We may have missed the real National Tequila Day (July 24th) but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t find a way to celebrate tequila every day!
Fun fact: Tequila is the fastest-growing spirit in North America. Not surprising given the promotion and celebrity tequila enjoys today. With its unique flavour, it is a versatile spirit, enjoyed straight or mixed in a cocktail.
Spirits made from the Agave plant date back as far as the Aztecs, but the modern tequila we enjoy today arrived in 1758 with the Cuervo family. Tequila’s popularity grew quickly during Prohibition in the United States. Nowadays over 200 producers create and market tequila worldwide. Mexico recently trademarked and created a set of rules, only spirits made from the Blue Agave distilled in Mexico can be sold as ‘Tequila’. Mexico did, however, allow a concession for distilled tequila to be bottled and labelled outside of Mexico.
Made from the Blue Weber Agave cactus plant, most tequilas come from the state of Jalisco in Mexico. To make tequila, the leaves of a mature plant are removed leaving the ‘heart’, called a Pena as it resembles a large pineapple. The Pena is steamed and then crushed to remove the juice which is fermented and distilled into tequila. Today tequila is offered in three main styles, Blanco, Reposado and Anejo.
Blanco or silver Tequila offers the purest tequila flavour as it is aged for only a few weeks before bottling. Agave imparts an earthy and spicy flavour with some citrus. Best as a shot with salt and lime, it also works well in cocktails.
Reposado or ‘rested’ is aged in oak barrels for 3 months to 1 year allowing the tequila to become smoother and adding complexity. Often, used whiskey barrels are used to age the tequila imparting flavours of caramel, honey and vanilla to the spicy finish. The oak also imparts a pale gold colour which intensifies with aging time. Ideal as a straight shot or in cocktails.
Anejo is aged in oak barrels for 1 year to 3 years further mellowing the flavour while the oak imparts notes of caramel, vanilla and toasty notes. The flavour is richer in complexity and very smooth. Anejo tequilas are best enjoyed straight or over ice, and are rarely used in cocktails. Anejo tequilas are often used to replace top whiskeys, sipped and savoured neat or on ice.
You may also see tequila sold as Joven or Extra Anejo, Joven is a blend of white and aged tequilas while Extra Anejo is aged a minimum of 3 years or more.
Speaking of cocktails, we are all familiar with a Tequila Sunrise, Poloma and the classic Margarita, but the unique flavour of tequila works well with other traditional cocktails. Use tequila in a Bloody Mary to create a Bloody Maria or in a Moscow Mule to create a Mexican Mule. The options are endless, try using tequila in your favourite cocktail today, you may be surprised, Salud!