Know Your Tequilas
by: Kevin Stanton
The mere mention of tequila can often conjure bad memories from our college years, drinking a certain brand we won’t name. The fact is, most of the cheap, college-dorm tequila is “mixto.” Mixto means it isn’t 100 percent blue agave, but rather mostly blue agave and mixed with added sugars. The Mexican government does not allow producers to call their spirit tequila unless it is at least 51 percent blue agave. The bottom line is, if you want to enjoy a nice tequila, do yourself a favor and make sure it says 100 percent blue agave on the bottle.
Tequila has been around in some form since the time of the Aztecs. With the introduction of distillation, after the Spanish arrived on the Yucatán Peninsula, the spirit evolved into what we know today. It is named after the town of Tequila in the Mexican state of Jalisco, the epicenter of most tequila production. It is distilled from the sap of the agave plant, more specifically the blue Weber agave plant.
With Cinco de Mayo right around the corner, here is a little more information about the three most popular styles of tequila, our favorite brands and a couple of recipes that aren’t margaritas.
Blanco: Also referred to as “plata” or silver. It is clear and typically bottled right after distillation. Blanco tequila is not as smooth as reposado or añejo, which is why it is mainly used in mixed drinks or taken as a shot.
When it comes to blanco tequila we like the Espolòn brand. It isn’t expensive, it’s readily available and it tastes good, especially when used to make a paloma. A paloma is a refreshing tequila-based cocktail consisting of blanco tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice, simple syrup and a pinch of salt topped with grapefruit soda.
- 2 oz. blanco tequila
- 1/2 a lime
- 1/2 oz grapefruit juice
- 1/2 oz. simple syrup
Topped with grapefruit soda Garnished with a lime wheel
Rim a highball glass with kosher salt. Squeeze half a lime into your shaker and drop it in. Add tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice and simple syrup. Add a small amount of ice and short shake. Strain into the rimmed highball glass filled with ice and top with grapefruit soda. Garnish with a lime wheel.
Reposado: Meaning “rested,” and refers to the fact that after distillation the spirit is aged a minimum of two months in oak barrels. During this process the spirit takes on the flavors of the barrel it is aged in and cuts the harshness that comes with blanco tequila. Reposado tequila can be enjoyed as a sipping tequila, and when used in a cocktail gives the drink a richer, more round mouth-feel.
Tequila Ocho is a great option when it comes to reposado tequila. Honestly, everything it makes is very good, but it can be on the more expensive side of the spectrum. Folks who love a good negroni, but want to branch out from gin, should try making a Rosita. A Rosita is a spirit-forward stirred cocktail on the bitter side. It consists of tequila, Campari, sweet vermouth, dry vermouth and a dash of angostura bitters served up with an orange twist.
- 2 oz. reposado tequila 1/2 oz Campari
- 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth 1/2 oz. dry vermouth
- 1 dash Angostura bitters Garnished with an orange twist
Add all ingredients into a mixing glass and add ice. Stir ingredients and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
Añejo: Meaning “old” or “vintage,” it is aged for a minimum of one year, but no longer than three years, in oak barrels. The process of aging tequila is similar to when producers age whiskey. Añejo tequila is meant to be sipped. Don’t make the rookie mistake of using this style in a mixed drink. Mixing añejo tequila muddles the flavors that make it so sought after.
Fortaleza is our go-to brand of añejo tequila. With notes of caramel, vanilla and butterscotch, Fortaleza’s añejo tequila is smooth and complex. No recipe required. Pour yourself a dram, find a nice sunny spot in your yard, close your eyes and pretend you are in Mexico.