Phoenix Tequila Fest 2013 (GUIDE)

PHOENIX - When it comes to tequila, you're probably doing it all wrong.

Salt first. Then shot. Then bite the lemon. The reason? It enhances the flavor.

Did you know that there are over 1,300 registered tequilas? And each one is different.

As the Phoenix Tequila Fest kicks off this weekend at U.S. Airways Center, we thought it would be a good idea to educate Arizona's tequila enthusiasts, and perhaps even help a few tequila haters become tequila fans.

"I hate tequila!"

Todd Ellinwood is a certified tequila connoisseur in the Valley. When it comes to tequila, he knows the ins and outs, from the cultivation of the blue agave plant to the filtration and distillery processes to the back of the bar where your favorite cocktail is made.

Todd says the biggest misconception about tequila is that people assume they don't like it. He understands why, but is confident there is a tequila for everyone.

Most of the time, he said, someone has had a bad experience with it whether it be at college party or a night out on the town. Maybe you had too much, maybe you got sick or maybe had an incurable hangover.

"With over 600 different aromatic components, there is a lot of complexity behind Tequila, and many styles to experience," he said.

So, how do you go about finding a type of tequila you like?

The answer is simple: Get out there and explore. Try something new.

While everyone's pallet is different, there are various flavors that could stray away from the harsh, raw feeling many expect.

Ellinwood said flavored tequilas such as Jose Cuervo Cinge, 1800 Coconut or Gran Centennario Rosangel can be good introductions.

Silvers, he said, are also less complex than other types of tequilas so those could prove to be a good jumping off point as well.

"As you move from Silvers to Reposados and beyond, typically, you lose some of the agave/vanilla flavors and begin picking up more nuances of the woods," said Ellinwood.

If someone is a fan of Whiskey, they could have a taste for tequila that's aged in a barrel, such as a Reposado or Anejo-type tequila, he said. Ellinwood suggested Jose Cuervo Reserva De La Familia Anejo which has hints of bourbon, maple, caramel and coffee.

In Ellingwood's words -- "delicious!"

Try these tequila-inspired recipes at home (and impress your friends, too!)

As you continue to explore which tequilas you enjoy, why not try out some new recipes beyond the standard margarita. Ellinwood said these recipes are worth trying.

The Apple Spice Margarita
2 oz. Maestro Dobel Tequila
Splash of Peach Schnapps
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
4 oz. apple cider

Mix ingredients. Shake with ice. Serve over ice. Garnish with apple slices and cinnamon/sugar rim.

The Pina-Rita
2 oz. 1800 Coconut
3/4 oz. Agave nectar
1 oz. fresh lime juice
Splash of pineapple juice

Shake with ice. Add a splash of water. Serve over ice.

Cucumber Margarita
2 oz. Maestro Dobel Tequila
1 squeezed lime
2 cucumber wheels
1 oz. Agave nectar

Muddle (combine ingredients and press at bottom of glass) then shake with ice. Add a splash of water. Serve over ice.

If you're looking to put a twist on some old favorites, try ordering a Bloody Maria (a Bloody Mary made with tequila) or a Mexican Coffee or even a Tequila mojito.

Looking to be even more inspired? Don't miss out on the 5th annual Margarita Challenge, which puts Valley mixologists to the test to create the most unique and tasty margaritas.

Phoenix Tequila Fest - What you need to know

Experience all-day tastings and samplings of various tequilas from many top makers, distilleries and distributors. Enjoy food samples from several local Arizona Mexican restaurants who will help pair which tequila tastes best with certain food items.

When: Saturday, Nov. 23 and Sunday, Nov. 24
Where: US Airways Center in downtown Phoenix
Time: 12 p.m. - 5 p.m.

Visit the Phoenix Tequila Festival website for more information and to purchase tickets

Remember, please never drink and drive. Hop on the Tequila Express (METRO Lightrail) to get to and from the festival starting four hours prior to the event. Ticket holders will be able to ride the lightrail at no additional cost.  

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