This post about tequila will start out talking about absinthe. Why? Because it’s purported that Vincent Van Gogh’s drink of choice, absinthe, has hallucinogenic properties. The hallucinogenic properties in absinthe have their origins in a drug called thujone which is most concentrated in grand wormwood (genus Artemisia Absinthium) and what gave the old world absinthes their green color. The funny thing about Absinthe today, however, is that it really doesn’t have any thujone in it, but rather green food coloring. When people describe their trippy experiences with absinthe, they’re most likely having a placebo effect and getting drunk from some high proof alcohol. I think (and it could be my imagination too) that the blue agave from which tequila is derived actually gives you more of an hallucinogenic twist than just drinking regular alcohol. It’s non-scientific, but many years of personal research have led me to believe that there is something different going on after a couple tequilas have been consumed. So, why don’t we get started and talk about tequila and its history.
Similar to brandy, as we turn the pages of history backward, we find that we must again give thanks to the Spaniards. In the 16th century conquest of Mexico for the Spanish Crown, distilling technology crossed the ocean and wound up in Mexico City. The Mexicans were already on to something for centuries drinking the fermented juice of the Mezcal plant in the form of a beverage called pulque. For hundreds of years, however, only the highest authority figures in Aztec and Mayan culture were able to celebrate in this pleasure of drinking pulque. When Spaniards arrived, they were able to change the Indian process into a distillation process and put into production North America’s first commercially produced distilled beverage and bring this blessing to the people.
Later in that same 16th century, the Spaniards explored northward of Mexico City and found the State of Jalisco and the Toltec tribe. Their town named Tequitlán, would be shortened by the Spaniards to simply be called Tequila and a legend was born. It was in the town of Tequila about a century later (now the 17th century), that the Spaniards started to perfect the distillation of the blue agave plant and gave it the name of Vino de Mezcal. Over the next 100 years, the process was further honed and the beverage developed more monikers as it proliferated: mezcal brandy, agave wine, mezcal tequila, and finally just tequila.
The next historical marker for tequila would come in 1758 when when the King of Spain gave license to José Antonio Cuervo to legally produce tequila for the kingdom of Spain. José Antonio Cuervo and his son José Guadalupe Cuervo did much to expand the production of tequila over the next turbulent war filled century. Politics of prohibition from the decreased sales of whisky and brandy in England and Spain would expand and constrict tequilas proliferation over the 19th century, but it would survive and endure these times with ease. In fact, Mexico’s war of Independence with Spain and later its war with the United States over disputed territories in Texas would only serve to bring tequila to more people including the people of the United States of America. Later wars and prohibition politics in the 20th century would only serve to once again propel tequila further into the US and world market as history repeated itself like it always does.
Now let’s talk about tequila’s flavor and magnificence. There is no distilled alcoholic beverage that you can “taste the earth” like you do when you drink a good tequila. This effect of “tasting the earth” is even more pronounced when drinking mezcal which is tequila’s cousin in similar regard to the way brandy and cognac are cousins. There are three basic types of tequila to be enjoyed: blanco, reposado, and añejo. Let’s break them down:
Blanco: is aged less than 60 days with a clear color. Blancos are super strong and have a hard edge. To be honest, I’m not a blanco fan. This type of tequila has a missionary purpose: to hit you hard. This is the kind of tequila you might want to use to mix a strong margarita or something like that; which is somewhat blasphemous to a purist. It is not a daddy blog recommended type.
Reposado: is aged more than 60 days but aged less than 1 year old in oak barrels. This is the daddy blog recommendation. Oh sweet reposado! This specific age of tequila is just enough to give it a little color, take off the harsh edge, and not kill the majesty of the agave. I conjecture that most connoisseurs will end up with reposados in their liquor cabinets, but that might be my personal opinion being applied to the general public.
Añejo: is aged more than 3 years in oak barrels which are most likely former barrels used for aging bourbon in Kentucky and Tennessee. This tequila is for a special kind of connoisseur and perhaps I just haven’t gotten there yet. It’s flavor is much richer and deeper and it’s color is much darker and caramelized. It definitely is not for mixing and is very soft on the palette.
Now, let’s get back to talking about reposados and how to enjoy them. If “yuze a tru playa” you won’t even put ice cubes or a lime wedge into your tequila; and you would never ever ever mix another liquid into it. For this author, however, the best way to enjoy a tequila is to pour an ounce or two into a tumbler with just a couple cubes of ice and a wedge of lime. Tequila goes well with so many foods, but there is no better match than with a grilled steak. The two go together so well, it’s hard to describe.
The daddy blog recommendation is Corralejo which I haven’t been able to find in the States, specifically in Detroit where I live. But, then again, I haven’t looked too hard because my job brings me to Mexico City enough that I’ve been able to bring two bottles on the plane when I return home and haven’t had to go shopping for it. To be honest, this is a poor man’s tequila. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s still good and @ $18 / bottle equivalent, it’s hard to beat. There are over 500 brands of tequilas, so there are many for you to choose from. If you want to join with the snobbery of 2010 and get some “good” stuff, you could try:
Blancos: Arette $50
Reposados: Siete Leguas $45, Gran Centenario $51, Partida $62
Anejos: Chinaco $62, Herradura $49
In Mexico City, they appreciate their tequila like Americans appreciate their micro-brewed beers. These are some tequila sayings and notables picked up from hanging with my amigos in the big city:
Una es niguna,
Dos es la mitad,
Tres es una, y una es niguna.
This saying is supposed to put you into a shot loop until you fall over. It basically says that one is nothing, two is half, 3 is 1, and 1 is nothing so you should start over.
Y recuerda, lo que pasó en México, se queda en México