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Don’t shy away from tequila just because you shared one unmemorable evening in college together. Chances are, the stuff you drank back then was a ‘mixto’ tequila anyway, and not the real deal: 100% Blue Weber Agave. The sipable, delicious type. A mixto tequila is only, by law, required to be composed of 51% Blue Agave, and the resulting product (and next day’s hangover) is nothing to write home about.
Fortunately the tequila boom seen in recent years is bringing many premium brands previously unknown in the US to a neighborhood liquor store near you.
When looking for a tequila that will make your taste buds sing– and not leave you in the gutter the morning after– go for 100% Blue Agave Tequila. Anything else is likely to contain impurities and extra sugars that will leave your body less than pleased the next day. Any label that clearly states 100% Blue Agave (or 100% Puro de Agave) is a safe bet for awell-made product with no additives.
If you want to truly taste the flavor of the agave in your tequila, drink an un-aged Blanco (white/silver) Tequila. Reposados (rested) are aged for up to a year, thus their golden hue, and can have a much different flavor than the same in the form of a blanco, partially due to being aged in barrels previously used for aging other products (think whiskey). Anjeos (aged), will rest in barrels for up to 3 years, after which they take on a whole new appearance and flavor from their blanco and reposado counterparts. All 3 types of tequila can be enjoyed many ways, though carefully crafted tequila is in line with a fine scotch, and best enjoyed on its own. If this is not your cup of tea, try a Coin Style Margarita, which is made with minimal ingredients and still allows for the unique agave flavors shine through (steer clear of sour mix in a margarita unless you want to mask any flavors).
Coin Style Margarita (serves 1)
2 oz. 100% Blue Weber Tequila
1 oz. Fresh squeezed lime
1 oz. Orange Liquor (Patron Citronge, Cointreau, or Grand Marnier)
If enjoying at home, combine ingredients over ice and shake hard. Enjoy over ice or in a martini glass. In the backcountry, combine ingredients in a zip-top bag and chill in a cool stream, or under a bit of snow.
Here are some great Tequilas to try:
Corazón de Agave Blanco
Corazón, which means heart, embodies the 100-year old family dream of owning a distillery coming to fruition. An elegant essence of agave escapes to the nose, with just a touch of smokiness. Medium body is smooth with soft pineapple notes, a hint of nuttiness, and a lingering pepper-laden spicy finish.
El Tesoro Platinum
Hailing from the heart of tequila country, El Tesoro takes care to use many older, traditional methods in producing their tequila. They are one of a small number of distilleries (of any type of alcohol) that distil right to the 80 proof it is bottled at, instead of distilling to a higher proof and cutting the resulting product with water. The result is a deliciously herbaceous, earthy, and smooth tequila. It boasts aromas of earthy agave, smoke, and light citrus, then follows on the palate with a full bodied sweetness. Very much herbaceous, with white pepper and lemon accompaniment, and another long, spicy finish.
For many years the Cuervo name has been tied to cheap tequila and less than enjoyable hangovers. To dispel these thoughts, the Cuervo family’s private stock, some 200 years in the making, is now available to the greater good! The number one ranked best tasting tequila in the world, according to the Beverage Testing Institution (one of the worlds highest regarded independent tasting organizations), and with good reason. Floral and earthy on the nose, hint of vanilla on palate up front with rich and full agave flavor- very smooth. Nice touch of pepper at the finish.
The Partida family blends the new and old, taking time-tested methods and pairing them with cutting edge technology to produce a tequila capable of illustrating the true spirit of the blue agave plant. The agave used in making Partida is allowed to mature for seven to ten years before being harvested (allowing plants to absorb and develop more flavor), resulting in a distinctive, award-wining tequila. Aromas of pepper and oak, a touch of fruit. Vanilla bean, lemon, and oak linger softly on the palate for some time.
A young tequila, only ten years in the making, Chamucos is the brain child of three friends- a movie director, cartoonist, and businessman. What started as a game among friends emerged as a legitimately unique and luscious tequila. After seven months in white oak, Chamucos emerges exceptionally smooth and uncommon. Pleasing vanilla and agave on the nose, slightly spicy and woody on the palate with a great lingering spice in the finish, a great bridge for a whiskey drinker.
Cuervo Reserva de la Familia (anejo)
The Cuervo family’s finest tequila was kept exclusively for family and friends for over ten generations, only recently being introduced to celebrate the brand’s 200th anniversary as a leader in the industry. Oak, cinnamon, carmel, and green apples on the nose precede an exceptionally smooth, woody flavor accentuated by vanilla. In every aspect a highly sip-able tequila, even for those who might shy away from this spirit (then again, more for me…).