Don Julio- An Evening in Austin

On a particularly cold February 29th, I was privileged to be extended an invitation to a one-of-a-kind dinner experience, “Soul Sessions”, hosted by Don Julio and Choza to celebrate the launch of their new innovation, Don Julio Alma Miel. Don Julio’s revolutionary Alma Miel is a unique blend of blanco and anejo tequila, aged 14 months in bespoke Crémant du Limoux barrels local to Southern France. The quality creation boasts an advanced pedigree of notes, including sweet honey, lucious spice, creamy caramel, and fire-roasted agave. I was delighted to partake in a tasting ceremony of the beverage, artfully paired with curated dishes from the Mexico-based restaurant Choza that showcased delicate, fresh Mexican flavors with Thai influences. The evening featured a DJ set curated by acclaimed composer and Stranger Things alum Kyle Dixon that set the atmosphere for the tasting, leading to an epicurean, sensory experience that proved unforgettable. Thus, here is my thorough recap of the experience. 

Ambience + Setting

Upon walking in the venue, we were greeted by the delicious smell of carne asada from the expansive outdoor kitchen. The chefs of Choza, including the founder, Tyler Henry, were hard at work crafting delicious dishes, showcasing authentic methods of cooking including molcajetes, woks, and banana-wrapped meats. Choza is a restaurant and listening bar based in Mexico City that features traditionally Mexican cuisines with Thai influences. The woodfired grill acted as a hearth for those attendees who lingered outside watching the chefs work their magic. 

The inside had a similar warmth to it: candlelit centerpieces, warm sounds, and long, stretching wood tables. Upon walking through the door, my plus one and I were greeted with our first taste of Alma Miel in the form of a stiff, spicy Negroni that opened the senses and cleansed the palette, while also showcasing the fruitier notes of the tequila. 

First Course (The Tasting Course)

Upon seating, we listened to global brand ambassador Karina Sanchez’s instructions on how to sip and savor Alma Miel in its purest form–neat. Guests were recommended to sip the tequila while taking a breath through their nose, hold it in their mouth for a few moments, swallow, and then exhale with their mouths. Then, we were greeted with small pairings that were curated specifically to allow select notes of Alma Miel to shine through. We first were served a piece of fire-roasted agave–a tiny square of smoky yet delicately sweet flavor, which perfectly highlighted the agave and honey notes of the tequila. Then, we cycled through pears, blue cheese crumbles, dried apricots, and sweet almonds, slowly sipping and pondering the intense, smooth flavors of Alma Miel in the process. After this was accomplished, we moved onto the main courses with a primed palette.

Second Course

Before the second course, another inspired cocktail was brought around to us to pair with our food, this time a colorful interpretation of a mango martini called “Dos Eme” featuring a healthy dose of Alma Miel and green mango, finished with Costeño Chile Oil. The result was a cocktail that was slightly sweet, nutty, spicy, and floral, but understated, allowing for the flavors of Alma Miel to be appreciated without much adulteration. It paired exceptionally well with the Ensalada de Papaya Verde that featured seasonal vegetables and a distinctly fresh umami flavor. Papaya salad is a traditional Thai dish that typically features unripe green papaya, fish sauce, and carrots. Choza’s take on this classic dish highlighted habanero, dried shrimp, peanut, cilantro, citrus, served with aromatic coconut rice and finely chopped peanuts. It was spicy, tangy, crunchy, and refreshing, pairing nicely with the cocktail that featured complementing flavors. 

Third Course

The third course featured a classic Mexican dish, carne asada tacos with tender rib meat served on the bone, flavored with green chile adobo, warm spices, a cucumber mint cabbage slaw, and fresh corn tortillas. A vegetarian option was also presented with lion’s mane mushroom being grilled and prepared in the same fashion as the carne asada. Both of these options were smokey and expertly balanced, making for delicious, elevated tacos. This dish was paired with the delectable “Honeysuckle” cocktail, crafted with Alma Miel Tequila, barbequed pineapple, sweet honey, and sage. This was my favorite cocktail of the night, tasting like a sweet, spiced pineapple nectar similar to tapache, but with more richness. 

Fourth Course

The fourth course was my personal favorite, starring a beautiful fish stuffed with curry paste and wrapped in banana leaves. The fish was served whole, and it was flaky, bright, and delicious. The curry flavoring was a nice ode to Thai flavors, and putting the fish together with the tortillas completed the meal. The dish was composed of handmade curry paste, thai basil, a bright but rich coconut cream salsa, salsa aji verde, and tortillas de harina. These flavors paired perfectly with the Curry Colada, a cocktail creation that mixed Alma Miel, curry, coconut, and fortified milk. The result was a sweet, nutty, and slightly spicy nectar that went down smoothly with the rich fish. 

Fifth Course (Dessert Course)

The dessert course was a playful, modern take on cookies and milk. We were served a rich, luscious coffee-based cocktail called Café de Canela, infused with brown butter, cinnamon, and coffee. The drink was rich, indulgent, and foamy, but perfectly balanced and cohesive thanks to the spicy Alma Miel. The classic chocolate chip cookies had some flaky sea salt that added additional balance to the sweet treat, and proved nice to dunk in the cocktail.

Final Thoughts

Overall, “Soul Sessions” was a magnificent evening that synthesized Mexican-Thai flavors while highlighting the star of the show, Don Julio’s Alma Miel. All of the main notes, like honey, fire-agave, and spice, were emphasized by the plates that were specially curated to complement the flavors of the tequila. The cocktails were unique and inspired, showing the versatility of the tequila without adultrating it with additives. Overall, everything about the experience was beautifully cohesive, with the food, drinks, and ambiance in perfect harmony with each other. Don Julio’s Alma Miel is a fine bottle that I would recommend to those looking for quality sipping tequila. 

Alana Anh

I am an aspiring journalist, researcher, and PR professional at the University of Texas at Austin. I am passionate about food, literature, culture, and music!