Taste of Tequila

“What can I get you?” Alli Ofisher, senior in FAA, asked the three patrons sitting at the bar.

“Tequila,” they confidently responded.

And they have come to the right place. Wedge Tequila Bar in downtown Champaign just celebrated its one-month anniversary since opening on Oct. 24. The combination of restaurant and bar occupies the spot on Neil Street where Carmon’s Bistro once stood.

After making a few recommendations to the customers, Ofisher climbed onto the stool placed in front of the three glass shelves behind the bar, looking for the particular bottle to pour.

With over 120 tequilas displayed on the shelves of Wedge, it took Ofisher a moment before she located the correct brand and popped open the top.

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    “See how smoky it smells?” she asked the customers, bringing it close enough for them to get a whiff.

    For Ofisher, working at Wedge is more than just waitressing or bartending. She has become somewhat of a tequila expert in just over a month.

    “I know my favorites, and you start to learn good recommendations for starters,” she said. “I had to learn all about the different types of tequila.”

    There are three types of tequila — blanco, reposado and anejo — and each have a unique preparation process. Blanco is clear tequila that is not aged in a barrel. Reposado is aged in a barrel for a couple of months, giving it a smoky flavor. Anejo is aged in a barrel for a year and produces some of the premium tequilas found at Wedge.

    “A lot people have bad memories of tequila from a rough night, and tequila can have certain misconceptions,” Ofisher said. “Even I had one before I started working here.”

    Many good quality tequilas can be within $5 to $8 per shot, making it price-friendly to a wide range of customers.

    However, in the middle of the tequila display sits the Gran Patron with a more hefty price tag. One shot rings up a $45 tab. Ofisher has only sold one shot of the Gran Patron to a curious customer.

    “It’s definitely one you sip on,” she said. “They do sip on tequila in Mexico — they don’t shoot it like a shot.”

    With updated Mexican-inspired decor, a whole new menu and a fun atmosphere, Wedge aims to bring Mexico to the downtown Champaign area. Opened by the Fuentes brothers, owners of the El Toro restaurants in the Champaign area, Wedge Tequila Bar has found its niche through emphasizing freshness on their menu.

    “We try to have a fresh, unique spin on everything,” said Katie Marquardt, manager of Wedge. “It’s authentic Mexican. We make all the sauces and corn tortillas in-house.”

    In addition to a fresh menu and a variety of tequila, Wedge boasts a unique drink menu. Four of their tequilas are infused in-house with bold flavors including jalapeno, red bell pepper, espresso and orange-cinnamon.

    One of their most popular drinks, the spicy pineapple margarita, uses the jalapeno-infused tequila, fresh pineapple puree, lime juice and agave nectar.

    The staff infuses fresh ingredients into tequila and lets it sit for a week to give it a unique flavor. Wedge plans to change out these flavor-infusions and the drink menu to follow the seasons and is currently planning the winter menu.

    While the downtown Champaign location might bring in an older customer base, University students can still find a meal and a drink at Wedge Tequila Bar. Laura Buecker, senior in LAS, ventured in to try out Wedge Tequila Bar with her sorority sisters a few weeks ago.

    “I thought it would be fun to go to a tequila bar because I had never been to one before,” said Buecker, who has a newfound enjoyment of tequila.

    Buecker enjoyed the intimate setting and the tequila bottle display, as well as the $8 taco plate deal.

    “(The tacos) were really well-prepared and the ingredients were very fresh,” she said. “It’s a great place for college kids because the drinks are cool and new and the decor is really interesting.”

    Kelly can be reached at [email protected].