Tequila happens to top the list of your favorite spirits and you tend to assume that drinking the blue-agave based alcoholic beverage is perfectly opportune during ‘Cinco De Mayo’. Of course, demand for tequila peaks in the days leading to 5th May, the date when ‘Cinco de Mayo’ is commemorated in Mexico and the US as revelers guzzle cerveza and margaritas. But if you consider yourself to be a tequila purist, you can turn on the reāāvelry by drinking the spirit all through the year.
Is there a proper way of downing tequila?
Aficionados and buffs recommend sipping the stuff straight up or neat in a slow fashion so that you can feel its distinctive aroma and flavor. Nevertheless, there is a methodology you need to follow for getting the most of this spirit. Though cheap tequilas continue to be the ‘gold standard’ for first-timers they can give you nasty hangovers.
So, once you get the hang of gold tequilas, you should graduate to the ‘blanco’ or ‘plata’ varieties that have bolder flavors. As you climb up the learning curve and are on your way to become a connoisseur, you can stick with an anejo or a ‘reposado’. These tequilas are highly refined and hence taste subtler and smoother.
You can even experiment with the ‘mescal’-a close sibling of tequila and distilled from the ‘pina’ (core) of the agave plant-which has a typical smoky flavor. Anyway, it is advisable to stay away from the cheap brands for avoiding hangover and keeping your experiences pleasant.
About Tequila in brief
The spirit gets its name from ‘Tequila’-a city in Mexico situated 65kms to the northwest of Guadalajara where the blue agave plant thrives. Tequila is one kind of mescal (or mezcal) as both are distilled from agaves. However, 100% pure tequila can be distilled exclusively from blue agaves whereas mescals can be fermented from any breed of agave.
The majority of Mexicans drink it neat without adding any ice or water or any other type of drink. On the other hand, tequila is served in bars and pubs in glasses rimmed with salt and a wedge of lime. The alcohol by volume (ABV) for distilling and bottling tequila is usually 38% but can be extended up to 55% for domestic and/or commercial consumption.
All brands marketed in the US contain a minimum of 40% ABV. Tequila was first brewed in 16th cent, in a place close to Tequila which officially became a city only in 1666. Mass production started sometime around 1600 and it was exported for the first time to the US in 1884-1885. It is available in a variety of colors, ranging from amber brown to crystal clear and contains approximately 300 compounds.
The fruity essences and flavors of tequila are attributable to the nearly 50 organoleptic compounds present in the spirit.
Drinking Tequila just as Mexicans do
Non-Mexicans often miss the original aromas and taste of tequila not only because they sip or quaff it the wrong way but also because they guzzle low-grade stuff. Anyway, it has become very simple and easy to source original stuff, thanks to online promotion. And once you have a bottle of pure reposado or aniso in your hands, you can start sipping and savoring it as you’d a bottle of Johnnie Walker, James Grant’s or Chivas Regal.
Always go for a brand that has been distilled from 100% agave
You could be easily hoodwinked into a buying a run-of-the-mill brand whose packaging nearly resembles a quality brand, typified by a sombrero placed atop a Mexican male who looks hilarious. Especially, if you’re a greenhorn, you could come back convinced that the bottle is a Jose Cuervo when in actuality it’s generic. Always look for the tag, ‘distilled from 100% blue agave’ when searching for quality brands.
The words ‘100% blue agave’ must be there on the bottle packaging or else you’ll be choosing unoriginal stuff. Some of the best varieties of tequila are:-
1. Blanco (Silver)
2. Tequila Joven
3. Tequila Anejo
5. Tequila Reposado
You can browse on the net for the best selling brands for each of the above types. One reliable link where you’ll be able to glance across the brands is https://www.thespruceeats.com/guide-to-popular-tequila-brands-760720
Try vintage stuff
Tequila is similar to whiskey or Scotch in one aspect-the longer the spirit has been preserved, the better will be its flavor. The stuff that is usually served in bars (excepting the exclusive ones) has been bottled out of vats where the spirit was decanted recently. No wonder, the spirit tastes bland and bitter. Now you realize that advisory on spiking your shot with a pinch of salt and lime.
If you are really keen to taste the stuff that should taste like it should, then go for a bottle whose spirit had been sitting in an oak barrel for at least a year. Anejos are barreled for nothing less than 1-3 years whereas freshly bottled blanco has been in a barrel (steel or sterile oak) for less than 9 weeks. If you’re looking for an affordable brand that you wish to sip (instead of taking shots), then opt for brands that bottle the ‘reposado tequila’.
Prepare the stuff like a Mexican
Here is the lowdown on preparing and drinking tequila like a Mexican:-
- Take a bottle of 100% pure reposado tequila
- Fill a caballito shot glass (thinner and taller versions of UK/USA types) with the spirit
- To savor the tequila, just take a sip straight up
- In case you’re trying the spirit for the first time, you can rim the edge of your glass with salt and position a slice of lime
- Sip very slowly as you watch the liquor washing away the salt before entering your mouth
- Squeeze a few drops of the lime wedge to cut out the bitterness
- However, be careful not to squeeze too many drops of lime or else the essence of the spirit will be suppressed