I’m fascinated by the increase in tequila consumption and the ever expanding market. The past several years has shown a change in tequila drinking culture. Years before the association was for me either isolated, lonely, hardened men drinking away life’s sorrows or a cheap, high-proof liquor whose taste could be covered if you put enough fruit and sugar in it, blended with some ice and froze the brain of the consumer so they couldn’t think how awful the thing actually was. Now however, consumption is not so much drinking as tasting and indeed a more of a refined social past time than the years before. The imbibing of is something much like the tastings of the wine connoisseur.
Admittedly, my tequila experience is nil. Prior to this recent foray into the tequila culture, my experience has been limited to losing a game of bar dice and being forced to take a shot of something akin to rubbing alcohol or drinking massive frozen drinks that gave me the aforementioned brain freeze along with a toothache from its cloying sweetness. Needless to say, a friend of mine (quite the aficionado) has for ages been carrying on now about how good a proper tequila is. I can’t say that I readily jumped on the band wagon. My stomach even as I began to write started to do a flip-flop at the mere thought of the noxious stuff. Pavlovian response to what I guess is a learned response from all the unsuitable tequila based drinks before. Said friend has even gone so far as to suggest I join her for a tequila tasting. She said the name of the place is Mayahuel. I heard that and my stomach didn’t flop, it dropped. All I could think of is “Beware of Maya”. Maya is the Hindu goddess of Illusion. Yes, I know different cultures, Hindu goddess, Mexican liquor, but the idea was palnted and I would not let illusion get in the way of reason and logic, logic being stay away. Further, I began to think this lady must have drank the worm and she was hallucinating . Honestly, tequila tasting? Okay, I can do a quick shot as long as I have salt lime, and a chaser. Quick and dirty. Still feel the burn. This friend is one of my gourmand friends. One who supposedly has a refined palette. The suggestion certainly didn’t sound fun, it soudned massochistic. The “facts” as I knew them made me more then a bit dubious about her rhetoric. Nevertheless, there was something about her raving Perhaps what she said was that of a mad woman, but she managaed to picque my interest and I’ve decided to venture into the uncharted Tequila terrain.
As a dilettante this foray is a bit scary. The little experience I do have (hangover flashbacks) makes me want to run screaming far, far away and curl up into a fetal position w/ my bottle, my lovely tried and true bottle of vodka. However, I realize that the facts as I know them are subjective and I should give tequila another go from a more objective standpoint. In order to do this, I knew I needed to learn some information about tequila.
I’ve stated that in the past tequila and I don’t agree, the old adage is 1 tequila, 2 tequila, 3 tequila floor… I’m more 1 tequila, floor. It’s over for me, I’m done but those with a stronger consitution than I can last a bit longer. After doing a bit of research I came up w/what I felt were 4 major fundamental bits that prove useful to anyone wanting to “taste” and appreciate tequila in its true, pure form. The amount of 4seemed reasonable I thought this was a useful analogy in giving you, the reader, an overview without endlessly drawing out my own rhetoric, boring you and by the 4th paragraph, casuing you to fall asleep , out of the chair and on the floor.
1 Tequila: Blue Agave… The varieties of tequila have nothing to do with what tequila is made of. All types stem (pardon the pun) from the Blue Agave plant grown indigenous to Mexico and found in high-altitude, mountainous area northwest of Guadalajara called Jalisco… The name is derived from a town in the region, aptly named Tequila. The Blue Agave is a species called a succulent, growing long stems instead of leaves. These leaves retain large amounts of water thereby allowing it thrive in arid areas. The liquid that becomes what we know as tequila comes from the sap in the heart of the Blue Agave plant.
2 Tequila: 5 types… The variance in tequila comes from the way the sap is distilled and how long the tequila is aged.
- Blanco (“white”) or plata (“silver”) – white spirit, un-aged and bottled or stored immediately after distillation, or aged less than two months in stainless steel or neutral oak barrels. Think rubbing alcohol. Only kidding, In all actuality the poorer, more scerbic forms, those drunk in early college days are mixed w/ cheaper alcohols. Pure tequila regardless of the color is much smoother and much more pleasant. The clearer the tequila, the less like there is that it will have any taste at all. Interesting, but I don’t know that I’m quite ready to turn in my vodka bottle.
- Joven (“young”) or oro (“gold”) – is the result of blending Silver Tequila with Reposado and/or Añejo and/or extra Añejo Tequila.
- Reposado (“rested”) – aged a minimum of two months, but less than a year in oak barrels.
- Añejo (“aged” or “vintage”) – aged a minimum of one year, but less than 3 years in oak barrels.Añejo refers to the length of time the tequla ages. For a tequila to gain the adjective Añejo, means that it has been aged at the very least 12 months in oak barrels.
- Extra Añejo (“extra aged” or “ultra aged”) – aged a minimum of three years in oak barrels. Definitely the smoothest and most complex as not only does the aging allow the sugars to break down more, but as the tequila ferments it picks up flavors from the oak of the barrel.
3 Tequila: Consumption of… If you like me, aren’t quite ready to drink it straight without the lemon, salt and the hot body to do the shot off of, there are quite a few way to mix it and allow for the natural essence to come through and let other ingredients enhance the liquor and not mask. To name a few…
- Tequila Sunrise – Again, while picking your tequila bear in mind the type, if you buy an inexpensive, poor quality bottle, you’re more apt to black out than appreciate the light, bright orange citrus of the cocktail. (Tequila Blanco, orange juice and a touch of grenadine. Brilliant.)
- Margarita – not the frozen, cavity inducing, umbrella bedecked behemoths commonly associated w/ bad tequila and worse hangovers, I’m referring to the simple, delicious mix of tequila, Contreau and lime juice, 1,2,3 ingredients, component ratios broken down into 3:2:1 Can be frozen or on the rocks.
- If a hangover is to not be avoided, instead of the Spicy Blood Mary, give the Spicy Bloody Maria a go. Just replace tequila with the vodka.
4/ Floor: Too Much Tequila, Too Much information, The End of the Post, The Bottom of the Bottle, The Worm… The myth surrounding the worm is centuries old, swallow it and you’ll have a magical experience… it’s said to have an aphrodisiac and hallucinogenic effect. I think any person who drinks any large quantity of alcohol will experience either or both of those effects. Consequently, the drinker does things one normally wouldn’t do and doesn’t remember. The only illusion is trying really hard to pretend one didn’t make an ass of oneself. For people like these I recommend the less expensive varieties, helps in the memory process, if you can’t remember the next day, it didn’t happen…
Anyway, I digress, in truth the worm was added to the tequila as an original litmus of sorts. If the worm died and sank to the bottom, the tequila was fermented enough. If the worm was alive, the sugars hadn’t broken down enough to distill.
That’s it, the basics. I’ve found that my friend may be a fanatic but she isn’t fantasizing over how good tequila might be. Moreover, although still a bit wary, I’m slightly more encouraged to give tequila a try. If anything though, one should Be Aware when one chooses to imbibe. As with any liquor, cheap/ expensive, neat or mixed, vodka or tequil, drink responsibly.