If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to earn the title of tequila maestro (a maestro catador de tequila), James Bailey is about to take your understanding of this sweet elixir to the next level; the mixologist-turned-tequila-ambassador would also tell you the path is loaded with rich heritage and versatile flavours. 

Bailey himself honed his craft (and his palette) for Mexican tequila cocktails working for over a decade in local restaurants, bars, and plenty of cocktail competitions.

Why 1800 Tequila is Bailey’s go-to

So what makes tequila his favourite choice of spirit? “It’s much more versatile than other spirits,” says Bailey. His own Latin heritage means tequila too adds an element of familiarity to his innovative cocktails (see his cocktail recipes further below).

While the 1800 Silver is his go-to as the weather heats up, the entire fleet of 1800 tequilas offers a wide and versatile range for fresh new takes on traditional favourites. “If somebody likes to drink Old Fashioned… I can work with older age tequilas [like the Reposado and Anejo].” In addition to these two and the Silver, 1800 also recently introduced the first flavoured tequila to its line with the 1800 Coconut. Simply put, there’s a tequila for every taste. 

The 1800 pays homage to the year of Mexico’s earliest premium tequila recipe, but Bailey works to ensure that this age-old tradition isn’t lost in present-day in what he, his friends, and customers end up tasting in the glass (or copper mug). “You always want the tequila to shine, so my goal when I’m making cocktails is not to mask the flavour of the tequila but to compliment it.”

That flavour is smooth and clean—the result of the 1800’s double distillation process in copper stills for added complexity and character.

Finding the perfect pairings

Where the Anejos and Reposados have warmer notes (think hints of vanillas and cinnamons), the Silver is bright and light, making it a great summer reach. “When you drink a Silver tequila, you find out that there is a little more acidity on the palette and that’s just natural from the agave. So, it actually makes it feel like there’s a lime essence to it. And just having that lime and tequila, it’s just summer.” 

Because of the 1800’s versatility, when creating his cocktail recipes he always first tastes the tequila he is working with. “Just figuring out the aromas and figuring out what the spirit is telling me it wants to be featured with,” and Bailey then takes it from there. For his top eight summer cocktail selects, he lifts the best of each tequila so you can find your future favourite. 

Here are Bailey’s eight summer cocktails you’ll want to try: