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In the tradition of intimate events, Tanteo tequila hosted an exclusive gathering at it's Mercer Street loft last night -- aptly dubbed the Casa Tanteo -- for a Mexican Standoff, in which two of the city's top mixologists -- Elizabeth Restaurant's John Freeman and Agua Dulce's Bernardo Hernandez -- duked it out for top drink honors.
And what a space it was, the office HQ-cum-Soho hangout was bedazzled with bunny-eared Aloe Vera plants, bookshelves full of Mexican novels, a full-service antique bar imported from Mexico and plush vintage couches.
Guests included some of New York's top nightlife brass, like affable Rose Bar doorman Damion Luaiye, who had nothing but praise for the bespoke barroom.
"The Tenteo Club House is a model for all the corporate sponsorships out there trying to establish themselves as the next big thing. It's the inverse of all the primetime clubs, all the Rose Bars, all the Boom Boom Rooms, something that's a little bit more intimate, a little bit more personal. They produce a great party," he said, clearly enjoying himself with a jalapeno-infused Margarita in hand.
But of course, there was serious business on hand, namely naming the finest bartender of the evening. Luckily, true open-bar connoisseurs and all around gadabouts were there to judge, men like Style.com's roving-nightlife reporter Darrell Hartman, David Blend, executive editor of Thrillist and swilling specialist Bill Keith of Out Magazine.
At the end of the evening (i.e. a few blackberry, carrot juice and chocolate flavored cocktails later) Hernandez emerged the glorious victor, but it was a close call. Judge Hartman picked Freeman for the win, who came up just a little short.
"The best one came from John, the bartender at Elizabeth. It involved jalapeno and carrot juice, the secret ingredient that was thrust upon them at the last minute. He made an amazing drink, and I can't really remember the other ingredients because it’s the end of the night and, well, I've been forced to drink."
The real star of the evening, however, had to be the small and unique setting, which provided a level of comfort Luaiye believes night owls are seeking. "Everything has gotten so big and so watered down in the post-Giuliani New York with Wal-mart coming in and K-mart already established, so we're looking for something that actually gets our feet back on the ground and gets us looking in peoples' eyes."