Tequila infused Manuel Otero's youth in Mexico.
"When we used to go serenade the girls- it was very traditional to go to this area where the mariachis were and you used to have a couple of shots of tequila to encourage yourself to go with the mariachis to the girl's house," he said.
Otero realizes many Canadians may not enjoy the same romantic associations with the hard liquor. "A lot of people have bad memories of hangovers," he said.
Otero hopes the May 12 Vancouver International Tequila Expo, which he is coorganizing, will alter drinkers' perceptions of liquor made from the agave plant.
"The truth is from those days to today it's just changed dramatically-even in Mexico," he said.
Like champagne and cognac production in France, the location where tequila can be produced is strictly controlled. Even if it's bottled elsewhere, it can only be made in five states in Mexico. Most tequila is made in the state of Jalisco, home of Puerto Vallarta. Otero says four types of tequila exist: gold, silver or clear, reposado or rested, and anejo or aged. Gold tequila won't be served at the expo because it's typically only 51 per cent agave and the other 49 per cent consists of other sugars. Silver, blanco, plata, white or platinum tequila is clear and is bottled shortly after distillation. Reposado tequila is aged in oak barrels two to 12 months. Anejo is premium amber-hued tequila that's aged more than a year and up to three years.
"They're all meant for sipping gently and tasting," Otero said. "If you have a Tavi or any of the top premium tequilas, I'm sorry they're over $100, $150 bucks [a bottle] or so, you're not going to shoot it."
He says wannabe aficionados can buy a decent bottle of tequila for $40 or $50.
"A good bottle of wine, that is what you're going to spend."
The expo will run at the Vancouver Convention Centre. It includes a trade tasting for those who work in liquor retail for the hospitality industry from 3 to 5 p.m. The main tasting that's open to the public includes Mexican-inspired hors d'oeuvres from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Mexico produces thousands of tequilas. Visitors to the tasting will be able to sample the wares of two-dozen brands, about 60 different types, 90 per cent of them already available in B.C. The inaugural expo aims to create a thirst for tequilas already stocked at some liquor stores to increase demand and bring more brands to Vancouver. Three separately priced tequila seminars precede the expo. Restaurants in Vancouver and Whistler will offer tequilatasting menus from May 8 to 12.
The early bird rate of $55 for the main event has been held until Cinco de Mayo, May 5. Partial proceeds of ticket sales will benefit the B.C. Hospitality Foundation. Ticket buyers will be eligible to win an allinclusive trip for two to Puerto Vallarta. For more information, see vancouvertequilaexpo.com.