Viva el Tequila

Viva el Tequila

Few spirits have a status or reputation as diverse as that of tequila. For some, tequila is a party drink that conjures up memories of late night shots (and perhaps next day regrets), while others see it as a delicacy brimming with intricate tastes and flavours as complexed as a fine wine. So as a special tribute to this versatile tipple, Bali’s iconic Potato Head Beach Club hosted a unique Tequila Sunset event; a special evening in partnership with Jose Cuervo Tradicional Tequila.  

Potato Head’s legendary Chief Mixologist, Dré Masso united with Tomas Estes, Mexico’s official Tequila Ambassador to Europe to educate, illuminate and excite us about the world of tequila, and we were lucky enough to get a glimpse into their colourful lives.


Mexico’s Official Tequila Ambassador to Europe

Having opened 17 bars and restaurants across Europe and in Australia as well as publishing his best-selling book, “The Tequila Ambassador”, American-born Tomas Estes is one of the most influential people in the tequila industry. In his 30 years experience, Tomas has received a number of accolades, including two recognitions by the Mexican National Tequila Chamber with the title of “Ambassador to Europe for Tequila”, and a “Life Time Achievement Award” from “Theme” Magazine for his work with tequila in the hospitality industry. Then in 2008, Tomas was given the award of “Outstanding Contribution to the Bar and Restaurant Industry” in the United Kingdom and was voted the “6th Most Influential Person in the UK Bar Trade”. In every article he has written and every story he has to tell, his love for tequila and its home country shines through in all he has achieved.

Q: You’ve been enjoying tequila for over forty years, and now you are “Mexico’s Tequila Ambassador of Europe”, educating and inspiring tequila enthusiasts around the world. How did it all begin?

A: Well, I grew up in Los Angeles in the Mexican community, about 2 hours from the Mexican border. Growing up with Mexican kids in my school I was really immersed into the culture and I just loved the identity. So I would sneak across the border to Mexico going from North to South instead of South to North which is the way most people were going! To me, the US has a vapid character, especially places like LA. It’s so unsubstantial and superficial, while Mexico is real – it’s ‘immediate’ and alive. And that’s where it all started for me – my love for Mexico. And tequila is a part of Mexico – I believe they are inextricably interchangeable; they represent each other. What tequila is, Mexico is, and what Mexico is, tequila is. So it was a natural transition from loving Mexico to instantly loving its national drink. If Mexico is dangerous, edgy, romantic and real, then for me, tequila is all that too. There’s something very exciting and nonconformist about it that makes it so endearing.

Q: So how exactly does one get to become a Tequila Ambassador? 

A: That’s an interesting question because there is no ‘programme’ as such or even a simple answer. For me, it was part of my journey, and first I had to grow. I started with my Mexican restaurant in Amsterdam in 1976 and soon opened more restaurants and bars in London, Paris, Cologne, Milan and finally Sydney about 17 years ago. I really got out there promoting and learning about tequila. Back then, there wasn’t the internet so I did as much reading as possible, visiting Mexico and a handful of distilleries including many with Dre. Then I started writing about tequila in a Mexican magazine and other publications in the UK, France, Italy and the US. I found that by writing, it gave me a kind of power. As a writer, everyone wanted to be my friend! So I was elbowing my way in, becoming known in the world of tequila. Then in 2003, the then-President of The Mexican National Tequila Chamber – Francisco Gonzales – came to London with forty tequila producers, and while we were in one of my restaurants, Francisco just stood up and named me as their Ambassador. I was so honoured.

Q: The bottles of your rare and collectable Tequila Ocho state the year and the field that each one was grown, just like a fine wine. How do these two factors or “terroir” affect the taste and quality of a tequila?

A: Terroir refers to all of the natural influences on something that is growing. With wine grapes, it might be the soil, the climate or the amount of sunlight. So we wanted to test this out with tequila and the affect of terroir on the agave plant, because unlike other plants used for alcohol, agave requires 8 whole years of growing. That’s 8 years of taking in everything from the environment – a lot can happen in 8 years! For example, in one of the “vineyards”, a mango tree began to grow, and one of the tasting notes from that tequila highlighted a hint of mango. People in the tequila valley were already saying that the tequila from the agave growing in the highlands was different to those at sea level, often dubbing it as the Premier Cru of tequila. So we wanted to take it further and make a single “vineyard” in one place, one at a time. The response I got was: be careful, each one will be different. You know what I said? Hallelujah! That’s exactly what I wanted. So now with ten ranches and ten different “vineyards” each reaping the benefits of their individual natural environments, every variety has a distinct characteristic. It’s an experiment, but it’s about encouraging diversity. We don’t want to follow the globalisation trends of conformity and uniformity. None of this fast-food processed stuff. Our agave tequila is produced in a very slow way, like slow food, creating a sort of diary for the end product.




