Traditions rooted in Mexican flair

Savannah Tequila Company offers creative takes on authentic dishes

click to enlarge The Salsa Trio, featuring peanut macha, at the Savannah Tequila Company. - PHOTO BY LINDY MOODY
Photo by Lindy Moody
The Salsa Trio, featuring peanut macha, at the Savannah Tequila Company.
It was not until I visited the Savannah Tequila Company that I realized that before its doors opened, a large gap existed in Savannah’s tequila scene. That large gap basically meant that there was no actual tequila scene at all. Aside from the usual shots of brown and silver well booze and the fancily lit and strangely shaped bottles of tequila that you can find in any corner’s liquor store around the country, the tequila selection was reasonably flat in the restaurants and bars we know and love.

That has all changed. Boasting more than 100 varieties of agave spirits, Savannah Tequila Company offers customers the pleasure of choosing either tequila or mezcal — or both — to pair with creative and original handmade mixers and unique garnishes.

If tequila or mezcal seems a little strange to your current and usual liquor imbition, fear not. Kessler Collection has staffed its newest foray into foreign fare with skilled workers to aid you in selecting and sipping your succulent-based synthesis.

Keeping with traditions rooted in Mexican flair, the space itself is incredibly inspiring with colors and patterns reminiscent of our North American neighbors’ eateries. Rich and vibrant greens, reds, blues and yellows will fill your heart with the spirit of Mexico and prepare your palate for the tour of tastes and scents with which your senses will shortly flood.

The menu’s authenticity comes from the kitchen staff and Victor Terrones, Chef du Cuisine at Savannah Tequila Co. Terrones hails from Mexico City, and he spent some time in Miami kitchens before heading to Savannah to work for the Kessler collection.

click to enlarge The Savannah Tequila Company in Plant Riverside features colors and patterns reminiscent of our North American neighbors’ eateries. - PHOTO BY LINDY MOODY
Photo by Lindy Moody
The Savannah Tequila Company in Plant Riverside features colors and patterns reminiscent of our North American neighbors’ eateries.
“Our team worked together to perfect the menu until we created something that we love; then we had multiple tastings,” Terrones said. “We had probably six tastings for culinary before we presented the final one to our executive committee. They loved it, but the best part was that I worked with part of my entire kitchen team, and all of them did extraordinarily.”

For me, the start of the meal stuck out the most. I ordered simply and went for the Chip and Salsa Trio and found the dish was anything but simple. The trio included a bright and creamy verde salsa, a smoky and deeply layered flavor charred salsa, and something very unique to our Savannah restaurant scene: peanut macha.

The peanut macha is Savannah Tequila Company’s take on a traditional and extremely unique salsa from Veracruz, Mexico. Imagine eating chili-infused peanut butter; that is how I would describe the unique sauce. The roasted chilis add layers of smoke and fire, and the chunky salty peanuts hit your palate with deep nuttiness. If I could, I would put peanut macha on everything I ate.

click to enlarge The Chicken Tinga Flautas, available on the main menu at the Savannah Tequila Company. - PHOTO BY LINDY MOODY
Photo by Lindy Moody
The Chicken Tinga Flautas, available on the main menu at the Savannah Tequila Company.
Terrones honors his roots and also allows his partner chefs to do the same. “My Sous Chef Carlos’ randma was a butcher, and she made this chorizo in her business in Mexico. Carlos developed an extraordinary recipe, and we had to add it to the menu. It is superior to any of the ones we have in the market, well, at least for the things that we need it to. The chorizo is found in dishes like the Queso Fundido, Tres Sopes [and] Alambre.”

The Queso Fundido is one of the standout starters. It is served in a sizzling cast-iron skillet and made from a blend of melted cheeses. The topping is fresh pico de gallo, and the in-house made chorizo.

For my main, I ordered the Chicken Tinga Flautas because reading the menu’s description of creamy avocado salsa, roasted poblano crema and crumbled chihuahua cheese entranced me. From the chef himself, “We have flautas on the menu because Chef Shahin told me a story about his mother picking him at elementary school and bringing him to a flautas stand, just him and her. It was his moment of just pure love, and that’s food to me. I loved it, and of course, I had to add it to the menu.”

The flautas are generously portioned, regarding both their size and toppings. Crunchy rolled and fried shells encase a succulent chicken-filled center which are topped with a heap of cabbage, pico de gallo, poblano crema and avocado salsa.

You can pick from several traditional items like refried beans, black beans, roasted corn, or red rice as a side to your meal.

The refried beans hit close to home for Terrones, “The refried beans have pickled carrots. This is because the first spicy bite I had when I was maybe two- or three-years old was a corn tostada spread with refried beans, and my grandma just arranged a slice of pickled carrot — you know, the ones that come with the pickled jalapenos. Well, it was my first contact with the heat of jalapenos. After that, I felt like a big boy because I ate ‘chili.’”

Like the salsa trio, there are three different types of enchiladas made available on the menu. Because the Enchiladas Rojas are served with a runny fried egg, my selection of the three was a no-brainer. Dubbed Enchiladas Rojas from the smothering of housemade salsa roja sauce, they hide underneath a sea of savory red salsa tender braised beef barbacoa.

For guidance on how to best wash down your boisterous meal, customers can seek the advice of in-house Tequilier Chelsea DeMark. Similar to a sommelier, Savannah Tequila Company has its very own Tequilier — an expert in the history and background of various tequilas. She even took the time to give me some insight into what would pair best with my meal.

According to her, “Our pepino cooler is a fun play inspired by a snack frequently enjoyed in Mexico: cucumbers dusted with sour, spicy tajin. When the weather gets hot in Savannah, this cocktail will be your refreshing go-to libation. We start with our housemade cucumber mint soda and top that off with your choice of mezcal, sotol or tequila served with a Tajin rim.”

I went for the Corazon De Chai —a frozen cocktail that blends tequila and chai spice. Overall, it was light and refreshing from the pineapple cordial’s slight sweetness, but the drink has warmth due to the chai spice that coats the back of your tongue.

click to enlarge Corazon De Chai, a frozen cocktail, available at the Savannah Tequila Company. - PHOTO BY LINDY MOODY
Photo by Lindy Moody
Corazon De Chai, a frozen cocktail, available at the Savannah Tequila Company.
Another great option, said DeMark, “The Legend of the Hidden Palenque cocktail is an ode to the mezcal distilleries —called ‘palenques’ — that are hidden gems tucked away, dotting the most remote regions of Mexico and produce some of the most superb mezcals. This cocktail is designed to evoke the sense of adventure related to the spirit and to commemorate the people who trekked through the desert and jungle to bring mezcal into popularity outside of Mexico. Homemade Agua Fresca de Jamaica complements the smoky mezcal and bright citrus in this drink, and it is tied together with mint and a touch of bitters.”

Luckily for locals, the newest Mexican addition to our overflowing south-of-the-border restaurants sets itself entirely apart from the rest of the ones here. Truthfully, it is a culinary casa unlike any other I have experienced anywhere, much less limiting that statement to our sprawling city. Though most locals stray from River Street, places like Savannah Tequila Company give us many excellent reasons to head down to the river and allow our minds to experience a transportation into another world.

Savannah Tequila Company is located at 500 W. River St. Find their menu at plantriverside.com/venues/savannah-tequila-co and follow epicuropedia.com to ready more by Lindy Moody.

About The Author

Lindy Moody

A true Southerner through and through, Lindy Moody was born in the Atlanta area and grew up in a Southern family where she learned to cook - and more importantly how to eat. Her love for all things cuisine began with her mother teaching her to bake red velvet cake every Christmas. As every Southerner knows, holiday...
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