Image credit: Blazin Visualz
Ironically, Bartender and Agave Enthusiast, Ashly Levi, was not always Team Tequila. In fact, she hated it, but she currently lives with a determination to change the minds of those who disdain the Mexican liquor. Now, Levi, who goes by “Miss Agave” because of her passion for agave spirits, has a blog that positively shifts the narrative about Tequila. With her blog Miss Agave, Ashly created a platform where she shares her knowledge and craft with others. She aims to break the negative stereotypes and reputation that is commonly associated with Tequila by eliminating the misinformation about the Mexican liquor.
In 2015, Ashly moved to Melbourne, Australia, and got a job at a Mexican Restaurant with a stunning back bar that only featured bottles of Tequila. The entire selection was printed and stuck to the back of American License Plates, catching the eye and inspiring curiosity. Working at the Mexican restaurant was her first time working in the hospitality industry. Miss Agave was grateful that she was hired in an industry that celebrated community as well as making meaningful connections. She believed that working at a restaurant in the heart of the city would be the best place to meet people and she was right. Her bosses made a valiant effort to train their staff to work hard and learn fast. Initially, Miss Agave was intimidated by the new and fast-moving environment but she found safety in the lessons she learned while on the job, and along with her co-workers, was given a red binder with information about Tequila. Suddenly, she was thrust into this new world, learning the different regions where it could be found, the various categories of the spirit, and the laws that were attached to it.
These informational packets were useful, but it was the training that changed Miss Agave’s relationship with, and understanding of, Tequila. Brand Ambassadors and owners of Tequila and Mezcal brands from Mexico would travel all the way to her restaurant in Melbourne. They brought their spirits and taught each bartender about them. They would show the bartenders slideshows and photos of the jimadores harvesting the agave in the fields to the beautiful land that is Jalisco, Mexico. Because she was born in Mexico, these training sessions and conversations gave Miss Agave a sense of pride for her homeland and a new appreciation of the liquor that originated there. Through these training sessions, she learned how to sip Tequila and what flavors to savor when drinking. She slowly developed a taste for it and it ultimately became her drink of choice. Because of this experience, Miss Agave believes that by learning more about agave-based spirits, their histories, their origin stories, and cultural impact, make them worth their respect.
Thus, she created a blog that inspires others to give Tequila another shot.
What is the Miss Agave blog About?
My blog focuses on highlighting agave and Mexican spirits: Tequila, Mezcal, Raicilla, Bacanora, and even Sotol. Whether I am creating a cocktail or talking about a certain brand, my overall goal is to celebrate and bring attention to these spirits and educate others who may not be familiar with them.
What do you enjoy the most as an Agave Educator?
Before I launched my blog, I noticed that almost every conversation I would have led to Tequila. Having this platform where I can reach so many people encourages me to learn more myself while I also promote the uniqueness and beauty Agave spirits have to offer. I know that I may not be able to change everyone’s mind or tastes, but I am happy as long as I am helping tell the right story and giving Tequila the credit it deserves.
Currently, you are a bartender. What do you enjoy the most working behind the bar?
It really is an experience, and can be a rewarding one. You never know who is going to walk through that door and sit in front of you. I love the conversations and I love sharing my passion with anyone who is willing to listen. When someone sits at your bar, you are like an artist, or performer in a way while working your craft. Also, there’s always room for growth and learning.
Today we celebrate #NationalTequiladay, what are your thoughts about Tequila education in the US?
Yay, Happy National Tequila Day!
I believe Tequila education is moving in the right direction. Working behind the bar, and even as a patron myself, I’ve noticed a wider variety of quality Tequila available. I think the combination of Mexican inspired bars and restaurants opening up, like the “Taco Tuesday” trend, along with the numerous brands that have emerged in the last 5 years, have created more interest and inclusion for the spirit of Tequila. I do believe education is the best approach to help remove any negativity or misinformation behind the spirit. I know I am 100% biased but anytime someone tells me they don’t like Tequila, it is my mission to change their mind. I’d like to say I have a good track record ;).
What Cocktail will you be drinking today to celebrate National Tequila Day?
One of my favorite cocktails of all time is an Espresso Martini so my cocktail will be inspired by that except this cocktail will have Chai Tea instead of Espresso. This cocktail is made up of: Coconut oil washed Blanco Tequila, coconut milk, unsweetened Chai tea, Creme de Cacao, and cinnamon-infused Aquafaba. I’ve been working on Agave cocktails from home with ingredients that I have on hand! My home bar is not big enough!
What bottle of liquor do you have at home that is reserved for special occasions?
I have a bottle of Fortaleza Still Strength that I have yet to take out of the box. I don’t know what special occasion I’m waiting for, and I should just drink it. I’ll open it eventually. If there was a bottle that I would love to have at my bar that I would save for special occasions, it would be Fuenteseca 18th year.
What do you like to do for leisure? Tell us about your hobbies.
I like to keep myself busy with work. I’m the first one to pick up or cover a shift. When I do find myself with free time I love to rollerblade, go to the beach but I’ll also just enjoy my down time during the day and then maybe visit my friends at their bars at night! Is traveling a hobby? Traveling is definitely my favorite thing to do. I pretty much always have a trip booked in my itinerary. Something I look forward to, work and save towards. Traveling is always so rewarding.
What’s next for you?
I want to get back behind the bar! I love the rush of making drinks while chatting with guests and my coworkers. I would also love to work with more Tequila and Mezcal brands, even Raicilla and other Mexican spirits and focus on the education of these spirits with local bartenders but also with guests! From experience, it can be hard at times to give an interested customer a full Tequila lesson and tasting while working a busy bar. I have some ideas in mind to bring the educational experience to people outside of the industry as well! I also hope to make it back out to Mexico! Oaxaca is top on my list!
What’s the best way to follow your journey? Tell us how to contact you.
Image credits: Blazin Visualz
RECREATE MISS AGAVE NATIONAL TEQUILA DAY COCKTAIL
Chai Tea-quila Martini
2 oz coconut oil washed Volcan Blanco
1 oz of unsweetened Chai Tea
0.5 oz Creme de cacao
0.5 oz unsweetened coconut milk
Cinnamon infused Aquafaba
Pour all ingredients into your cocktail shaker and dry shake (no ice) for about 30-45 seconds. This will allow the Aquafaba to froth up. Add in some ice cubes and shake again for about 10-15 second. Double strain into a coupe glass!
Garnish with toasted coconut flakes