Last Saturday was the first Tacos & Tequila event at the Fluid Event Center. I had heard about this event for months beforehand as a part of the food and drink events that the Fluid Event Center is hosting this year. The Bourbon, Beer & Bacon event this past April was a success, so I was excited to see what kind of crowd the Tacos & Tequila event would bring.

My boyfriend and I arrived in the early evening and there was a decent amount of people there, but not as big of a crowd as I had expected. I found out later that there were more people who came in the afternoon when the event began than later that night. I missed out on Fernando's tacos and a taco and burrito eating contest that took place earlier that afternoon, but otherwise everything else was still available.

The admission fee to attend the event was $5. Tickets were required to purchase tequila, which ranged from 1 to 19 tickets to try 1/4 ounce samples. I bought 13 tickets for $9.75 and the ticket vendors accepted both cash and credit cards to purchase tickets, which I appreciated. Food had to be purchased separately with cash or card only.

I am generally not a big tequila drinker, but I was interested in expanding my taste for it and seeing what types of tequila I have been missing out on. The event had a wide selection of tequilas, way more than your standard Jose Cuervo and Patron (although these brands were also available). There were three big tables lined up with bottles of tequila with each brand of tequila grouped together. One table included bottles of margarita mixers that were available to try as well as a table of Mexican beers.

We went to the first table in the entry room to try mezcal, which we found out is a type of liquor is smoked from an agave plant native in Mexico. We tried the bottle of Wahaka Reposado Mezcal because it had a worm at the bottom of it. It cost 2 tickets and we were told it would be a good one to try to see if we liked mezcal. This was probably not the best one to try first because it was very strong and had a distinct smoke flavor that was a bit difficult for a newbie like myself to sip on. I think the smoky flavor of this drink would be great for someone who was used to drinking bourbon or whiskey.

We went to the next table full of tequila and asked which brands had most other people been tasting. There was a bottle of 1921 Tequila Cream that was polished off before we got to try any, but we were told that it tasted similar to Bailey's. Apparently that was the most popular choice for the evening since it only cost 1 ticket and seemed to be the only bottle of tequila that was completely gone. The next popular choice was a lime and mango flavored tequila from el Jimador, which also cost 1 ticket each. This was similar to the kind of tequila that I am normally used to and was very good and something that could easily be enjoyed without a mixer. The mango flavor was very sweet; the lime flavor was my favorite of the two.

After trying out some of the tequila samples, we decided to get some food. There weren't as many food vendors as I thought there would be. Fernando's was there in the afternoon, but had left in the evening when we had arrived. Juanito's Tacos were serving up more traditional tacos with a variety of toppings to add on, Chester's BBQ was there to serve tacos and nachos with a barbeque spin, and Piato was serving tacos and nachos as well as dessert: margarita cheesecake and tequila sunrise cupcakes. There was also a food vendor that seemed to be with the Fluid Event Center that was serving tacos and Mexican pizza. We decided to go with Chester's BBQ and try the pulled pork nachos. They included corn chips, pulled pork barbecue, Monterrey Jack queso, barbecue chipotle piccante sauce with a bell pepper slaw and jalapenos. The bell pepper slaw and chipotle piccante sauce were the main stand outs. The piccante sauce was smoky and spicy while the bell pepper slaw cooled it down and tasted more savory than other slaw that is normally used with barbeque. It all tasted very good and was more than enough to share between the two of us.

The third and final table of tequila included the tequilas that were made by George Clooney and the most expensive bottle of tequila from Grand Patron Burdeos that cost 19 tickets to try and normally costs $400 a bottle. We didn't have enough money for tickets to try it, but we were told some people were willing to spend the money to try it and see what it tasted like. Instead, we decided to try the Roca Patron Reposado due to the recommendation of the vendor at the table. It cost 4 tickets and had a slightly sharp taste but was still smooth. It was more of a sipping tequila, which we were told is generally the case depending on if the tequila is more dark in color.

There were a few dessert tequilas that we were told we had to try and save for last. They were all from a Patron brand called XO Cafe and each cost 1 ticket. We tried the Incendio which had a chocolate chili taste to it. It had some heat to it but tasted delicious and not anything like how I thought tequila could taste like. It was a great way to end our tequila tasting journey for the evening.

Over all, the Tacos & Tequila event was a great way to spend a Saturday evening. We enjoyed trying new brands of tequila that we wouldn't have had access to otherwise. For a fairly new tequila drinker like myself, it was helpful to be able to try different types of tequila and mezcal that I had never heard of before. 

The Fluid Event Center is located at 601 N. Country Fair Drive in Champaign. Check out the next event, Rum & Reggae on October 15th.

All photos by Brittany Busboom.