It’s the first Saturday in December. In London, there’s excitement in the air, despite the deep chill setting in. Families are out shopping. Two women outside a department store discuss the presents they plan to buy for their partners.

Heading into the City of London, we step through the door of Brigadiers Indian restaurant and there’s an inviting buzz on the other side. American Express® Gold Cardmembers are greeted by smiling, suited staff who lead them through heavy curtains, enabling a quick peek into the different bars hiding behind them. Aside from the hum of diners, there’s the gentle clinking sounds of cutlery on plates and cocktail shakers in action.

Guests are led to a private room that feels like a secret den. It has a glossy, black lacquer interior, leopard-print carpet, and old sports illustrations adorn the walls. Standing proud in the middle is a sleek, black pool table with a bright red pool carpet. Each guest is handed a cocktail – a House Paloma – and with its fizz of peachy pink grapefruit and Casamigos Blanco Tequila, it’s another bright pop of colour against the dark walls.

Casa Paloma tequila cocktails, accompanied by poppadoms and chutneys

30 Gold Cardmembers are here to experience a special tequila tasting and cocktail making experience, as part of the Eat Life programme of four exclusive Festive Spirits events. Other private experiences include learning about Seedlip’s non-alcoholic ‘gin’ at the edgy Untitled Bar, another with Ramsbury Estate vodka at the classic Brunswick House, and an opportunity to taste Johnnie Walker at the sophisticated London Stock restaurant. Fellow guests today are chic, young professionals, here to learn and connect.

In one corner, sets of shot glasses are lined up on a glass-topped high table. Around the edges are boxes filled with Brigadiers’ wonderful snack pairings – crunchy poppadums and spicy chutneys – to make mouths water. Continuing the theme, a waiter turns up to offer canapés: achari chicken skins pop in the mouth. Discs with sumptuous smoked pumpkin, methip thepla and corn kachumber go down a treat.

Cardmembers are offered Indian canapes including achari chicken and smoked pumpkin

Brigadiers was set up in 2018 by the family behind the award-winning Indian restaurants, Trishna, and Gymkhana, and the superb Spanish restaurant, Sabor, among others. They are proud to present an Indian barbecue-style menu, with meats and vegetables cooked in tandoors, charcoal grills, wood ovens and classic Indian smokers.

Tasting George Clooney’s Tequila

Next it is time to meet Ethan, former bartender and now ambassador for Casamigos, the ultra-premium tequila everyone is here to try. There’s a fizz of excitement among the Cardmembers as he begins to tell everyone the story of how it was set up by friends Rande Gerber, international film star George Clooney and Mike Meldman. This isn’t just any tequila, and everyone is eager to learn about it.

First, Ethan teaches that Casamigos tequilas are made from the finest hand-selected 100% Blue Weber agaves. These are grown in the rich, red clay soil and cool climate of the highlands of Jalisco in Mexico. The business is derived from the Spanish words ‘casa’ and ‘amigos,’ meaning house and friends, or ‘house of friends’. This feels fitting for an environment such as this.

Ethan stresses this is “eminently sippable” tequila and therefore there is no need to cover it up with salt or lime, “like the old days!” We learn that George and Randy “personally taste everything” – naturally, everyone feels as if they are in incredible company. “They’re delicious not just with Mexican food, but Indian, too,” adds Ethan. This is what everyone is about to discover.

Everyone tastes four Casamigos tequilas, learning about their different ageing, and noticing how their food pairings bring out different characteristics and flavours.

Amritsari fried fish pao sliders, paired with Casamigos Reposado Tequila

Casamigos Blanco Tequila, aged in steel, is peppery, and has a fiery kick. “So mellow and smooth,” describes one guest. A second tequila, the Reposado, aged in wood for two months, is sweet, and is beautifully balanced with a delicate fish slider (like a tiny fish burger in a brioche bun, known here as an Amritsari fried fish pao), which equalises the sweetness. The Añejo tequila, aged for seven months, is incredibly smooth – sweet, too, with caramel flavours, but also balanced. Enjoying it alongside Brigadiers’ gorgeous, fresh and creamy ‘Indo Chinese chilli paneer lettuce cups,’ is a stunning experience. Our tasting ends with a few sips of Casamigos Mezcal, which suits cocktails like Penicillin and Old Fashioned. It is extra smoky, and wonderful with some crunchy poppadums and chutneys.

Making Margarita Cocktails With A Twist

After the neat tastings is time for a cocktail lesson and more food tasting. A bow-tied waiter leads everyone through more archways to The Tap Room – a stunning, mustard and cream tiled bar area, with burgundy adornments, mahogany bar top and shelves teetering high with exciting-looking bottles.

Cardmembers are here to learn art of the Masala Margarita, a cocktail for which Brigadiers is fast becoming known for. Bartenders Henry and Michael reveal their top tip for the best margaritas: fresh lime juice – they squeeze vast amounts of it every day.

Fellow cocktailing Gold Cardmembers line up in pairs behind the bar to mix up their drinks – as if backstage at a theatre. The pouring and shaking begins. There are questions about quantities, and panicked looks assuaged by Henry, who calmly shares tips and advice.

Making the Masala Margarita, those stood behind the bar are told to first add the tequila, then some fresh lime juice, a little homemade agave, a few drops of masala tincture, and half a green chilli. Next, its ice, then time to wedge the shakers shut, shake for 10 seconds, and pour the liquid through a silver strainer over fresh ice. The final touch is a bright green piece of mango dusted with Kashmiri chilli salt. The result is sweet, zingy and punchy. It’s surprisingly balanced for beginners’ efforts.

Cardmembers enjoy the Masala Margaritas they have just made

This elegant start is further improved by more dishes arriving, hot off the grill. ‘Prawn, soft-shell crab and squid tellicherry fry’ is like a fantastic Indian version of cereal prawn and are crunchy and moreish. ‘Afghani lamb ribeye kebab skewers’ are very hot and incredibly tender, with big, spicy flavours that spread across the tongue.

In just two short hours, everyone has learned and produced so much.

“This is our first Gold event, and it’s great. We’re really pleased we came,” say one smiling couple.

“We’re very happy with our Margaritas!” adds another.

At 5pm, the event is over, but the room is still humming with people ready to settle into their evenings – some stay on to enjoy special dinners at Brigadiers, while others remain standing to chat with the bartenders and continue snacking and cocktailing.

There is no question that it has been a really special afternoon of eating, quaffing, learning – and, of course, having fun. Want to join us at the next event? Just search ‘Amex Experiences’ in your app store and turn on notifications to ensure you’re at the front of the queue.

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