After last year’s success, Top Taco will be holding its second annual Agave Week from Sunday, March 10 to Thursday, March 14. Producer Shane Finkelstein is bringing the festivities to the Ace Hotel for four days through a series of events, dinners, parties and seminars with a vision to entertain tequila and mezcal aficionados as well as educate service industry professionals on all facets of the industry.
“Agave Week started out last year as a series of Agave Dinners at different restaurants around town along with one event that we produced ourselves at the Audubon Aquarium,” says Finkelstein. “This year, we've separated those events into a four day festival at the Ace Hotel dedicated to agave spirits.”
The celebration will kick off on Sunday (March 10) at noon at the Ace Hotel with the Top Tequila Competition where seminar attendees will learn the ins and outs of judging spirits for competition from some of the industry’s top palates.
The competition will be succeeded by the 2pm Don Julio Scavenger Hunt at Barcadia where teams will compete for prizes as they race from the Warehouse District to the French Quarter in search of Don Julio clues. Later in the evening one may enjoy Mezcal seminars, tasting rooms and panel discussions at the Ace Hotel including the Scotch Lover’s Guide to Mezcal, To Tequila & Beyond: An exploration of the Nine Agave Spirits, and a Rare Taste of Mezcal.
The first night of Agave Week will close with Mezcalicious: A Delicious Taste of Mezcal featuring Trixie Minx & Her Burlesque Beauties at the Ace. Here, attendees can watch the world famous performer Trixie Minx lead an all-star lineup of exhibitionists and artists to the sultry sound of the flamenco guitar as well as sample top-flight mezcals and Top Taco’s signature mezcal cocktail.
Monday’s festivities at the Ace Hotel will start at 5pm with tequila seminars and panel discussions including Tequila 101 with Robert Carrillo, Farm to Bar Panel Discussion: Sustainability, and Why Great Tequila is Worth Waiting For. At 8pm, A Night in Paradiso: El Tesoro Explores the Five Senses will be held where guests will be able to connect with the heart of Mexico by creating their own cocktail rim from the spice bar, watching a celebrity chef cooking demonstration, enjoying live Latin music by Javier Gutierrez, and tasting agave in the finest tequila.
Tuesday will bring more tequila seminars, tasting rooms, and panel discussions at the Ace as well as the Top Tequila & Mezcal Competition Finals. This competition will feature over 100 top agave spirits. Attendees will learn the nuances of competition and have the opportunity to sample the winning entries. Later on in the night, Patron Tequila will hold a class on how to make the perfect margarita at Margarita 101.
The following day will start bright and early at 9am with Patron Tequila hosting Mexico’s Consejo Regulador del Tequila (CRT), an educational seminar offering an opportunity to earn a rare certificate in tequila education, the only kind issued by the CRT. They will certify up to 150 local bartenders as official tequiliers.
“Locally, we see mezcal popping up on just about every drink menu in town, but very few people can tell you the distinctions between the different mezcal growing regions and plants used to distill the spirit,” says Finkelstein, “That's why we don't yet see many people sipping a mezcal like you see with scotch or tequila. But that's changing.”
Beginning at 5pm, the Agave Week Tasting Room, sponsored by Modelo cocktails, will open for visitors to try some of the best tequilas around. Attendees will also have the chance to join brand ambassadors from top spirits and some of New Orleans’ best chefs for dinners at restaurants in the area. The night will close with Lucha Libre where Mexico will come to New Orleans in a live action wrestling experience with some of the top luchadores in the world.
Finkelstein says they are bringing in the star luchadores from Mexico to battle with local wrestlers for a wild time.
On the final day of Agave Week, Thursday (March 14), the grand Top Taco festival will be held at Woldenberg Park. Featuring over 40 of the best restaurants competing to make the best taco and margarita, this exciting tasting event will be the 3rd annual Top Taco celebration.
Finkelstein says, “Top Taco is also going to have a bigger focus on mezcal. We have an entire tent dedicated to mezcal, sotol and other agave spirits so people can taste all the wonderful brands we have available to us. For many, it will be their first introduction to the rich, smoky flavors of mezcal.”
Photos by NOLA Diaz Photography