Q: So what sort of flavour notes and characteristics should drinkers look for in a fine tequila?

A: It’s very subjective, but for me, I look for a tequila that really depicts the essence of the agave. The agave plant is so intriguing and strange; it’s so different from any other plant that a spirit is made from. So a tequila that celebrates this really does it for me. I look for the liveliness of the plant in the taste – sweet yet dry aspects like a wine, where the fruit and acidity come in waves. This shows that the tequila has concentration, complexity and nuance.

Q: Not everyone sees tequila as a delicacy to be savoured, and in fact, it often has a reputation for raucous fun. How do you feel about this mixed perception?

A: Personally I like the roguish image of tequila. I don’t ever want to pretend it’s not there. The “bad boy” image is what represents the real Mexico to me and it is what I first fell in love with. But yes, it has also evolved into something classy and valuable. So on the one end of the spectrum you have the all-nighter party image, yet on the other end, you have tequilas as fine as any cognac or scotch whiskey, with everything in between. It’s so diverse and I love that.

Q: So what is your preferred way to drink tequila? Straight or in a cocktail? With, before or after a meal?

A: I love to sip and savour it on its own… especially a white, unaged tequila. In particular, I love to sip it before a meal or whilst I’m cooking. It’s like an Italian aperitif. Although it’s not uncommon for me to then drink it the whole way through the meal, too! But I do like to mix it as well. I love a dry Margarita. I also enjoy going into bars and asking for a French 75 with tequila and Champagne instead of gin and Champagne. The reason being, Champagne has those delicious biscuity notes, as well as the citrusy, mineral flavours – everything that goes perfectly with tequila! And I think pairing champagne with tequila is playful, too. Champagne is synonymous with high living extravagance, and I like the ‘bad boy’ tequila having a slice of it! Either way, when I do mix my drinks, I prefer them to have “spirit-forward” recipes. For example, a Manhattan is bourbon led, a Martini is vodka led. So again, I like to ask bartenders to make me a tequila-led cocktail and see what they come up with. I like to taste the spirit.




Q: Are you for or against the use of lime and salt when drinking tequila?

A: Salt and citrus were first introduced to tequila to try to get rid of the unrefined and rough tastes of original tequilas, which until the ’90s, were the main types of tequila on the market. However, since then, more carefully made, refined tequilas have been produced, which actually removes the need for the salt and citrus. Saying that, some brands are going back to the old days – focusing on carefully made, artisanal tequilas, just like beer brands with their craft beers. So in my bars, there is no judgement. If drinking is to be a fun experience, then let’s all drink it exactly how we like it.

Q: Tonight we’re drinking Jose Cuervo. How would you describe the taste of this popular tequila?

A: I think this is a great opportunity to try some! I often say Jose Cuervo is the number one in the world, partly because of its popularity, but also because it was the first tequila to be branded. I always sense a characteristic almond aroma – a very distinctive thumbprint of theirs. I also pick up on those earthy flavours from the agave, as well as some citrus from the fermentation. It is rounded and full. Sweet yet dry. This diversity of flavours and different tasting levels gives bartenders a great amount of versatility to play with.

Q: And if you could save only one bottle of tequila from your own collection, which bottle would you choose?

A: Without a doubt, the Ocho Plata Las Pomez.

Q: Any last words from the Tequila Ambassador?

A: Enjoy tequila and drink well – agave is good for your health! The Mexicans have four words for ‘cheers’, with the most popular being “salud” meaning health. Then they cheers to “love”, “wealth”, and finally “time” – time to enjoy it all. And I think that pretty much sums it all up.




Chief Mixologist Potato Head Family

From one great mind to another, Potato Head’s world renowned Mixologist, Dré Masso is highly respected within the industry. Having been awarded “UK Bartender of the Year” three times, Dré has reshaped and reignited the London cocktail scene. He formed The Worldwide Cocktail Club with Henry Besant, successfully running famous bars such as The Rock Garden, Oliver Peyton’s Atlantic Bar & Grill, 10 Room in Piccadilly, Lab Bar, Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, Salvador & Amanda in Leicester Square and The Lonsdale in Notting Hill. Then in 2005, Dré too translated his love for tequila to the written word, publishing his book “Margarita Rocks” which led him to open his own tequila bar and restaurant, Green & Red, in London’s East End. Now based in Bali, Dré is responsible for curating the legendary cocktail menus at Potato Head’s restaurants, bars, clubs and boutique hotels across Jakarta and Bali.

