Food and Drink, The Daily Feed, The Features, We Love Drinks

Friday Happy Hour: Tacos and Tequila at El Rey

I’m done with this cold, rainy nonsense. It’s time for spring, people! I want to see more balmy temps, cool drinks, sundresses, and cherry blossoms. But most of all, I want tequila and tacos because nothing quite puts me in the spirit of warm weather quite like drinking tequila and eating tacos under the sun. So I’m sure you can imagine my feelings towards the opening of El Rey last week, Shaw’s new U Street tacqueria/beer garden. It went sort of like this (only replace “bacon and eggs” with “tequila and tacos”).

I walked into El Rey’s soft opening, having done shameful little to no homework, with a very short check list. First order of business: lots of tequila. Yeah they got that. Second: tacos. I think so. Lastly, not cold. It might have been rainy and nasty all week, but under those heat lamps you could have fooled me. Close my eyes and I’m back to undergrad, eating tacos off a truck and lounging on the sunny quad. Only this time there’s tequila. Continue reading

The Daily Feed

$5 Margaritas @ Masa 14

Masa 14 – 3 by maxedaperture

Happy Cinco de Mayo, DC!  148 years ago, Mexico was able to defend an attack lead by a much larger French army.  To celebrate their victory they drank margaritas, cerveza, and ate chips and salsa.  I’m joking of course, but when it comes to drinking margaritas, I don’t kid around.  That’s why I feel the need to tell you about the Cinco de Mayo drink specials being served at Masa 14 tonight from 5pm to 2am.

Priced at just $5 each, the flavors include hibiscus, blueberry, tamarind, coconut, and the signature house margarita.  Additionally, the restaurant will be pouring a “Banderita,” or tequila tasting sampler, which will include three separate shot glasses filled with lime juice, homemade Sangrita, and El Jimador Silver Tequila.

Save me a seat at the bar, DC.  These are not your father’s margaritas.

Downtown, Food and Drink, The Features, We Love Drinks

Drinks Preview: Oyamel’s Tequila and Mezcal Fest

Photo courtesy of
‘Oyamel 4′
courtesy of ‘maxedaperture’

Tequila flies under the radar as connoisseur’s drink. It’s had an unfair representation from co-eds pounding back shots on spring break in Cancun and middle aged women drinking slushy margaritas by some pool. But Tequila, much like anything, can be done right and can be done wrong. Chef Jose Andres and Co. at Oyamel want to highlight the former, something that they do annually with their two week Tequila and Mezcal Festival.

This celebration of all things agave is becoming a highlight of the DC cocktail scene. Not only do you get to sample some of Mexico’s finest in carefully constructed flights, you find some truly creative cocktails crafted by the mixologists at Oyamel, and from a few guests they bring in. The festival kicked off Monday night and I was fortunate enough to be able to sample a few of their highlighted drinks and appetizers.

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Food and Drink, Interviews, People, The Features, We Love Drinks

We Love Drinks: Ivan Iricanin

Photo courtesy of
‘Masa 14 – 7′
courtesy of ‘maxedaperture’

We Love Drinks continues our series where we look behind the bar, profiling the many people – from mixologists to bartenders, sommeliers to publicans – who make your drinks experience happen.

When Ivan Iricanin first tells me his favorite drink is tequila, I don’t quite believe him. After all, as beverage manager for Masa 14 with its 100+ tequila collection, doesn’t he have to say that? But the care is evident as he lines up a flight showcasing some exquisite ultra-aged tequila. And once I sample his simple margarita, I definitely believe him.

Ivan’s originally from Serbia, spending the past five years in DC and previously working with Richard Sandoval at Zengo. When I ask how a Serbian came to love a Mexican liquor, he mentions rakija, a fruit brandy usually made with plums. The best varieties are homemade and difficult to get. Traveling to Mexico as part of his stint with Washington Wholesale, he was reminded of his national liquor when trying the micro-tequilas – and of course Sandoval’s Mexican heritage was a huge influence as well.

Most Americans never get past mixto tequila, artificially colored and only 50% or so of it actual agave – the remainder coming from other sugar sources. “You’ll get a headache if it’s mixto,” Ivan says strongly, “all our tequilas served here are 100% agave.” This is serious stuff, with a regulatory council and bottle identifiers similiar to wine regulation. Ivan suggests starting your exploration with a flight – and what better way to completely wipe all memory of previous bad tequila choices than to go with a micro-tequila flight. Masa has six on the menu, and you won’t find them anywhere else.

As he lines up the gorgeous bottles with a card explaining each one, I’m thinking this could be dangerous, even though Ivan says the quality is flawless. I’m still relieved that fellow WLDC author Max is also along for the ride to help me with the tasting! Continue reading