Monday night, a huge Dia de los Muertos caricature welcomed guests to Tequila Museo Mayahuel on 12th and K streets.
Inside, sugar skulls, candles and marigolds transformed the new tequila museum and restaurant into a Dia de Los Muertos party, called “Subterraneo” put on by Jose Cuervo Tradicional tequila.
The party was a sneak preview of the not-yet-open Tequila Museo Mayahuel. Only those in the restaurant and bar industry were invited.
Jose Cuervo Tradicional is touring cities around the country with the Dia de los Muertos party and selected Sacramento to host Monday’s event.
According to Gina Castillo, tequila ambassador for Jose Cuervo and Don Julio Northern California, Tequila Museo Mayahuel was chosen because Sacramento is an important tequila market and it’s a brand new restaurant that has a tequila museum in it.
This is the first time Jose Cuervo Tradicional has hosted an event in Sacramento.
“(Mayahuel is) a place that’s going to stick to Mexican culture and since Dia de los Muertos is such a Mexican holiday, we wanted to make sure that we had it in a place that made sense,” Castillo said.
Some of Sacramento’s restaurateurs came to check out the new K Street restaurant and bar, including Ali Mackani, owner of Lounge on 20; Billy Ngo, owner of Kru and Red Lotus Kitchen & Bar; and Andrea Martin, who owns Bulls.
TJ Bruce, who owns Badlands and Hot Rods, was also there and said he was enjoying the party.
“It is very rustic. The food is wonderful,” he said. “It’s very clubby. I think a restaurant would do well (having) a club” atmosphere while it was serving food.
“I have a feeling it’s going to be a lot more low-key” normally, he added.
Small bites, or bocadillos, were served from the menu, including
- Bruchetas de Rajas con Crema (french bread slices topped with strips of poblano chiles marinated in sour cream);
- Dobladitas de Camaron y Queso Manchego (tortillas stuffed with shrimp and ricotta cheese sautéed with onions);
- Molletitos de Chorizo y Queso Monterrey (baguette with black refried beans and chorizo and crumbled cheese);
- Brochetas de Pollo y Nopal al Guajillo (chicken with cactus, Guajillo chile and mushrooms);
- Tostaditas de Chile Ancho y Nopales (tostadas with Ancho chiles, guacamole and cactus);
- Tostaditas de Tinga de Pollo (shredded chicken breast cooked in chipotle sauce, served on a tostada);
- Panuchos de Cochinita Pibil (pulled pork that’s been cooked in Ancho chiles and citrus sauce on a soft tortilla with refried black beans).
For dessert, they served Mosaico de Flan de Chile Ancho (flan with pasillo peppers) and a mango mousse cake.
Nate Radabaugh, David Tyler and George Boeger came all the way from Chico to see Tequila Museo Mayahuel.
Radabaugh and Tyler said they do security for Chico’s Normal Street Bar, which Boeger owns.
“This is my first time in Sacramento,” Radabaugh said. “It’s a great city – a walking city – I didn’t know what to expect. I like the celebration.”
On display behind the bar were hand-painted Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia tequila boxes.
“Each box is different – different artist, different art,” Mayahuel owner Ernesto Delgado said. “They hired a Mexican artist to paint their box, and each year, they select a new artist to paint the box, and now it’s a series.”
The tequila boxes are the current display for the “museo” (museum) part of the restaurant. The history and culture of tequila will continue to be reflected in the rotating exhibits planned for Mayahuel.
“The idea is that the whole place is going to function and work like a museum,” Delgado said. “(The) one (behind the bar) is obviously the main exhibit, but throughout the entire restaurant we’ll have different exhibits on different walls that will coordinate with events, programs, venues (and) tastings.”
The exhibits will rotate every three months or so, he said.
Bartenders stayed busy serving specialty drinks, which included Trad Fresco, made of Tradicional Silver, simple syrup, grapefruit juice, muddled cucumber and mint leaves; Paloma Mayahuel, which mixed Tradicional Silver, grapefruit juice, agave syrup, lime juice, seltzer water and a pinch of salt; El Beso Ardiente, made of Tradicional Silver, agave syrup, lime juice, Serrano pepper and muddled pepper wheels; and others.
El Beso Ardiente means "the fiery kiss," according to Castillo.
Nicole Novoa, an analyst for the California Department of Consumer Affairs, said she came Monday because she is friends with the restaurant’s manager, Javier Valdez.
When asked what she thought of Mayahuel, she said, “It’s different from what I’ve seen. It doesn’t compare…. It’s culturally diverse. It has a really good ambiance.”
More than 200 people took part in the celebration throughout the night, according to Delgado.
DJ Alex Trujillo and DJ Will Rodriguez played music all night, getting the Day of the Dead caricatures on the dance floor along with many painted faces in the crowd.
Delgado said Tuesday that he was very pleased with the event.
“I personally loved it. It was a great reflection of what I’m trying to showcase – the culture…. Dia de los Muertos is a day of appreciating the past with the present – the people that have been here – their life and history. In Mexico, we celebrate our past by celebrating the deaths of people that were close to us,” he said.
The grand opening of Tequila Museo Mayahuel is scheduled for the weekend of Cinco de Mayo. However, the restaurant and bar will be open well before that, with a soft opening at 3 p.m. Friday. Delgado said they will serve small plates and a limited cocktail menu.
Photos by Chris Brune and Colleen Belcher.