Tequila cocktail dinner at the Atlantis Reno

Don Julio Tequila Dinner

Photo provided by Atlantis Casino

Combine Don Julio Tequila and gourmet food to get ‘fine dining’

The Atlantis Casino will pair Mexican, Central and South American-inspired dishes with Don Julio Tequila cocktails for a six-course dinner Thursday, June 26 at 6 p.m.  Atlantis Sommelier Christian O’Kuinghttons made more than 60 cocktails over five days as he searched for the perfect pairings.

“The menu is like two rivers of complementary and contrasting flavors flowing near each other to create tension in your palate,” he said. “Everything must be delivered at the right time, the right temperature, lively, acidic, colorful, to make the perfect pairing.”

Bistro Napa Chef Clay Slieff said the dishes required a great deal of research. In the past, dinner pairings were less complicated and the chefs and beverage directors would simply pair some things together and hope for the best, but in recent years the chefs put a lot of thought and time into making the dinners into an experience. Their passion shows too, as I interviewed Clay and Christian, two more chefs joined us for the conversation.

They choose Tequila cocktails to combine the recognition of Don Julio with the American excellence of cocktail making, then twisted those traditional cocktails to suit the dinner. For example, they took a British gin fizz and made a wild berries and cucumber fizz with Don Julio Silver.

“No other spirit is as recognizable for a single cocktail around the world as tequila is in a margarita,” Christian said. “We knew that somehow, some way, we’d need a margarita aside from a top shelf margarita, which is not really top shelf.”

So they took a pomegranate martini and twisted it into a pomegranate margarita with Don Julio Reposado. But the most interesting cocktail combination will be the Gold Standard, made with Don Julio Añejo 1942, Licor 43, green tea liquor, simple syrup, lemon juice and orange twist garnish.

With seats for 120 guests, they all have a lot of work to do to prepare each dish and 120 cocktails Thursday night.

“It’s not just the flavor, it’s the texture too,” Christian said. “We need to create a coating on the palate, make something transitional that goes from the tip all the way down the back of the tongue.”

Don Julio Tequila Dinner

Where: Atlantis Casino, Bistro Napa
When: Thursday, June 26 at 6 p.m.
Price: $95, call 775-824-4411 for reservations. They are also offering a “Dine and Stay Package” for $132.50 per person


Amuse Bouche
Camarones al Tequila
Tequila-marinated Shrimp, Black Bean Pancake, Micro Arugula, Hibiscus Sauce
Cocktail: “Wild Berry and Cucumber Fizz” featuring Don Julio Silver

First Course
Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho
Cucumber Salad, Yellow Tomato Chips
Cocktail: “La Jota” featuring Don Julio Silver

Second Course
Pepita and Cilantro Crusted Sea Bass
Roasted Corn Tamale, Shaved Asian Pear, Salsa Verde, Ancho Chile Purée
Cocktail: “Pomegranate Margarita” featuring Don Julio Reposado

Third Course
Cumin Dusted Fulton Farms Organic Chicken Breast
Plantain Nest, Fried Farmer’s Egg, Papaya-Pineapple Salsa, Prickly Pear Gastrique
Cocktail: “Gold Standard” featuring Don Julio 1942

Fourth Course
Vaca Frita
American Kobe Hangar Steak, Black Bean Broth, Creamy Rice Croquettes, Tomato Caviar, Pickled Onions
Cocktail: “Silver Bullion” featuring Don Julio 70 yrs. Añejo Silver

Cookie Taco
Crisp Almond “Tortilla” Vanilla Custard, Fresh Fruit, White Chocolate Shavings
Served with coffee

Know your Tequila before you go

Tequila is a type of mezcal made in Tequila, Mexico, similar to how Cognac is brandy made in Cognac, France.  The two basic categories of tequila are mixtos and 100% agave. Mixtos use no less than 51% agave, with other sugars making up the rest. Mixtos use both glucose and fructose sugars.

Tequila is usually bottled in one of five categories:

  • Blanco (white) or plata (silver): white spirit, unaged and bottled or stored immediately after distillation, or aged less than two months in stainless steel or neutral oak barrels
  • Joven (young) or oro (gold): unaged Blanco tequila that is colored and flavored with caramel
  • Reposado (rested): aged a minimum of two months, but less than a year in oak barrels of any size
  • Añejo (aged or vintage): aged a minimum of one year, but less than three years in small oak barrels
  • Extra Añejo (extra aged or ultra aged): aged a minimum of three years in oak barrels, this category was established in March 2006.

With 100% agave tequila, blanco or plata is harsher with the bold flavors of the distilled agave up front, while reposado and añejo are smoother, subtler and more complex. As with other spirits aged in casks, tequila takes on the flavors of the wood, while the harshness of the alcohol mellows. The major flavor distinction with 100% agave tequila is the base ingredient, which is more vegetal than grain spirits (and often more complex).


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Mike Higdon

Editor & Publisher at Drinkable Reno
Mike Higdon is a journalist passionate about beer and cocktails. He started the site because no one else covered Reno's growing craft scene at the level of detail required to stay in the know about all things drinkable in Reno.

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