Q: Your passion for “everything cocktalian” started at a very young age. In your experience, what does it take to be a good mixologist?

A: There is often a differentiation between a mixologist and a bartender, but to be honest, I actually see myself more as a bartender. As a generality, a mixologist is more involved in studying the production of alcohol; the history and the art of cocktail making. I am really interested in that side of things, but I think that this is simply the foundation of a bartender. Not only does a bartender master the ability to mix drinks, but they also make themselves a part of the whole experience. It’s about hosting; looking after people and enhancing every element. At the end of the day, you’re out to drink to have a good time – having a great drink is certainly a big part of it, but it’s also about meeting people, the ambience, the whole experience. I’ve seen bartenders bring people together, and it shows an all-round character, more than just being able to mix a great drink.




Q: You and Tomas are both self-proclaimed tequila lovers. Tomas loves Tequila because it represents Mexico, but what is it about tequila that makes it your favourite spirit?

A: For me, I’ve always loved tequila. It’s a very passionate spirit. It’s a party drink, a good time drink. But Mexico changed my life and a lot of things to do with that was also to do with tequila. I was in Mexico on a mission to find a good quality tequila, and the buzz I got when I first tried one was unlike anything else I’d ever come across. We visited about twelve distilleries in 7 or 8 days, and the whole experience of being there in Mexico really made it – the music, the Mariachi, the food and the people – Mexico is so alive! I discovered my favourite bar in the world, where the 86 year-old bartender still invites me into his home each time I visit. It’s the most playful and photogenic country I’ve ever seen, awash with pastel colours and conviviality. As soon as I went back to London, I opened a tequila bar and the rest is history.

Q: You were based in London your whole life, how did the Potato Head team convince you to make the move to Bali? 

A: The Potato Head Family are an incredibly dynamic company with high ambitions, so straight away I realised I love what they stand for. It’s not just the food and the drink, it’s the design and the culture. We treat each other and our guests like family as if we are in our own homes, and I like that style of things. They were looking for someone to take over the drinks programme in Jakarta and I was recommended, so naturally I pitched for it. I got the gig and very soon after, they said they were planning on doing something here in Bali, so it was a great opportunity for me. In a very short time I realised how much I love using the local flavours here and experimenting with ideas from the local culture. I was magnetised from the start.

Q: What is your process when coming up with a cocktail menu? Do you have a checklist of different flavours and styles of drinks that you want to make sure are represented?

A: Every project is different so I usually go with a theme. I will look at the environment, the type of bar and the clientele, and I will find a theme from there. Sometimes you get an obvious pattern and things just go together. For example, here at Potato Head Beach Club it seemed natural to have a beach theme built from a foundation of Indonesian produce. So I will look at the local ingredients first, then use a classic cocktail as a template to get me going. Take the French 75. An Indonesian twist on this could use a clove or cinnamon syrup instead of normal sugar cane syrup; or instead of using lemons, using kaffir limes. So you can take a recipe and break it down, then play with it according to the bar or the people you are serving to.

Q: So what inspired your Tequila Sunset Jose Cuervo cocktails?

A: Well we’ve just introduced the Secret Garden to the terrace at Tapping Shoes where we are growing our own herbs and spices to use in our cocktails. Things like basil, rosemary, lavender, kaffir limes, cumquat and chillies, etcetera. So essentially, the cocktails have been inspired by the garden, but each one has it’s own theme, too. For example, we have a sunset twist on the classic Tequila Sunrise, so we’ve made a Cuervo Tequila Sunset! The Sunrise is usually made with tequila, orange and grenadine, so instead, we have used pressed mandarin which goes great with tequila, then we’ve pimped up the grenadine by adding a pomegranate syrup. Then there is the Tommy’s Margarita infused with agave syrup. It’s my favourite type of margarita and I think it’s the best way to show off the tequila. Third, we have the Garden Mojito using mint from the garden, and finally, we have the Secret Garden Margarita which really captures the herbaciousness and the earthiness of the tequila using basil, rosemary, kaffir leaves and crushed limes – all handpicked and homegrown from the garden.

