Tequila may be the only beverage that has a song named after it. One I sang back when I was young, stupid and hangovers didn’t wield the same crushing power as they do today. This Mexican spirit has lured me into bars, on top of bars, underneath bars and channels my fearless alter ego – with varying results.
But I eventually grew up and learned to enjoy rather than to wrestle the devil’s spirit. I acquired the skill to gracefully sip the agave beverage and continue on a ladylike path throughout the evening. How’s that for grown-up skills?
Since 2002 tequila sales have skyrocketed nearly 570% in the US and endorsements of celebrities like Señor Timberlake y Señor Clooney have helped the Mexican libation increase its market share against Russian vodka and Scotland whiskey.
Persistent rumors claim tequila is the only ‘upper’ in the liquor cabinet, a false presumption. Like all other alcohol (ethanol) it is a suppressant, even though it often stimulates rowdy behavior. Looks like it is rather the mood that suggests the choice of drink than vice versa. Feeling mischievous? You’re probably inclined to order that feisty margarita over a full-bodied red and there goes your self-fulfilling prophecy.
Cut to the next morning: You’re full of regret, yelling “Mierda” and clutching the Advil bottle. That’s because those sugary margaritas are rarely made with premium tequila.
Let’s taco ‘bout the word “premium” for a sec, because anything that doesn’t say “100% agave” is nacho friend. Trauma causing intoxicants like Jose Cuervo or Sauza are called “Mixtos” and consists of 51% agave and 49% mistake aka added cane sugar and caramel. They’re easier on the wallet but harsher on your soul and unless it’s pure agave you should probably go for a cerveza instead.
So now that I’ve made my case for the pure artesian brew, let’s have a look at the three types of premium tequila. The difference comes down to aging: Silver or Blanco Tequila only sits for a couple of weeks while Reposado ripens between 2-12 months. Añejo is aged in oak barrels for one to three years. And then there’s of course Mezcal, the smokey cousin of the Tequila. If you find a worm (actually larvae) floating in your bottle you’ve ended up with Mezcal and a marketing ploy invented in 1950 to get gringos to eat a worm.
Some of the additive-free, pure agave tequilas I’ve come to try and love are:
- Espolón Reposado, cool packaging that looks great in the cabinet, affordable and mild (~ $22)
- Fortaleza Blanco, smooth and fruity (~ $48)
- 123 Organic Resposado, pronounced “un, dos, tres” is sourced from pesticide free plantations, made of recyclable materials and is great for sipping (~ $55)
This newfound tequila appreciation has peaked my curiosity about its origins… Enter Mexico’s Tequila Trail! About 45 minutes from Guadalajara and 4 hours from Sayulita or Puerto Vallarta, it winds its way through Mexico’s Jalisco region where scenic haciendas dot the rolling hills of the Sierra Madre and charming distilleries open their doors for thirsty tourists.
Any and all recommendations for the Tequila Trail are welcome, as this destination is high on my bucket list. In the meantime I might just have to treat myself to a La Paloma.