Complexity, Creativity & Kindness: A Q&A With Sheetal Bhagat, Spice Note Tequila

Spice Note Tequila founder Sheetal Bhagat drew inspiration for her premium lineup of spiced tequilas from the fragrant spices used in her family’s East Indian cooking as well as her own culinary experience as an adult. As a proponent of simple but flavorful cocktails, she wondered how she could easily add her favorite spices to her home cocktails in a way that would translate to a product that others could enjoy, as well. She chose tequila as her base spirit for its ability to hold up alongside the high quality, bold flavors of ceylon cinnamon and Indian-grown cumin. She found that the infusion of these flavors resulted in smooth, balanced tequilas with a sophisticated complexity ideal both for cocktails and sipping solo.

Be sure to watch Sheetal’s live Highballs at High Noon session, then check out her twists on the classic Paloma and Mule!

Download the free Highballs at High Noon E-Book here!
(Image credit: Tara White)

Q: What was it that first got you into cocktails?

Sheetal Bhagat: My love of cooking and spices naturally brought me to the bar. Putting spices into my cocktails was as natural to me as adding them to my culinary adventures, and it all started with my love of tequila and America's favorite cocktail: the Margarita. Cumin and lime have been a natural kitchen pairing in many of my dishes. Though it might seem odd to use cumin in a cocktail, it made perfect sense to me! The Margarita, being a citrus-based cocktail, made perfect sense to add cumin to. 

Q: What new cocktail discoveries are you exploring right now?

SB: I'm continuing to push the limits with new spices in my cocktails. I find cardamom to be a wonderfully fragrant and complex spice, and I'm learning how to use it in my cocktails.

Q: Why do you think people at home might be intimidated by making cocktails?

SB: Learning what flavors work together is really at the foundation of cooking and mixology. But also at the base of both of these fields is creativity, adventure, and the UNKNOWN! Understanding acid, salt, sweet, bitter and the ever complex umami, and how to balance these pillars of the palate is definitely something to master, and takes years. I'll be working on this for a lifetime. But sometimes my "mistakes" or "I wonder what would happen if" moments end up being my best dishes or cocktails. I created Spice Note specifically to not only help with the intimidation that comes with making cocktails at home, but also give people confidence to make great cocktails at home. Having the right ingredients and tools make it so much easier to be successful. Think of Spice Note as an ingredient in your cocktail. 

Q: What are some of your favorite cocktails to make at home?

SB: Dare I say: Spice Note Cumin and Serrano Pepper Margarita is my go to. It never disappoints. And when I add a hibiscus flower and pink salt rim, it's perfect and beautiful. I also love making champagne cocktails using a recipe my cousin in Canada created

Q: What do you take to a party?

SB: Always a bottle of Spice Note!

Q: Where do you think the cocktail and bar industry is headed?

SB: I think bartenders are creating more and more complex and interesting profiles with their abundant creativity. I love being a part of that mix by offering really unique tequilas to work with. 

Q: What has the pandemic taught you?

SB: Sometimes surviving is good enough! I don't always need to be "crushing it". I'm just happy that the pandemic didn't crush me, and I think many of us need to learn how to be kind to ourselves, and not expect so much of ourselves ALL THE TIME. Take a moment, breathe, and enjoy a great cocktail THAT YOU MADE! You deserve it.

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