Monica Richards de Osberg, beverage director at Arnaldo Richard’s Picos and Arnaldo’s oldest daughter, makes several solo trips each year to Mexico to directly sample barrels of the spirits to be featured in the restaurant’s bar program. Because she personally samples the products Picos will bring back, Richards de Osberg has become a master of the spirit tasting trade and says she searches for three main characteristics.
The first is the “herbaceousness,” or spice characteristics of the spirit, which Richards de Osberg detects by parting her lips at the opening of her tequila glass and slowly inhaling. The second element is the spirit’s alcohol, which she senses by positioning her nose in the center of the glass’s small opening and gently inhaling. Lastly, Richards de Osberg searches for the fruit characteristics by lowering her nose to the bottom of the narrow glass’s lip and inhaling again.
Using this technique, we sampled a few of the spirits Richards de Osberg has procured from her different travels to Jalisco. When celebrating National Margarita Day on Saturday, consider these brands for your drinks.
Tequila: Herradura Double Barrel Reposado
Herradura has been a partner of Pico’s for nearly 12 years. As part of the distillery’s double barrel program where the tequila is aged once for 11 months in a new American oak barrel and again in a charred American oak barrel for 30 days, this unique tequila is one that Richards de Osberg feels Picos’s guests will most enjoy.
Through the sampling technique, Herradura Double Barrel Reposado was found to be punctuated with rosemary qualities, have a higher than average alcohol content, and elicit a floral, almost honeydew scent. Tasting it, though, offered a fuller picture: The Jack Daniels barrels used in the tequila’s aging process significantly softened the flavor of the rested spirit, making it an easy glass to enjoy.
“The master distillers, after so many years, have understood exactly the flavor profiles I’m looking for,” Richards de Osberg says. “It’s generally about four to six barrels in the room and we’ll crack all six and decide which of the six goes home with us.”
Sotol: Laika Spirits Flor del Desierto
Tequila isn’t the only spirit sourced from Richards de Osberg’s trips to Mexico. She’s also determined to grow the restaurant’s repertoire to include small batch mezcal and sotol, the high-proof, clear spirit made from a few desert plants.
One of the sotols Richards de Osberg selected, Flor del Desierto, was a wild harvest variety sourced from Chihuahua. While clear and unassuming, the spirit packed a punch but still tasted more subdued than tequila.
Mezcal: Alipus San Baltazar and Mezcal Vago Elote
A couple mezcals that Picos’s menu currently features, Alipus San Baltazar and Mezcal Vago Elote, are also sourced from smaller distilleries. The Alipus she selected for Picos’s menu offers a baseline of small, craft mezcal with a straightforward production process. The Mezcal Vago Elote, however, was produced in a distillate chamber with corn hanging over it, lending the spirit a smokier, corn-infused taste.
As for National Margarita Day, Picos is hoping to greet a celebratory crowd with its carefully sourced and selected spirits, and the restaurant has special pricing planned for the event, including the Picorita on the rocks or frozen for just $7, and top-shelf frozen margaritas at $10.
“I’ve got all kinds of stuff on the wall that is going to be geeky and is going to be something that somebody’s really seeking after,” Richards de Osberg says. “Giving people the opportunity to create their own experience with all the wonderful selections we have on our menu is really what has made us successful.”