This hearty spirit from Mexico has been gaining interest of late. The central ingredient in margaritas, it now attracts attention as a fine beverage that can be drunk neat. We thought a quick primer would be of use.
Tequila may come to mind as the stuff with the worm in it—not true!—or the song by The Champs that Pee Wee Herman danced to. In fact, tequila rates as a high quality drink. Producers focus more and more now on creating tequilas that can stand beside the great whiskeys, rums, and other fine spirits of the world.
Tequila derives from the blue agave plant. This prodigious plant favors altitudes of 4000 feet and more. A succulent, its leaves grow to a height of six feet, and its stalk can rise close to twenty from the ground. For tequila production,producers cut off the incipient stalk so that the plant’s energy goes to growing its core, called piña.
Producers harvest the piña, which weighs 100-200 pounds, when the plant is twelve years old. This then is roasted slowly to remove the sweet sap. The sap is fermented and distilled. A second distillation produces a clear liquid, the most basic of tequilas.
- Blanco (white) or plata (silver) tequila receive no more than two months aging in stainless steel vats or neutral oak barrels
- Resposado (resting) is aged between 2 months and a year in any size oak barrel
- Añejo (aged) is aged between one and three years in small oak barrels
- Extra añejo is aged for at least three years in small oak barrels
The barrels for añejo and extra añejo often come from whiskey, bourbon or other distillers. Such barrels add complexity. Charring the barrels also adds flavor components. Complexity and smoothness result from this aging.
By definition, tequila hails from the area around Tequila, in the Mexican state of Jalisco. The best tequila bear the designation “100% Blue agave”. Lower quality tequila, called mixtos, may have as little as 51% agave, with glucose or fructose filling the rest of the sugar requirement. These sugars lack the character of that derived from the agave.
Connoisseurs often drink fine tequilas neat. Good tequila has a clean bright flavor, almost sweet and slightly vegetal in an earthy and inviting way. Many people enjoy the ceremony of licking salt from one’s hand, drinking a shot of tequila then taking a bite of lime. The finer, aged tequila need no such additions and can be consumed in snifter or wine glass. Many tequila cocktails exist, usual featuring fruit juices. Tequila can replace other spirits to create variants of familiar drinks.
Here are some of the fine tequila you will find on our shelves.
- Espolón Reposado $24.99 (truly weird label!)
- Avion Silver $34.99
- Avion Añ:ejo $61.99
- Don Julio Reposado $59.99
- Herradura Reposado $46.99
- Herradura Añejo $52.99
- Patron Silver $47.99
- Patron Reposado $51.99
- Patron Añejo $54.99
- Cabo Wabo Blanco $39.99
- Cabo Wabo Reposado $47.99 (Ex-Van Halen singer Sammy Hagar is involved with Cabo Wabo)
- Leyenda del Milagro Silver $29.99
- Leyenda del Milagro Añejo $41.99