Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ambhar Tequila and Cover 3

Cover 3
2700 West Anderson Lane #202
Austin, TX 78757
(512) 374-1121

Did you know Austin has a tequila company? I sure didn't before I went to a tasting they held at Cover 3 a few weeks ago. It's called Ambhar Tequila. And while it's made in Jalisco, where almost all tequila is made, it is imported by a company here in Austin. So it's kind of an Austin product.. Kind of. Apparently it's distilled 5 times, which seems to be the hot new trend in boutique distilling. While most whiskey is generally distilled 3 times and some vodka is distilled up to 12 times, Ambhar is the only tequila distilled 5 times. But all that handling comes with a hefty price tag, over $100 a bottle! Tequila has come a long way from the wormy mezcals we're so used to seeing.

As I've mentioned, most tequila is made in the Jalisco region of Mexico. The area of Jalisco where most tequila is made, is at a higher altitude and fairly arid. But what makes Jalisco so well suited for producing tequila is its volcanic soil. This soil is particularly well suited for growing the agave plant from which all tequila is made.

The part of the agave plant used to make tequila is called the pina (pronounced PEEN-ya). The pina is a huge 40-60 pound ball with thick, long, tapering stalks radiating from the ball. Jimadores, or agave farmers, remove the pina from the larger agave plant and chip away the stalks with a special tool called a coa. When the stalks are removed, the pina resembles its namesake, a pineapple. The pinas are mashed, sometimes by hand, and their juices, or musto, are pressed out. The musto is then fermented into tequila.

Bottles of Ambhar Tequila

If you're not familiar with tequila, it generally comes in three different levels based on how long the tequila is allowed to age. At the bottom is Blanco tequila. Blanco tequila is clear and unaged. It is the sharpest and most vegetal tasting tequila. The middle level is the Resposado tequila. Resposado tequila is usually a light golden color and is aged in oak barrels for less than a year. The upper level is Anejo tequila. It is a usually a rich amber color and is aged at least a year, but usually is aged around 3 years.

Of the different levels of tequila, I generally like Anejo better. I prefer the complex flavors of a longer aged tequila. But the star of Ambhar's distillery is their smoky yet peppy Resposado. It is bright and lively and would fly out of your glass and do a little salsa dance in your mouth if it could. I think the problem with Ambhar is the 5 distillations. Tequila isn't vodka where more distillations result in a cleaner more pleasing flavor. Good tequila is smoky and complex with a real bite. I think Ambhar's slightly aged but still complex Resposado manages to take the best of the 5 distillations and still be bold and unique.

But enough about tequila, let's talk food at Cover 3. I've been to Cover 3, now, a few times, and I have to say, they're one of the better upscale sports bars in town. I even took my dad there for Father's Day this year after I found out their burger was rated #12 in the state of Texas by Texas Monthly. You may not know this about me, but, like my father, I LOVE a good hamburger. And I've been a little disappointed by the hamburgers I've had in Austin. They're all rather plain. So I am in a constant search to find the perfect hamburger in Austin. I'll take any recommendations you give me, by the way.

Anyway, Cover 3's hamburger is one of the better ones I've had in Austin. But it didn't wow me enough to bestow the best burger in Austin title to it. I'm still holding on to that.

However, the Ambhar tequila event, in particular, only featured a few things off Cover 3's regular menu. They seem particularly well set up for hosting private events and I'm guessing the some of the appetizers we tried are reserved for private event.

I don't quite remember, but I think these are some sort of ceviche nacho. It's not on their normal menu, but was refreshing and light.

I don't think this is on their normal menu either but it was delicious. I believe it was beef on toast in a horseradish cream sauce with candied onions. I think I had 4 of these.

I'm generally not a huge fan of bar food and sports bars, but I have to admit, Cover 3 has a great hold on the upscale sports bar market. If you need a place to have a casual but nice lunch with a client, a happy hour with co-workers, or you want to watch the game AND get a great meal, this is the place for you. You just have to deal with the suburban-Dallas feel of the place. That being said, I've been here many times and will continue to come back, particularly if they add those beef on toast appetizers to their main menu (hint hint Cover 3).

~Ambhar:  7 (when you factor in the price)
~Cover 3: 8