As we approach the end of the year and with Christmas round the corner, we look back at the incredible year our friends at VIVIR Tequila have had (against all odds), and take a closer look at the multi-award-winning VIVIR Añejo.
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What is VIVIR Tequila?
VIVIR Tequila is a UK-based brand producing multi-award-winning tequila from 100% Weber Blue Agave. Over the past two years, the eye-catching branding, approachable price-point and exceptional liquid has taken the UK market by storm, garnering a multitude of accolades including its most recent wins at Bartender Brand Award 2020, with the Añejo walking away with the coveted title of ‘Category Champion – Agave Spirits’, and being the first tequila brand to ever win Gold for all its lines at Great Taste Awards. This prolific success over such a short time has allowed the team to quickly expand into new international markets.
But what makes VIVIR so good?
VIVIR was born – like so many good ideas are – in a bar, when co-founders Paul Hayes and Nav Grewal were trying to order some tequila. All that was available was Jose Cuervo, an inexpensive mixto (51% Weber Blue Agave and 49% something else like non-matured agave or corn syrup), which Paul is allergic to and, if you are someone who links tequilas to god-awful hangovers, it’s possible that you are too (and/or you’ve just been drinking too much of the bad stuff).
This made them question why no good tequilas were readily available in the UK, when they knew that so many great independent tequilas were available throughout the Americas. The response they got from their contacts in the industry was that there wasn’t yet a mainstream export market for these products, with most high quality tequilas only available in speciality bars and shops. So, they decided to set about changing that, creating premium quality spirits at affordable prices with beautifully disruptive, modern bottles that aimed to change the general public’s perception of what tequila is and so, open the market for the category to grow.
Unlike many of the tequilas dominating the UK market, VIVIR is made with 100% Weber Blue Agave, with no added preservatives, flavouring, sweeteners or additives. What you get in the bottle is an all agave distillate with integrity and honesty of flavour.
Paul and Nav spent three years developing the Blanco (unaged), Reposado (aged for a minimum of six months in ex-Jack Daniels casks) and Añejo (aged for 18 months in the same casks). It was important for them to work with the right people, so they elected to produce their tequila at Casa Maestri – a sixth generation, family-run distillery that grows all its own Highland Weber Blue Agave. Paul explains that working with Casa Maestri gives them knowledge of and control over the product:
“We know literally everything about [the agave]. We know it’s gotten to full maturity (eight-nine years), that the Brix content is quite high so its sweet, therefore ensuring its palatable for the UK market with a fibre-y, peppery kick afterwards. We know the PH of the soil and that the jimadores are hired by the actual distillery as opposed to being contracted in for harvest, so are fully employed. Casa Maestri also keeps a certain amount of agave to one side so it grows to full maturity, flowers and seeds. Because of this, the flowering plant keeps a lot of the animal infrastructure there with the bug life feeding the plants and helping pollination.”
The skill of the distillers truly shows in the finished products. Each expression glides across the palate with ease, showcasing gorgeous roasted agave notes and boasting a long and elegant finish. There’s none of that shot-it-back-and-wince-into-a-lime harshness, with even the unaged Blanco proving exceptionally sippable (read our review of the whole VIVIR Tequila range here).
Purposefully placed in contemporary bottles, stamped with the image of Quetzalcóatl (the Aztec god credited with the creation of agave), the branding aims to celebrate tequila’s heritage whilst bringing it to the attention of a new customer-base. And it’s worked marvellously.
“2020 has been a very interesting year for us here at VIVIR, as it has for everyone”, Paul tells us. Obviously it’s been devastating to see the impact the virus has had on the hospitality sector and we teamed up with Hospitality Action to try and give back as much as we could to the industry we love. We were in a very fortunate position as we have a strong off-trade presence in the likes of Waitrose, Fortnum & Mason and Trade. Sales boomed for us in those outlets as we shifted our focus to our digital channels to make sure we were still spreading the agave love.
“We became the Number One Tequila on the likes of Master of Malt as well and have held that spot for over six months now, which has been mind-blowing for us. It’s just been amazing to see how the UK has really started to adopt quality tequila and we feel honoured to be at the forefront of the move. We have also spread our wings into the international market and are now available in Canada, Italy, The Netherlands, Croatia, Israel and will be in Australia early 2021. We’ve been inundated with requests from international distributors and we’re more than happy to support their tequila growth in their given markets. Our team is growing and we don’t want to slow down our progression.
