There is something special about the ritualistic nature of drinking tequila. Licking your hand, sprinkling little grains of crunchy salt in anticipation. Again and again we throw back shots, wince, and repeat. The flavor hits your tongue like a sudden bolt of either magic or poison, depending on your taste buds. Maybe you suck on a lime wedge to instantly singe out the taste of the drink. That being said, many of us don’t know how to truly appreciate the drink. Many don’t know how to sip, savour and appreciate the complex distillery process or they don’t know how to process the aromatics and depth of flavor. Here is the best ways to enjoy tequila!
A Brief History
Many people are drinking nail polish remover-grade tequila, which is often why it gets a bad rap. It’s good to know the history and production process of the drink to have a better appreciation.
The spirit we now know as tequila is over 200-years-old, but similar spirits have been around for a lot longer. A similar concoction was first produced in the 16th century near the location of what is now modern day tequila in Mexico. Over the years, producers have perfected the distillery process and have turned it into an art.
Production & Misconceptions
All tequila is made from the agave plant. Agave is a succulent plant with razor-edged leaves. It can grow up to 12 feet tall and matures for harvest at around 6-8 years. The heart of the agave, known as the piña due to its a resemblance of the pineapple, is used because it contains the best sugars. There are over 200 varieties of agave found in Central America, but tequila is only made from one: weber blue agave (WBA).
The main two types of tequila are first split into two categories, 100 percent blue agave and tequila mixto (mixed). The first tequilas to arrive in Europe was of the mixto variety. It’s still fairly common to receive low-quality mixto tequila when ordering a cocktail or shot from your local bar. Not to say there aren’t benefits to mixto, it simply isn’t as pure and thus lacks the same flavor as WBA varieties. Additionally, the additives often used for colour often result in a particularly painful hangover. Let’s stick to the 100 percent WBA.
There are also names to describe tequila based on how long it has aged. Blanco is aged for less than two months, reposado between 2 to 11 months, añejo for 1 to 5 years and extra añejo which is aged a minimum of three years. So based on what you looking for, think of what type of tequila is best for your palate. If you want something with a woody flavor, look for color in reposado tequilas, which are aged in oak barrels. When the aging process is longer, the agave notes are subdued and the woody profile picks up. But note, any batch aged for more than four years often loses its luster due to evaporation in the barrel.
Tequila should be treated with the same respect as whiskey. Sniff it gently and let it the aromas open up for you. If you utilize a tasting or wine glass, all the better. Sample various styles and ages and you will start to taste the difference between each. If you are not interested in drinking tequila straight up, opt for a cocktail!
Okay, so you have have shots, margaritas and the famous tequila sunrise. There are tons of other tequila drinks which are worth a try, such as the:
Paloma: 2 parts tequila blanco, 1 part agave nectar, 2 parts pink grapefruit juice and a splash of soda water
Tequila Sour: 1 1⁄2 oz. tequila, 3⁄4 oz. fresh lemon juice and 1⁄2 oz. simple syrup
Tequila Sunset: 1 oz. tequila, 4 oz. orange juice, 1⁄2 oz. blackberry brandy and 1 cherry
But why not switch it up and get creative? Get wild with a:
Magui Cactus: 5 mint leaves, 1 oz. lime juice, 1 oz. xtanbentum, 1 oz. simple syrup, 1.5 oz tequila and 2 oz. cactus puree
21st Century: 2 oz. tequila, .75 oz. creme de cacao, .75 oz. lemon juice and 1 spoonful of agave
So, ditch the shots and opt for one of these!
We all know about pairing wine and cheese, but how about pairing tequila with something special? Think of incorporating it with other Mexican gems like slow-cooked beef, chorizo, guacamole, grilled fish with lime, enchiladas and ceviche. Allow the flavors of the food to open up with the tequila and vice versa. Look into restaurants that are known for their delicious Mexican food and solidly stocked with top shelf bottles.
A Quick Refresher
Always buy 100 percent agave tequila, try it in fancy cocktails, tack a moment to embrace the layered flavors and try pairing it with some amazing Mexican treats! Even if you have had some bad experiences with tequila, if you stick to these tips, you’ll be appreciating tequila in no time. ¡Salud!