The world of booze is full of options both common and exotic. In many cases. our choice of adult beverage is limited by our experience and exposure. This is especially the case with tequila. People generally have two reactions when our south of the border friend makes an appearance. People either immediately grimace or launch into a chorus of “tequila makes her clothes fall off”. Regardless of your current opinion on this unique beverage, it is worth a few minutes of our life to learn more about it. So, join me as we say Hola Mi Amigo Tequilla!
There is no shortage of booze with a long history, but tequila is old. When I say old, I mean there are records of it being used in rituals over 2000 years ago. Just like any alcohol, it becomes tequila through the process of fermentation. While not a very appealing term, it is the magic that makes it all happen. All booze is based around a plant of some sort and for tequila, it is the Weber Blue Agave plant.
To the untrained eye, it looks like a giant aloe plant, but it is so much more. This plant is found all over Mexico and even the Southwest United States. The bulb or root of the plant is what is harvested and processed. It is chopped, baked, steamed, and crushed. It is all eventually converted to juice which hits the fermentation process. The Agave juice is the magic that makes it all happen.
Just like any other alcohol, somebody at some point said “Hey, I can sell this” and the marketing department went to work. Fortunately, tequila was not immune to this process and commercial manufacturing took hold. The heart of modern tequila is in the town of Tequila about four hours west of Puerto Vallarta. Founded in 1656, It became the center of tequila production. A hundred years later, Senior Jose Cuervo began to commercially produce tequila and eventually export it to the United States in 1852. From that point, tequila spread across the country and throughout the world.
The Tequila industry follows a set of strict standards which regulate where and how tequila can be made. It regulates everything from what is on the label to what can legally take the name tequila. One specific rule is that tequila can only be made within specific regions of certain Mexican states just like the U.S. and Bourbon production.
There are countless varieties of Tequila to suit any taste or budget. As with Scotch, there are varieties of Tequila made to be enjoyed straight. There are also those best suited as a building block in our beloved margaritas. If you look beyond the bargain basement headache fuel we find at the mega-mart, you will be pleasantly surprised. In a nutshell, they can be broken down into two types – pure and blended. Just like Scotch, the pure version is generally the choice of tequila aficionados. The blended version is called a mixto. These are great for mixed drinks, but you may have to close one eye and grimace as it goes down.
As we continue down the rabbit hole you should know that there are generally five types of tequila with a thousand brands of each.
Joven or Gold Tequila: These are the most common bottles we find and are unaged. The color and in some cases, flavor have been added after the fact. These make solid mixers.
Blanco or White Tequila: These are also known as silver in some brands. This tequila is “rested” to give it better drinkability and flavor. Like the Joven, it makes a great mixer.
Reposadao Tequila: This tequila is further up the ladder because it is “rested” or aged for at least two months, It is at this point that we get into sipping tequila.
Anejo Tequila: This is the Mexican version of aged scotch. The Anejo tequila is aged in oak or bourbon barrels for a year or more. This is unlike what most people have experienced with tequila and is very tasty.
Tequila has been the heart of many a wonderful evening. It has also been the demon that convinced you that you really could sing. And left you longing for days before smartphones with video. Tequila is more than that and can be a complex delicious option for our adult beverage lineup. I guarantee that if you take some time to explore this sometimes-forgotten elixir, you will be pleasantly surprised!