Contributing Writer: Booze Boy
Remember that morning in college when you woke up sprawled out on your bed, face down, head throbbing, one arm twisted around your bedpost? Do you remember what caused that hangover from hell? Chances are it was tequila-related, probably some dangerous combination of Pepe Lopez, Aristocrat or Cuervo Gold tequilas. It was largely due to the fact that the tequila you were drinking was only 51 percent agave, the bare minimum required by Mexican law for tequila to be called Tequila. That means 49% of what you were drinking was anything but agave. And when I say anything, I mean anything – we’re talking sugar, rum, vodka, food coloring, salsa. That 49% of anything is called mixto, and it acts as a mixer/flavor agent whether you know it or not, which is why you felt so damn awful the next day. Fortunately, not all tequila tastes like the floor of Senor Frogs, and if you look for the 100 percent blue agave tequilas, you’ll find that tequila actually taste good.
WHAT IS TEQUILA:
Tequila is a type of spirit distilled from the agave plant, which looks like a big pineapple, but the resulting flavor is anything but syrupy sweet and tart. When cooked and distilled, agave actually gives off a sort of smoky, sour honey-like aroma. Unlike grapes or grains, which grow every year, agave pinas take between seven and ten years to fully mature. Some tequilas even feature “estate-grown” agave, just as top wineries feature “estate-grown” grapes, which means that all the agave used in their tequila comes from their own fields. It’s an impressive statement for tequila-makers to make, and further evidence that tequila is trying to add a bit of polish to its image.
Most quality tequilas offer a range of at least THREE TYPES:
1) Blanco – silver, unaged
- Patron gets all the love, but it’s woefully
overpriced (it’s the Grey Goose of the tequila world). Go with El Tesoro.
It won’t break the bank, is relatively smooth-sipping
and you’ll probably be able to find it at most better bars.
2) Reposado – rested, and left to age in barrels between six and eleven months
- There’s a brand on the market called Milagro that
actually has two types of Reposado. One’s their standard reposado,
crisp and clean, it’s got more body than most and for about the same
price as most. But for a real treat, seek out Milagro’s Select Barrel Reserve Reposado. One caveat – the Select Barrel is a bit on the pricey side so be prepared to shell out a bit of dinero.
3) Anejo – aged, left to age in barrels between 12 months and three years
- Corzo’s Anejo is solid through and through. Smooth, almost caramel-flavored, you’ll want to sip this one for awhile.
Blanco is great for margaritas (when possible, make sure your margaritas are made with fresh fruit juice – trust me, you’ll taste the difference), as well as for the occasional shot or three. However, more of these premium and ultra-premium blancos are offering silvers that are sipping-worthy. The reposados and the anejos are meant for sipping, too — they’ll become considerably more flavorful the longer they sit in the barrel absorbing the wood. In fact, tequilas these days are becoming comparable to the single malts; not in age, but in body, complexity and general distinctiveness from brand to brand.