It’s a Saturday evening, and Abbey and I are seated at a rickety red plastic table along Makati’s Algier Street. We’re well into our second round of Don Julio Blanco margaritas, our glasses laced with generous amounts of agave nectar. We are there by happy accident, having bumped into our host Aljor Perreras earlier in the day and getting an impromptu invitation to a Mexican food and tequila tasting party.
Aljor, who has been cooking nonstop since the previous evening, emerges every now and then from the tiny house across the street bearing conspicuously expensive bottles. It’s only because the host is Aljor that I’ve agreed to eating a dinner that will certainly have meat and to washing it all down with an alcohol that I dislike after a memorable evening spent hugging the toilet bowl (I was 18, I hadn’t eaten dinner, and I’d managed to get eight shots down in half an hour).
Two hours after our arrival, Aljor comes bearing the appetizers: cueritos infurtidos or crispy chicharones dipped in a red chili salsa mix. Taking pity on me and Abbey, he gives us a plate of Mexican tortillas as a “vegetarian” option—ignoring the fact that the salsa mix itself has pickled chicharon.
It is despicably good.
The next item on the menu is elote callejeros or Mexican style grilled corn slathered with butter, cotija cheese and chili powder. I make a mental note to eat the Japanese corn sold so abundantly along Katipunan Avenue in precisely this way.
The next item is tacos de pollo chipotle or tacos with chicken braised in a chipotle and adobo mix. After the chicharon, eating chicken is nothing. It is also despicably good.
We then take a break from all the despicable goodness to have our first round of tequilas: a blanco or unaged tokillya called Milagro Silver. Aljor explains that blancos are tequilas aged to a maximum of three months. He tells us—and I take his word for it—that the Milagro Silver is “clear and spiky, has a floral nose and a lot herbaceous notes.” It is also “rather smooth for an unaged tokillya.” I sip the entire thing before he’s even hit the phrase “herbaceous notes.”
Next up is the tacos de chorizo or tacos with ground pork mixed with ancho and guajillo chillies and other spices. We are definitely back in despicable goodness land.
We then have our second round of tequilas: a reposado or tequila aged two months to a year by the name of Los Azulejos. I admire the cobalt blue bottle it’s in while Aljor elaborates on the tequila’s “more subtle bouquet with its hints of cognac, citrus, lime, pepper and nutmeg.” I don’t tell him that it’s all the same to me, but it’s certainly a pleasurable sameness. The lack of distinction may be owing to the sips of Glenlivet single malt Scotch whisky I’ve been stealing in between courses.
By this time, Abbey’s finding everything I say funny—which is always a sign to me that it’s time to stopper the bottles. Aljor is understandably indignant. It’s only close to midnight and he still has to serve the tacos de carne asada as well as the third round of tequila (this time an añejo or a tequila aged at least one year). We express our regrets—which we mitigate by stealing a few slices of the carne asada from the kitchen on our way out—then traipse our way back to the car. It takes three attempts before I find an exit out of the compound.
Later on, Aljor tells me that we missed the Don Julio Añejo and the Hacienda de Chihuahua Sotol. I sense his genuine pain at our loss when he describes their well balanced flavors and smooth and buttery finishes. To console us—or perhaps himself—he says: “You can come back some time and taste them.”
We probably will.