In the second part of our Cinco de Mayo special, we’re celebrating the rich life of one of Tequila’s greats, Tomas Estes from Ocho Tequila, with a cocktail recipe provided by his son Jesse. It’s the Matador!
The Matador is one of the answers to the often asked question of what do you drink when you want a Margarita but want something a bit longer and less strong. If you’re cooking up a Mexican feast, this would be the perfect drink to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.
The recipe comes from Jesse Estes’s book Tequila Beyond Sunrise. He’s a bartender with stints at notable venues as Callooh Callay, a world-renowned Tequila expert and judge, and the son of Tomas Estes, who sadly died last week. You can read our tribute to him here.
The Ocho philosophy
The Estes philosophy is summed up in the family’s Tequila brand, Ocho, a collaboration with Carlos Camarena, a third-generation Tequilero. All the agave used comes from land belonging to the Camerena family in the so-called ‘golden triangle’ of Jalisco. No chemical fertilisers or pest controls are used. They only harvest very mature agave with high sugar and acidity levels.
After harvesting, the piñas (plants minus the leaves) are cooked for three days, milled and water is added to create what is known as agave miel (honey.) It’s then distilled first in a copper and steel pot still, and then again in an all-copper one to around 55% ABV. The Tequila is either diluted with spring water or aged in used casks to reposado or añejo level. There are no additions before bottling.
Ocho is inspired by Tomas Estes’ love of Burgundy so all bottlings are from single fields and single vintages. We’ve been fortunate enough to taste along with Estes Junior on a few occasions and the difference between sites and years can be startling. There is a family resemblance, however, a green olive note and a refreshing minerality, which you can taste even in the aged examples because they have very subtle cask influence.
The history of the Matador
Today, that refreshing quality is coming to the fore in Estes’s take on the Matador.
The first mention for this cocktail is in the Café Royal Cocktail Book from 1937 written by William J. Tarling which consists of Tequila, Orange Curaçao and dry vermouth. It was probably one of the first ever Tequila cocktails. It would certainly have been something of a novelty in 1930s London.
Fast forward 35 years to the 1972 edition of Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide and there’s something called a Tequila Matador. It consists of one part Tequila, two parts pineapple juice shaken with the juice of half a lime and strained into a coupe. Ever since then pineapple juice has been a component of the Matador making it a sort of tiki Margarita.
My edition of Mittie Hellmich’s incredibly thorough Ultimate Bar Book has something similar but it’s served on the rocks in an Old Fashioned glass. She also has a frozen version made in a blender with pineapple chunks and crushed ice which sounds splendid on a hot day. Difford’s Guide adds triple sec taking his version even further into Margarita territory.
How to make a Matador, Jesse Estes style
Estes’ version takes the classic Matador recipes and riffs on the green note in Ocho Tequila with the addition of Green Chartreuse. We’re using the unaged La Laja Tequila from 2019 which has that classic green olive and mint Ocho profile. It gets its name from ‘laja’, a type of flat stone which you’ll find many of in this particular field. The herbaceousness of the Tequila chimes beautifully with the Chartreuse.
This recipe calls for a dehydrated pineapple slice or lime wheel which you can make in the oven. But fresh fruit is fine too. We do recommend the pink pepper at the end which does all kinds of wonderful things.
It’s a fitting way to celebrate Mexico’s national holiday, Cinco de Mayo, and pay tribute to Tomas Estes. ¡Salud Tomas!
Here’s the recipe
Shake all ingredients vigorously with ice, strain into a large rocks glass (you could also serve it on the rocks). Garnish with a dehydrated pineapple slice or dehydrated lime wheel, and freshly cracked pink peppercorns.