First published on 22 Mar 2012. Updated on 3 May 2012.
Forget every scar you ever got from a red-hatted bottle-monster folks. That wasn't tequila. That was bad tequila – 51 percent blue agave cut with soul scraping grape, corn or sugar cane juice.
Actual tequila is the distilled juice of crushed, steamed blue agave hearts, or ‘pineapples’. It’s a denomination of origin drink so if it ain’t made in the Mexican state of Jalisco, it ain't tequila.
Mezcals can be made elsewhere, from other agave varieties (there are over 200), and these pineapples are roasted, giving the liquor a smoky kick. Distilled and bottled it’s blanco/silver. Reposados have been barrel ‘rested’ for 6-12 months, and your anejos have been aged for up to three years. Hence why shooting the stuff makes you a gringo jerk.
For eight years, Arturo Morales of Los Amates restaurant has been on a mission to save tequila’s reputation.
“I understand,” Morales says. “I go to bars here and people say, 'Hey, let’s do tequila,' and it’s so bad, all you can do is close your eyes and shoot it – for years, Mexico produced pretty average tequila, but that’s changed.”
It’s true. High quality, 100 percent agave tequilas and fine mezcals (Don Julio reposado, Ilegal mezcal, Ocho blanco) are stacking the bar shelves, it’s just that nobody knows what to do with them.
“I want to teach people how to enjoy good tequila” Morales says. “At home, we sit around the table and start the meal with a beautiful blanco tequila and sangrita – the spice opens your palate and makes you ready for the tequila. We eat, with maybe a reposado. We finish the meal with an anejo and Mexican coffee.”
As of April, Morales will be running tequila tasting nights at Los Amates, showcasing smoky mezcals, sweet buttery reposados and anejo tequilas that are every bit as complex as your premium whiskeys. It might make you think twice about committing tequila suicide in future.
Tequila cocktails you need to know:
Sangrita: Prove you’re not a gringo and pay your respects to decent tequila with a side sipper of lime, fresh tomato and orange juices blitzed with onion and chillis.
Try it at... Los Amates
The 21st Century: Take this western 'tail South of the Border with silver tequila shaken down with Lillet Blanc, lemon juice and crème de cacao.
Try it at... 1806
The Paloma: Pride of Mexico, this tall fire-quenching glass of sexy is tequila floated with grapefruit soda (ask for Jarritos), served over ice with a salt rim.
Try it at... Kodiak Club
Tommy’s Margarita: Save yourself the mystery and throw your phone in the river now, then salt rim your glass, and fill her up with lime juice, agave syrup, and Don Julio tequila.
Try it at... EDV
The Bloody Maria: This Mexican-style Bloody Mary, is a chilli-tomato-tequila fuelled hussy who will slap the sense both into and out of you.
Find her at... Maya Tequila Bar