For many people, tequila is either synonymous with “woohoo! Pass the lemon and salt!” or “painful hangover the next morning”.

It’s not difficult to see why this is the case, with the spirit solidified as a popular go-to drink in various Sydney pubs and clubs.

But there’s so much more to this beverage than a boozy night on the town. The manufacturing of tequila and other agave-derived spirits like mezcal and raicilla has become a life’s passion for many Mexican distillers. The diversity of production techniques and subsequent flavours is renowned, whilst the legacy of the indigenous agave plants spanning across thousands of years sheds light on why tequila is Mexico’s national spirit.

A bottle of 1800 Edicion del Nuevo Tequila

For Phillip Bayly, it’s not just the uniqueness of agave spirits that has drawn him to his love for tequila and mezcal. The original owner of Sydney’s late Café Pacifico has spent 35 years of his life travelling throughout Mexico, and believes the people he has met along the way have inspired his agave love.

Phillip Bayly at The Winery, drink in hand

Phillip Bayly showcasing a bottle of mezcal

Close up of the tequila bottle label

“One thing I’ve loved with tequila as a category is the people involved,” he says. “There’s a certain thing about them. They’re fun, they’re really interesting, they’re crazy.” With undeniable fondness, Bayly notes that this craziness is suited to the craziness of tequila itself.

It is this passion not only for agave spirits but also for the faces behind them that has culminated in the Agave Love conference, a festival dedicated to the celebration of tequila and other agave spirits. Over the past year Bayly has poured his heart, soul and favourite bottles of tequila into planning the event, which will be held on Sunday 22nd and Monday 23rd March 2015. Six of the seven locations for the event surround Oxford Street and are conveniently located a short distance from one another, making it convenient to attend multiple sessions.

Agave Love program provides information on the various sessions

Agave Love marks the first time in the Southern Hemisphere that so many industry experts, producers, bartenders and agave enthusiasts have collectively been involved in a single conference.

But while this is definitely a must-see (and must-taste!) event for Sydney’s spirit-lovers, Agave Love has been carefully organised to ensure there is something for everyone – no matter how many or how little tequila shots you’ve downed in your time.

For the agave aficionados, Bayly recommends testing the hard liquor in Session #3: ‘Artisenal Mezcals – the Single Malt of the Agave’, or attending one of the gloriously “geeky” talks (nothing to be ashamed of! We’re all geeks for something) like Session #12: ‘Mezcal, a gift from the Agave or the Gods’.

For the less experienced but nevertheless curious enthusiasts, Session #1: ‘Tequila and Mezcal 101’ is designed to be a perfect introduction to the world of agave spirits, whilst Session #4: ‘Types of Margaritas’ will be great for some delicious cocktail tasting.

 A clear bottle of Mezcal showcases a clear, dense liquid

It is hoped the conference will reshape what has become an infamous but widespread perception of tequila as a hangover inducing, simple party drink. This reputation has emerged as the result of people drinking agave spirits the ‘wrong’ way. What’s the right way, you ask? Bayly recommends investing in a higher quality liquor to avoid a painful morning-after; starting and sticking with tequila rather than mixing a variety of different drinks with different effects; drinking responsible amounts within reasonable times (try sips instead of shots!); and finally, staying hydrated with plenty of water.

These tips may not only save you from a hangover, but they may even open you up to a whole new experience of drinking the special liquor that has united so many agave enthusiasts from around the world. “There’s a tequila for every mood and there’s a mezcal for every mood as well,” Bayly says. “Tequila will put you on the ceiling [with a high]. Mezcal is more spiritual, it’s almost like you’re ten centimentres off the ground.”

A bottle of 1800 Edicion del Nuevo Tequila alongside its protective box

With a variety of talks, blind tastings and mixology sessions with a number of influential industry experts, Agave Love is set to dazzle and delight. 

In addition to an open mind, Bayly recommends you bring an “open palate”.

The Agave Love conference will be held at 6 different venues around Sydney on 22 – 23 March 2015. To find out more, or to purchase your tickets, visit agavelove.com.au. Note: a purchase of three sessions automatically guarantees you a free fourth session.