Fear Not!

I have friends who love to blame their worst nights out on tequila. Apparently, too many margaritas can turn Dr. Jekyll into the nefarious Mr. Hyde.

Many people avoid tequila because they believe it will turn them into a poorly behaved, worm-eating monster.

Tequila Sunrise
•  2 ounces tequila
•  4 ounces orange juice
•  dash of grenadine

Fill a highball glass with ice.
In the order listed, add each ingredient to build a
layered cocktail. Garnish with an orange wedge.

Classic Margarita
•  2 ounces tequila
•  1 ounce Cointreau
•  1 ounce fresh lime juice (do not fake this!)
•  salt

Using either a lime wedge or surplus lime juice on a plate, wet the rim of the margarita glass, then place the rim on another plate covered with salt (this can be used several times). Turn to coat the rim. Add ice and the first three ingredients to a shaker; shake well, then strain into the glass.

And that’s a shame.

Tequila at its finest is a unique and exotic spirit; one that deserves a place on any well-stocked bar. The first secret to avoiding bad tequila is to look on the label for the phrase “100% de agave.”

Tequila is distilled from the cooked agave plant. Agave produces the smoky, vegetal aromas and flavors that make tequila so distinct from other spirits.

Unfortunately, most of the introductory tequila you’ll find is a blend of 51 percent agave and 49 percent other fermentable sugars that dilute the spirit’s intensity and quality.

Most famous tequila brands have a more upscale mark that is 100 percent agave – Jose Cuervo has Tradicional and Sauza has Hornitos. These are good, if not top-notch tequilas that mix well. A little effort can usually turn up something special in the right store, bar or restaurant.

There are five styles of tequila. The first two, silver/blanco and gold, are aged briefly if at all. Slightly aged blanco tequilas are filtered to remove the color. Gold tequilas get their color from added caramel instead of oak aging, and they are not recommended.

The best blancos, on the other hand, are considered by some (myself included) to be the most natural expressions of tequila. Peppery and vegetal aromatics lead into bright and pungent fruit, vegetable and smoky spice flavors in the middle. There is something almost raw to the nature of top silver tequila. Patron is the most famous brand in this category, but I think Corzo, Chinaco, Corazon and even Cuervo’s Platina from the Reserva de la Familia line are all well worth a look.

The next category, reposado, consists of tequilas that spend anywhere from two months to a year in very large oak vessels, though small barrels can be used. These “rested” tequilas take on a pale yellow tinge from the oak. They remain pungent with agave aromatics and flavor, but the oak smooths out some of the raw pepper notes in the nose and mouth. My favorites in this category are Cazadores, Corridos and Milagro Select. Sauza’s Hornitos reposado delivers great value and is widely available.

Anejo tequilas spend a considerable time in small oak barrels; between one and three years. Anejo tequila is a darker gold, and the oak aromatics and flavors are more deeply intertwined with the agave flavors (they occasionally overwhelm them). When they work, they are subtle and complex spirits with vanilla and coconut aromas and flavors. Don Julio’s regular anejo is outstanding, but for a special experience reach for Don Julio’s 1942 Anejo bottling.

The last category, grand anejo or muy anejo, spends more than three years in oak. I personally find this level of tequila both inordinately expensive and not particularly tequila-like, but for those seeking extravagance, Cuervo’s Reserva de la Familia delivers.

Get their color from added caramel
instead of oak aging. Not recommended.
Aged briefly, if at all, and filtered to remove
the color. Often considered to be the most
natural expressions of tequila.
Aged anywhere from two months to a year in oak vessels resulting in a pale yellow tinge. Pungent agave aromatics and flavor.
Aged between one and three years in oak barrels. Deeper aromatics and flavors can occasionally overwhelm the agave flavors.
Aged more than three years in oak barrels. Known more for extravagance than an authentic tequila experience.


Categories: Beer, Wine, Spirits, Food