Q: Of all the cocktails you’ve created throughout your career, which one do you think best exemplifies your personality or style?

A: I would say it is a signature drink that I made last year for my own bar Opium, located in Chinatown London. I wanted to come up with a ‘house cocktail’ that used Asian ingredients with a unique presentation. I was looking for a drink that would get people talking. It was called Opium Cocktail No.1 and it was made with two styles of rum and a hint of absinthe, topped off with passion fruit and citrus juices. It came served in a wooden Argentinian maté cup, accompanied by a metal filtered straw. The drink was chilled and looked as if it was smoking with the aid of dry ice, and just before serving, a capsule of ginseng was poured over the cocktail in front of the customer. It was a playful drink that targeted many senses.

Q: What separates a great cocktail from a good cocktail?

A: There are lots of aspects, but I think it goes back to being a good bartender because it’s about going that extra mile. If you’ve ever seen a bartender digging deep into the back of the fridge for the coldest beer, he’s doing that to give you the best experience. Translate that to cocktail making, and it’s about going that extra mile with every element of making that drink, from the best ice and quality spirits, to digging deep into your imagination to put the best flavours together. It is the passion and energy that goes into a drink that really separates the good from the bad. Think of your Mum’s cooking. It always tastes the best because of the love and affection that has gone into it! Whereas if it is thrown together by someone less passionate or less experienced, then the same ingredients and the exact same recipe just won’t taste the same. So I really believe that when you see a good bartender putting everything into a drink, it really comes across in the taste.

Q: We’ve heard that the Potato Head Family is growing, introducing two new venues outside of Indonesia including one in Singapore. How will you go about creating new cocktails for these different audiences? 

A: Well it is still very much in the pipeline. I have visited Singapore to check out the design and to think about the food offerings, and we have eaten at a lot of restaurants and drank at a lot of bars so that we don’t do the copycat thing. We want the next venue to be very unique, but at the same time, I’d like to keep a little bit of what we have here. In terms of the cocktails, of course Singapore has the popular Singapore Sling as a credit to the city, so maybe it will be fun to do a Potato Head Sling or something! There is a great cocktail movement in Singapore at the moment, from the classics to some crazy experimental cocktails and everything in between. So you’ll just have to watch this space!

Dre Masso’s Killer Tequila Cocktails



Cuervo Tradicional Tequila with pressed mandarin and a homemade pomegranate and grenadine syrup.

 •    2 shots Jose Cuervo Tradicional
•    200ml mandarin juice
•    1 shot of pomegranate and grenadine syrup mix (equal parts of both products)
•    “Orange candy” zest

1. First make the “orange candy” by finely grating the zest from an orange. Allow to dry, then mix with fine sugar.
2. Rim the glass with the orange candy.
3. Fill glass with ice then pour all ingredients over ice adding the pomegranate and grenadine mix at the end to create a bleeding effect.






Hand picked basil, rosemary and kaffir leaves (from Potato Head’s herb garden) shaken with Cuervo Tradicional Tequila and pressed lime.
• 2 shots Jose Cuervo Tradicional
• 1 shot lime juice
• 1 shot rosemary sugar syrup
• 2 kaffir lime leaves (torn)
• 1 branch of fresh rosemary (remove stalk)
• 4 basil leaves

1. First make the rosemary syrup. Cook 1 part sugar with 1 part water and add one large rosemary branch. Bring to the boil then turn down and allow to simmer for five minutes. Leave to cool and then transfer to an empty bottle.
2. Add the rosemary syrup and all other ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice.
3. Shake hard and double strain over cubed ice.





Nectar of the Gods. Cuervo Tradicional Tequila with pressed lime and agave syrup.


•     2 shots Jose Cuervo Tradicional
•     1 shot lime juice
•     1 tablespoon of agave syrup

1.    Add all ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice.
2.    Shake hard and double strain over cubed ice.






Garden mint muddled with pressed lime and cane juice. Laced with Cuervo Tradicional Tequila and sweetened with cane syru


•     2 shots Jose Cuervo Tradicional
•     1 shot lime juice
•     2 shots pressed sugarcane juice
•     1 tablespoon of sugar syrup
•     1 hand full of mint leaves

1.  Start by bunching up the mint in your hand and rubbing the leaves around the lip of the glass. This will add a great aroma to the drink.
2.  Drop the mint into the glass then add all the other ingredients. Add a scoop of crushed ice and give everything a thorough stir.
3.  Add more crushed ice and garnish with a mint sprig and sugar cane stick.