Tequila for Grown-Ups
When we say tequila, what springs to mind? Margarita jugs, slammers, lay-backs, hangovers? It doesn’t have to be that way when you drink it the way they do in Mexico.
The right stuff
All tequila must be made in Mexico from the blue agave plant. The core of the plant is roasted and crushed to yield its sugars, which are then fermented and distilled. The best tequilas are 100 % blue agave but many, known as “mixtos”, contain just 51% agave plus other sugars. Those who know say it’s those other sugars that are responsible for your hangover. Read the label. If it doesn’t say 100% agave, it’s a mixtos.
Silver or gold?
Many golden-coloured tequilas are mixtos, the colour coming from added grain alcohols or caramel colour. The purest form of 100 % agave tequila is silver or “blanco”, which is bottled straight after distilling. The smoother-tasting reposado, añejo and extra añejo tequilas are also 100% agave but acquire their golden colours from being aged in oak barrels.
Lick, sip, suck?
When you’re in party mode it might be acceptable to throw down a shot of blanco tequila after a lick of salt and follow it by sucking a wedge of lime. But aged tequilas are best sipped neat as you would a good whisky or brandy. In Mexico, they often alternate with sips of sangrita, a non-alcoholic drink made from orange, tomato and lime juices, usually with a dash of Tabasco and salt.
What about the worm?
Worms have nothing to do with tequila. They are associated with mezcal, which can be made from any type of agave. Some say the worm (which is actually the lava of a moth that infests agave plants) is there to add flavour, but most believe it’s just a marketing gimmick. In Mexico, though, mezcal is often accompanied by “sal de gusano”, a mix of ground fried larvae, ground chili peppers, and salt.
Instead of the Margarita try a Paloma, the tequila cocktail most popular in Mexico. Add a pinch of salt to some crushed ice in a cocktail glass. Pour in 30ml of grapefruit juice, 30ml of soda water, 45ml of tequila and a drizzle of lime juice. Mix. Decorate with a slice of lime. Salud!