Tequila is one of those drinks that polarizes friends. Everybody either loves it or can’t stand the stuff, either regretting that time in Mexico with the worm or reveling in the golden wash of a night half forgotten. And as National Tequila Day arrives Friday, we at BostInno thought it best to push past these divided opinions and get the facts on the spirit that many blame their worst Sunday mornings on.
“Tequila’s not bad. It’s actually good.”
One of the first things to know about tequila is that all tequilas are not created equal. The spirit can be separated into four categories that tell you how long that particular bottle has been aged in a wood cask. Blancos are aged for less than two months, reposados for two to twelve months, ańejos for one to three years, and extra-ańejos for over three years.
So which is the best for you? We talked to someone who knows a little bit about the stuff to find out.
Paul Braun, general manager of Temazcal Tequila Cantina, which boasts 250-plus tequilas behind the bar, told us, “I think a Reposado is probably the best type of tequila to use for any cocktail or even for sipping. It’s kind of the best of both worlds; you get the aging of it and also you get the inside of what the agave brings to the spirit.”
And this is really the heart of tequila: appreciating balance. As most of us know, a shot of Jose can be a bit of a whirlwind. You get the immediate bite as it hits your tongue, the smokiness as it stumbles down your throat, and finally that gently spreading warmth that comforts you amidst the slight gags you attempt to hide. (Just me?)
But when sipped, the liquor becomes more inviting and nuanced. As Braun puts it, “I think sipping is a better way to go … You smell it and you get the nice oak wood in there, you get the aging, you get the agave. It’s gotten me from my Cuervo days to shake off that tequila’s bad. Tequila’s not bad. It’s actually good.”
And this goodness reaches back all the way to how that particular tequila was made. What’s really stunning about tequila is its traditional roots in Mexico and the long history of distilling the agave plant. Notably, tequila was the first distilled drink in North America, with precursors to the modern spirit appearing prior to colonialism in Central America.
This long history has impacted the traditional process of making tequila, as Braun told us, “There’s a lot of work that goes into the tequila, probably a little bit more work than goes into a bourbon. You know they roast their agave, they roll their agave with stones traditionally and you get some of that nice minerality in there so it imparts little nuances to it.”
So how can you bring tequila from good to great? One idea is to rethink your fruit pairing. It seems obvious that tequila and lime should always go together, no exceptions, but Braun thinks this is a mistake.
“I think orange is the way to go. Lime is a bit harsh on your palate so it kind of cleanses everything up and it’s almost as abrasive as if the tequila was straight, whereas orange will actually highlight the flavors a bit better without killing your palate.”
At Tezmacal, Braun says that the favorites are Casa Noble and Partida, which he describes as both having great balance and quality in their flavors. And if you do decide to mix a cocktail Friday, Braun still recommends the margarita, with both the House and Primo Margaritas being favorites at the bar.
Whatever your method of tequila enjoyment, remember that the spirit is more than just a bad hangover. Its depth comes not only with each brand, but with each age and complement. Do yourself a favor and don’t celebrate with how many shots you can do (seriously, don’t do that), but the many different tequilas you can come to appreciate over time. You may find something a little more interesting than just another shot.
Image via Temazcal.