No longer reserved for the “delight of gods and priests,” today tequila in its various pours – from straight shots to candy corn cordials – is heartily enjoyed by earthly drinkers all over the world.
Originally a peasant drink, this once simple party starter is now an international favourite with fancy descriptions such as “herb-like with notes of cilantro/caramel/[whatever you make up]”.
So where to go to sample the best of this Mesoamerican-borne wonderbew?
Well, before you begin your tequila-seeking adventures, know your basics:
- Tequila is from Tequila – Just as Champagne can only come from Champagne, tequila has to be from the areas around the town of Tequila.
- Tequila Can Only be Made from One Plant – Of the 106 varieties of agave in Mexico, only the Blue, or century plant (which only lives 10 – 30 years) can be used in tequila. (Fun fact: agave is more closely related to the lily than the cactus.)
- Tequila is Mezcal, but Mezcal is not Tequila – Mezcal is made in different areas of Mexico and from different types of agave. And only mezcal has the worm in the bottle.
- There are Three Major Tequila Categories – Blanco, reposado, and añejo, in ascending order of age and quality.
- Mixtos are Tequila, but Different – Blended tequilas, known as mixtos, must contain at least 51% agave, the rest is sugar cane or maize.
On To Your Tequila Adventure
The best place to drink tequila is in Mexico, near the geographic source and in the sun-soaked culture that invented it. Just head down there and start asking the locals where to go. Maybe you’ll even get lucky and make friends with someone who gets it straight from a source.
If you’re setting your sights on worldwide tequila hunting, you can find tequila bars — or at least bars with a good selection — all over the world without a problem. Cities like London, New York, Tokyo, San Francisco, New Dheli, Hong Kong and of course, Mexico City all have popular tequila bars with impressive selections from the more than sixty tequila producers’ four hundred labels.
Besides the well-known salt-then-drink-then-lime routine we all know, some tequila bars — many more in Mexico — can serve your shot in a version of the traditional hollowed-out bull horn vessel. The horn was cleaned but not flattened, so drinkers couldn’t put it down. And since there were usually only a few horns in the house, the drinker had to finish quickly, then pass the horn along to someone else. Y eso, the tequila shot is born.
Another beloved tequila ritual is to alternate between sips of Sangrita — a juice of tomato, orange, red pepper, and lime — as you sip the edge away.
If you’re drinking good tequila, try it on its own first, and sip it slowly. But if you’re not a straight-liquor drinker you’re fine – the number of cocktails made with tequila is getting outrageous. Just keep in mind wherever you are in the world in search of a glass of the original agave nectar, you can always count on a good old margarita – rocks, salt, fresh lime.
*This was a guest post by Jennifer Viloria
Photo credit: Tequila. Photo courtesy of migfresno.