One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor? Not anymore.

North of the Border 

One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor? Not anymore.

Long relegated to the bottom shelf of the cocktail world, tequila is in the midst of an image rehab.

In some sophisticated circles, drinkers are now tasting and savoring tequila with the grace time they've previously reserved for cognacs, wine and, more recently, microbrews. This particular brand of behavior modification has been slow coming to the Midwest, but we've witnessed it at one area watering hole.

Harry's Country Club Bar owner Harry Murphy has been the impetus for the image upgrade in Kansas City. His "tequila flights" promotion, just weeks old, allows patrons to choose from many combinations of bueno tequila drinks, poured from 12 brands of 100-percent blue-agave tequila.

Our server suggests we try the Milagro brand (reportedly made from an ancient recipe found buried in the blue-agave fields outside Guadalajara). So we take off on a "Vertical Flight": three one-ounce pours of differently aged tequilas, all the same brand. Blanco is the unaged drink, reposado has fermented in wood for 60 days or more, and anojo has aged a minimum of one year in oak barrels sealed by the Mexican government.

We can't discern any real taste, but that's perhaps because our palates are untrained. Experienced drinkers, our server tells us, will detect an herbal, sweet or smoky flavor, respectively, in the three pours. Despite our artlessness, we're happy to report that tequila's infamous fire on the lips and kick to the belly are still thriving.

It's too soon to tell whether tequila will really become the new vodka, as one witty lush we know has predicted. But the change, Murphy says, may cause tequila to lose its old reputation as rot-gut booze. Open-minded tequila fliers have responded positively to the elaborate presentation, Murphy says.

He figures that young professionals will take hold of the trend because they can afford to and are more aware of what's chic. "This is for the crowd that drinks less but drinks better," he says.

We'll raise a glass to that.

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