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Vancouver International Tequila Expo ready to cause a buzz

Once known solely as a lubricant for frat house debauchery, tequila is increasingly making the rounds at high-end dinner parties and summer patios in B.C.

Nowhere is this transformation more evident than at the Vancouver International Tequila Expo (VITE), which has a mandate to “increase the presence of tequila in Western Canada.”

Visitors to the show, which runs Friday at the Hyatt Regency, will have a chance to sip tequila from glass stemware, and watch expert mixologists shake up tequila-infused cocktails.

“We really are trying to change people's perceptions,” said Eric Lorenz, founding partner of VITE.

“It's not something you have to cover up with lime and salt.”

Unlike the typical shot glass tequila – often made from a mixture of 51 percent agave and 49 percent industrial sugars – sipping tequilas boast an array of flavours that appeal to the refined pallet.

Like wine, the environment in which agave is grown contributes greatly to the flavour the tequila takes on. As a result, some sipping tequilas taste fruity, while others might give off herby aromas.

Many tequilas are aged in barrels, which can lend them an oaky flavour.

Perhaps because of too many margarita hangovers, British Columbians have been slow to adopt sipping tequilas.

Lorenz said liquor stores began stocking 100 percent agave in larger quantities in the mid-1990s, when the province opened up its borders to private importers. But sales only really started to soar over the past few years with popularization of high-quality food products.

Tequila sales in B.C. pulled in $22.5 million in 2012 compared to $21.8 million in 2011 – an eight per cent increase.

“It doesn't seem like much, but eight per cent is a pretty big jump in the spirits industry,” said Lorenz.

Lorenz is hopeful the Expo, now in its second year, will continue to contribute to the uptick in tequila sales.

“I think we're going to see more high-end and ultra-premium brands,” he said.

Vancouver International Tequila Expo:

Where: Hyatt Regency Hotel, 655 Burrard St.

When: 6 to 9 p.m., Friday, May 24

How much: tickets go for around $65.25 and must be purchased online at vancouvertequilaexpo.com.

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