Despite the success we have seen, 2020 has been tough for everyone in the industry. We are going to make sure VIVIR, as a brand and as a company, is there to keep supporting the less fortunate so we can all get through this together.”
VIVIR Tequila Añejo
When we first tried VIVIR Tequila about a year ago, the Añejo was our immediate favourite. Since then, our personal preference has oscillated through the collection to the Blanco and back to the Añejo enough times for us to give up on trying to pick our number one and just come to terms with the fact that they’re all great whether neat or in a cocktail.
VIVIR Añejo is made using Casa Maestri’s 100% Weber Blue agave that has reached full maturity and been harvested at around 12 years old. This particular agave carries a Brix level of around 26-29 (pretty darn naturally sweet). The agave is then cooked and distilled using traditional methods (read more about the process here) before being placed in ex-Jack Daniels oak casks for 18-months. The result is a beautifully aged tequila with a rich, toasted agave nose throwing up Christmas cake marzipan, boozy liqueur chocolates, Anzac biscuits dunked in chocolate, honey roasted nuts, almonds, Habanero peppers, cinnamon and coffee grounds. On the palate, it is rich, supple and insanely smooth. Nutmeg, white pepper, cloves and allspice whirl around dried orange peel, bitter marmalade, cacao nibs, coffee grounds, cinnamon, Tunnock’s Milk Chocolate & Marshmallow Tea Cakes and dates.
One of the best things about VIVIR Añejo – and there are many – is the price. This 100% agave, premium quality, mult-award-winning aged tequila is priced at only £39.95, making it insanely affordable and a real bargain.
Something we adore about all of VIVIR’s tequilas is the amazing balance of savoury and sweet flavours. With the weather getting colder and Christmas fast approaching, we’ve decided to focus on this in the Añejo and have a play around with some VIVIR Winter cocktails that can be made at home.
VIVIR Añejo Cocktails
VIVIR Añejo works fantastically in a number of twists on classic cocktails, such as in a Tequila Old Fashioned with Black Walnut Bitters, and a Tequila Negroni. However, here are a few of our own that are a little different.
VIVIR Añejo Café Jalisco
A super simple take on an Irish Coffee that showcases VIVIR Añejo‘s darker, toffee, spice and coffee notes. The hot-cold element of this makes it a delicious sipper on a cold winter’s day.
Serves 1 | Difficulty Level: Easy
- 40ml VIVIR Tequila Añejo
- 60ml espresso
- 15ml cinnamon syrup (homemade recipe below, or use store bought)
- 50ml double cream (there will be extra unless you like a very creamy coffee)
- [Optional topping] Freshly grated nutmeg, cinnamon powder, chilli powder, dark chocolate shavings
Homemade cinnamon syrup (skip this step if you have store bought syrup):
Heat one part water, one part dark muscovado sugar in a pan with a stick of cinnamon sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved (make sure it doesn’t boil). Leave to cool with the cinnamon stick still in. Once cool, take cinnamon stick out (you can save it for a garnish if you like) and pour into a bottle. This can be kept in the fridge for one month.
- Pour the cream into a glass or small bowl. Add a drop of the cinnamon sugar syrup. The sugar will help the cream keep its structure. Whip the cream until it begins to thicken. Do not over whisk as you want it to remain pourable. Set aside
- Make some fresh espresso and pour it into a serving glass
- Add the cinnamon sugar. We went for 15ml but feel free to edit this to your taste
- Add the VIVIR Tequila Añejo and stir to combine
- Carefully tip the glass with the tequila coffee mixture to one side and pour the cream into it. This should form a layer on top
- Top with spices of your choosing. We love freshly grated nutmeg and a dash of chilli powder, but cinnamon and chocolate is also delicious!
VIVIR Añejo Ruby Roy
Christmas isn’t Christmas without a drop of port. This Rob Roy style cocktail teases out VIVIR Añejo‘s cacao and citrus flavours. The tequila’s rich character is able to sing through the sweet berry port and lightly herbal vermouth, with the deep cherry flavour marrying beautifully with Christmas-y, baking spices and light wood character that the aged tequila brings.
