely agave. It’s squeaky clean and easy going and also great to mix cocktails like Paloma or Picante with,” chimes in Nayyar, as the bartenders hand out more tequila cocktails, at lightning speed. 


Talking of Picante, the OG of the tequila cocktails, it has truly seen its coming of age. Its meteoric popularity across India continues to hold good, as more and more bartenders create their own riff on this soul-searingly wicked cocktail with chilli and coriander flavours, front and centre. 

This well-loved, fiery classic was invented years ago with a few simple ingredients. Bartenders were known to take chopped chilli and press down with a muddler in a cocktail shaker. Coriander leaves were bruised or hand-clapped in, a generous slosh of Reposado tequila for the edge, along with a drizzle of honey and fresh lime juice. Simple, but certainly the party starter! 

Now, every second bar in India has its own twist to this wicked libation and it is also known to have crept into the retail shelves in Goa. Ready-to-serve cocktail brand Mr Jerry’s has just launched a guava picante, and the pre-mixed cocktail is available is a 500ml bottle at INR 600. 

At Petisco Kitchen & Bar, their Tequila based signature cocktail, Love & Thunder has been gaining ground, reveals their Bar Head, Dev Narvekar. A delightful medley of Reposado tequila, fresh pineapple juice, coconut syrup, lime and in-house jalapeno brine, the cocktail is both, fruity and balanced, garnished with pineapple and jalapeno leather, which is made out of leftover fruit waste, a nod to sustainable bartending. “Reposado is one of my to-go in tequila varieties, and the slightly oaky aged flavour is very pleasing. It can be sipped neat or on ice with a slice of orange and soda,” he adds. 


Of course, with any great liquid comes the question of a good food pairing, and this was perfectly summed up by chef Tarun Sibal. “A great tequila experience is not actually food dominated. A little guacamole and wedge of grapefruit, some chili salt and lime do the trick. As far as food pairing goes, I like to stick to small tapas style plates, tacos, grills, and ceviche. The subtle nuances play a role when it comes to aged tequila namely Reposado and Anejo. I typically avoid heavy, greasy plates, and dishes that are dairy dominated can be kept at an arm’s length.” 

The agave fever is here to stay, as it seems. And, it’s being actively nurtured and demystified by those in the know. “With the influx of tequila and agave spirits igniting curiosity across India, this spirit category is on an incredible growth trajectory. Consumer interest to learn, understand, and mindfully indulge in tequila and its sister-spirits, Mezcal, Sotol, Raicilla, and Bacanora, is now higher than ever before,” added Vikram Achanta, founder and CEO, Tulleeho. 

Photo: Ahad Memon; Shutterstock