I once spent 18 months working for Jose Cuervo tequila. It was great fun but it did almost kill me. Here’s some of that knowledge distilled (sorry!)
Tequila is fun
Why? Because you can’t just have one. Tequila gets the party started. So if you’re going to get some tequila in, remember that’s it’s never just going to be just the one.
All the way from sunny Jalisco
Like champagne and pork pies, tequila has domination of origin. It can only be produced in specific geographic areas, primarily the state of Jalisco in Mexico (middle left, bordering the Pacific if you’re interested).
Blue agave is a given
The number one rule it to always choose a tequila made from 100% blue agave, the base ingredient for tequila. (Agave looks like a cactus, but in fact it’s closer to the lily.) Anything less than 100% is called a Mixto. Mixtos are mix of blue agave and other sugars/ syrups, but they’re still called tequila. Confusing, right? So, check the bottle, and make sure yours is made from 100% blue agave.
Types of tequila
This is the most basic form of tequila, also known as ‘plata’ or silver tequila. Best used in mixed drinks like margaritas. It’s white and unaged, clear in colour and bottled shortly after distillation.
The name means ‘rested’. This tequila has been aged 2-12 months in oak barrels and has a golden colour. The cask allows the flavour to mellow so it’s less harsh. Reposado is used in premium mixed drinks and cocktails and is also good for shots. (Did someone say shots? *Author has flashbacks*)
- Anejo or aged tequilas
Premium tequila aged for 1-3 years in oak barrels, these sipping tequilas are more mellow and complex in flavour.
Give the lime and salt a miss and try an orange slice instead. No salt. Just shoot the tequila and suck the orange. It’s a game changer. Try it.
One way to sip a good tequila is a drink called a ‘Bandera’. For this, you’ll need three shot glasses. In glass one, a Virgin Mary mix (spicy tomato juice); in glass two, your tequila; and in glass three, freshly squeezed lime juice. Start sipping one, then two and finish on three. Sip and repeat. For the observant, the colours also represent the Mexican flag.
A little blood
In Mexico your tequila will probably come with a sangrita on the side (translated as “little blood”) which is a combination of tomato juice, orange juice and chilli powder. Try it, it’s good.
The origin of the tequila shot was the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic when patients were prescribed tequila with lime and salt as a way to ease their symptoms. (A little known fact that suddenly seems more relevant!)
Tequila is never bottled with a worm (in fact, this is prohibited by law). The drink with the worm is called Mezcal, which is made from agave, but not blue agave. It’s more smoky in flavour than tequila, because the raw ingredients are roasted rather than steamed.
Blanco – mix it, Reposado – shoot it, Anejo – sip it
In summary, make sure it’s 100% blue agave you’re drinking and remember to choose Blanco for mixing, Reposado for shooting (Jose Cuervo Gold will do the trick), and Anejo for sipping (try Don Julio 1942).
If in doubt, sip
If you’re ever unsure, drink it like the Mexicans drink it, sipping it from a glass like we’d drink a whisky. Talking of which, I spent 10 years working on Scotch whisky. Better start writing that article….