Serves 1 | Difficulty Level: Easy (with a bit of prep)
- 70ml VIVIR Tequila Añejo
- 3 tsp cacao nibs
- 15ml Vermouth Rosso
- 15ml Ruby Port
- 3 drops Angostura Orange Bitters
- Piece of freshly cut orange peel (or Cocktail Elements Orange) to finish
- Maraschino cherry to garnish
- Place the cacao nibs and VIVIR Tequila Añejo in a jar. Give it a shake and leave to one side for five hours. This will allow the tequila to be lightly infused with the flavour of the nibs
- After the six hours are up, strain the mixture and keep the tequila. (You can also keep the boozy cacao nibs to add to baking recipes)
- Add the vermouth, port, infused tequila and bitters to a glass with ice and stir to combine and chill
- Strain this into a serving glass and add the Maraschino cherry
- Cut a slice of orange peel and spritz the oils over the glass. Alternatively, give the glass one spritz of Cocktail Elements Orange
VIVIR la Teacake!
Sometimes we get a tasting note stuck in our head. “Tunnock’s Milk Chocolate & Marshmallow Teacake” is one such with VIVIR Añejo. No matter how long we leave it between tastings of this fine spirit, we always get that milk chocolate, soft marshmallow and malty biscuit vibe that throws us back to Tunnock’s. We find this particularly odd because the Añejo itself isn’t sickly sweet (no added sugar or additives) and somehow remains amazingly savoury and balanced. However, some whispering memory of chocolate teacakes made us decide to create a cocktail that showcases this amazing flavour without allowing it to get over-sweet. We therefore elected to milk-wash the tequila in essentially a Tunnock’s milkshake, highlighting that distinctive taste without making it overbearing, and adding an extra level of creaminess to the mouthfeel, celebrating VIVIR‘s consummate sippability.
Serves 2 | Difficulty Level: Enthusiastic Amateur (not difficult, just a few more steps – perfect to alleviate lockdown boredom)
- 200ml VIVIR Tequila Añejo
- 200ml whole milk
- 1 Tunnock’s Milk Chocolate & Marshmallow Teacake
- Squeeze of fresh lemon
Milk-washed spirit mix
- 100ml Brandy
- 100ml Vodka
- 100ml whole milk
- 1 Tunnock’s Milk Chocolate & Marshmallow Teacake
- 5g milk chocolate
- 40ml fresh orange juice
You will also need some muslin cloth/cheesecloth or some coffee filters
- Heat the milk until hot but not boiling. Smash the Tunnock’s Teacake up and dissolve this in the milk. Leave to cool
- Once cool, add the VIVIR Tequila Añejo and squeeze of lemon. Stir to combine then leave aside for 20 minutes. This will give the milk time to curdle
- Put a double layer of muslin cloth over a bowl or tupperware container and ensure it will stay in place (we use an elastic band to secure it). If you don’t have any muslin, you can use one coffee filter, which may need to refreshed once or twice as the surface area is smaller
- Slowly pour the curdled mixture onto the muslin or through the filter. This will separate the curds from the milk-washed liquid. It can take a little while to collect the liquid. The milk-washed tequila should be clear. If it isn’t after the first filtration, repeat this step with a fresh piece of muslin or filter. The curds can be collected and used to make cheesecake or chucked away. The muslin is reusable and just needs a quick hand wash
- You’ve now milk-washed your VIVIR Tequila Añejo! Set aside for now in the fridge. This should keep for one week
Milk-washed spirit mix
This is largely the same process as milk-washing the tequila. Here, we have added brandy to highlight VIVIR Tequila Añejo’s fruitier notes and a little bit of extra milk chocolate to add to the balance
- Melt the Tunnock’s Teacake and milk chocolate in the hot milk. Leave to cool
- Once cool, add the spirits and citrus
- Strain through muslin or a filter as above, collecting the clear liquid in a separate container to the milk-washed tequila. The curds can be kept for baking or discarded. The milk-washed spirit will keep for one week in the fridge.
Assembling the Cocktail
- Simply add 90ml milk-washed VIVIR Tequila Añejo and 70ml milk-washed spirit mix to a glass. Add a large cube of ice and stir to chill and dilute slightly. Et Voila!