Experience tequila as a connoisseur: either in a snifter or slender glass. Best sipped, not chugged, tequila is as Mexican as mariachi, chilled margaritas and Alfonso González: the proprietor of Bogotá’s one and only, Museo del Tequila.
Born in Colombia and a champion of Mexican culture, González makes his rounds, chatting up clients and immersing himself in the elixir that seduces and releases the finest of Mexican spirits. When he arrives at out table he splashes tequila in his palms, rubs them and extracts the sweet vapors. He offers me a whiff, its essence as pure and distinct as aged brandy. “The best thing about tequila is that every bottle tells a story,” says our patron.
This former jeweler began a love affair with Mexico back in the 1970s after several trips to the country and when Mexico was seen as an important cultural reference on all fronts: from its cinema, to television soaps and enchanting music. After bringing back home his first souvenir bottle of fine tequila, the González collection of reposados and añejos began to grow and now, several decades later, he can proudly claim that he counts with 2,300 bottles, the largest collection in Colombia and one of the most comprehensive outside Mexico.
So to say that there are many tequilas on the drinks menu to sample, either by the glass or bottle, is an understatement. Some of the best are stored in a private area, served under special circumstances and with the presence of the González. We order a bottle of blue Corralejo, and it comes served with sangrita, Mexico’s version of a “Bloody Mary” but without the vodka, accompanied with “jicama” (yam) and lemon slices. It’s all fiesta from now on and we begin to browse Museo’s traditional Mexican menu. With the festive spirit released, we are guided through the menu more by experience than a quest for adventure. Traditional dishes have a universal appeal, not unlike the Virgin of Guadalupe guarding the portico or the wall painting on the second floor of Fortino Moreno, the actor known as “Cantinflas,” Maria Callas, Vicente Fernández and other icons all huddled together over a bottle of, you guessed it, tequila.
Crepe paper festoons dangle from the ceiling proclaiming bon vivants welcome! The menu is varied with appetizers including cañicas (tiny meatballs in chipotle sauce), chistorras (chorizo rolls): popular in the Mexican capital. We start with the chilaquiles platter, the “tacos crispi” and of course, a juicy quesadilla. The chilaquiles, usually served for breakfast, were outstanding. Each tortilla strip was lightly-coated with a slightly piquant green tomatillo sauce, pulled chicken and fresh cheese. The tacos were lavish layers of lemony lettuce, avocado and tomato atop a crunchy tortilla shell lathered with braised pork shoulder. The quesadilla served with a smooth guacamole was a nice, though uninventive, way to round out the starters.
The décor of Museo is lively and its wait staff engaging. Sarapes drape the windows and portraits of famous Mexicans adorn the walls. A full mariachi orchestra (minus the harp!) parades throughout the multilevel complex on a Friday night when reservations are strongly encouraged. González, jovial and upbeat, spends the evening engaging guests. All those around are feeling the effects of the agave liquid. He tenderly explains that he went from “selling art and gems to selling guacamole and beans.”
To a Mexican, mole is like an Ajiáco to Colombians and mothers make it best. There is no official recipe, but its preparation is a labor of love, as over 20 different ingredients including various chiles, peanuts, almonds, pumpkin and sesame seeds, cinnamon and chocolate are called to battle each other creating a glossy and complex sauce.
While tequila aficionados order rounds by the bottle at Museo, there’s plenty of agave in some of the main dishes such as the tampiqueñas a la tequilana. This sizzling platter of tender skirt steak, comes served with all the traditional favorites: sautéed onions and good guacamole. Creamy refried beans accompany this and every main dish.
The plates are not overwhelmingly spicy at the Museo and the waiters are very accommodating to one’s level of “heat” tolerance: so let them know what you can endure when it comes to the jalapeños, the chiles and they’ll pass it on to the kitchen.
The secret of Museo del Tequila’s appeal is its clarity of purpose: it aims to please. Whether in the mood for a raucous party or out on a date, the experience is all out Mexican. Generous portions want you asking for more, the request-a-song ambience of the roving mariachi tests your vocal stamina and when the last drop of agave is poured, you want to cry: Ay! Ay! Ay!
Museo del Tequila / Carrera 13 A No. 86 A – 18