While this blog is called “WINE PREDATOR,” I am definitely ALSO on the prowl for spirits! And one of my favorites is TEQUILA.
And while I bet you thought that May 5 (Cinco de Mayo) was National Tequila Day…
because Cinco De Mayo is a day where a lot if us, myself included, take a moment to enjoy tequila, the truth is that July 24, for some inexplicable reason, is National Tequila Day.
And in case you were wondering, National Margarita Day is Feb. 22.
So today I have for you a bit of tequila history, a few fine tequila, and one of my favorite tequila cocktails to make at home.
First, a little about TEQUILA and its history!
Tequila is actually the name of a city in the Jalisco region of Mexico where the blue agave plant loves the red volcanic soil common to the highlands surrounding the town located in the central-western part of Mexico.
As with wine grapes, where plants are grown influences the flavor. For tequila, blue agave harvested from higher altitudes make for a sweeter distilled spirit, while lowland plants have a more herbaceous character. Also like Champagne, the name Tequila and the product associated with the name is protected by Mexican law.
The Aztecs made a fermented beverage from the agave plant; in the 1500s, when the Spanish ran out of brandy, they started making a distilled spirit from the agave plant and by 1600, they had a factory going in Jalisco. Soon, the product was being taxed, and Spain’s King Carlos IV gave the Cuervo family the first license to commercially make tequila. The Sauza family began exporting Tequila to the US in the late 1800s. Today more than 100 distilleries make over 900 brands of tequila in Mexico with 2,000 brand names registered.
Each bottle has a serial number (NOM) indicating the distillery that produced the tequila.
Like wine, the agave plants require hands-on tending by “jimadores” who must judge how to prune the plants and determine when they should be harvested.
Again like wine, they are looking to see how much sugar, in this case carbohydrates, is there to turn into alcohol. For wine, brix of the grapes can be measured but for tequila, they must determine the ripeness visually and by knowing each plant.
And like wine, tequila can come from a single estate to emphasis the terroir.
The harvested pinas of the agave are then roasted to make the sugars more available to the fermentation process, and the juice is extracted and poured into vats to ferment. The results are then distilled twice to become what we know as “Silver” tequila. The silver tequila can then be bottled or barreled and aged to become reposado (one that has rested or reposed for a year or so) or anejo which has a more golden color from being in the barrel for the most time.
While tequila must be made from agave plants grown in Mexico, some of it is exported in bulk and bottled in the US and other countries. The one pictured in the tweet below does not state that it’s 100% agave and because of the “gold” on the label, we know it’s just colored that way, not actually aged in barrels, and it’s probably just 51% agave or a mixto:
Unlike most wine, there is no need to further age a bottle of tequila.
But like wine, once a bottle is open, it will begin to change due to oxygen. While wine can deteriorate within hours or days, tequila lasts longer, up to one or two years depending on how full the bottle is. (The more oxygen in the bottle the faster it will go bad.)
Traditionally 100% blue agave tequila is enjoyed “neat” which allows you to appreciate the complexity of the beverage, but most Americans seem to prefer the flavors masked by fruit, and that could also be because they are not drinking 100% blue agave, but a blend of blue and other agaves and who knows what else.
Just like wine, some agaves are better than others. If you want to experience the terroir and the complexity of Tequila, go for 100% blue agave and drink it neat. If you have a blend, then go ahead and add mix and juice to it.
The 4 Copas organic anejo is definitely a tequila you should drink neat in order to fully appreciate the complexity of the tequila.
This is a fireside sipper, not a drunken barside slammer.
While I will typically only buy and drink 100% blue agave tequila, there are times when I want something cold and citrusy– A MARGARITA please! My favorite Mexican restaurant, Casa de Soria, makes their margaritas with Patron and lots of fresh squeezed local juices and orange liquor and very little sweet and sour mix.
What’s my favorite tequila cocktail? Try this:
- Fill 1 pint mason jar or other pint jar with a snug lid with ICE
- Fill 1/2 with cold water and juice of one fresh squeezed Meyer lemon (or fresh made lemonade)
- Add 1 shot each: blanco or silver tequila, St Germain, Cointreau (or Gran Marnier)
or combination –sometimes I will do 1 shot tequila and half St G and half orange liqueur
- Stevia or agave syrup to taste (with Meyer lemons I’m usually good without)
- SHAKE!! Drink! Share with a friend or enjoy by yourself!
Note: This is an AWESOME beverage to enjoy camping or at a music festival!
Carry it around with the lid on!
And what should you do with your beautiful empty bottles? After you get lit, you can be lit!