Let's Talk Tequila


Let's Talk Tequila

Thursday, September 24, 2020

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Tequila (pronounced teh-KEE-lah) is a distinctively flavoured spirit from the Tequila district of Mexico, which is located about 65km northwest of Guadalajara. The spirit is distilled at low proof from the fermented juices of the blue agave plant. The Tequila region is made up of red volcanic soil which is well-suited for growing the blue agave. More than 300 million plants are harvested there each year. Agave grows differently depending on the region. Blue agaves grown in the highlands Los Altos region are larger and sweeter in aroma and taste. Agaves harvested in the lowlands have a more herbaceous or vegetive fragrance and flavour. Due to its historical and cultural importance, the region near Tequila was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006.

Most well-known tequila brands are owned by large multinational corporations; however, there are many tequila brands that have remained family-owned. In the Tequila region, over 100 distilleries made about 900 brands of tequila and since 2009, approximately 2,000 brand names were registered. Due to this, each bottle of tequila contains a serial number (NOM) depicting in which distillery the tequila was produced. Because only so many distilleries are used, multiple brands of tequila may come from the same location.

A Storied Heritage

In centuries past, ancient villagers poured tequila into a bull's horn as measurement, and the resulting amount was about 2 ounces. This 2-ounce pour was referred to as a Caballo the Spanish word for horse. Legend has it that in Old Mexico, tequila was sold on the street corners, and people were on horseback. These people would work in the fields then ride into the small towns for a drink. The drink was so potent that they did not dare get off their horses because they might not have been able to get back on!

The Agave plant has had mystical meaning to the Mexican people for centuries. The agave is said to be the incarnation of a goddess, Mayahuel, and the earliest spirit made from the plant was known as pulque (PUHL-kay) and was used in celebrations and religious ceremonies to bless land, crops, and so on. The first 'official' commercial agave farmers and distillers were the Don Jose Antonio Cuervo family — owners of the famous Jose Cuervo brand name. Tequila is referred to by some as the great-grandchild of Mexico's Mescal — some say not so, but might possibly be akin to a distant cousin. We reckon that Mescal will need its own investigation, as over the past year, the spirit has begun to resurface and is certainly creating a stir across the globe.

Tequila Glossary

• Reposado (resting) — The process of resting 100% blue agave in barrels

• Anejo — the process of ageing in barrels

• Reposado tequila — aged from two to 11 months by Mexican law.

• Anejo tequila — aged in wood for more than one year. The liquid tends to lose flavour when it has been aged for more than four years.

• Tequila Puro — Made from 100% agave sugars.

Drinking Tequila

Today, tequila is predominantly consumed as a shot accompanied with lime and salt. Another popular tequila cocktail is the margarita, and all its incarnations, which is usually made from white tequila, lime and triple sec (some people add a bit of sugar for sweetness). Fruits like strawberry, mango, and kiwi may be added to give this cocktail more life and vibrancy.

Have your senses been tickled or tantalised by tequila? Visit your retail shop of choice or call your favourite spirits purveyor to add this product to your bar. Chillitos on Hope Road may also be an option to try a great tequila cocktail.

Readers' Grapevine Club: If you are new to wines and want to join us on our wine discovery, then this is for you. On the third Thursday of each month, I will highlight your feedback on our grape variety/vine of the month. For October, we will focus on Argentina's hot Malbec varietal. Looking forward to your feedback and comments!

Readers' Feedback:

Extraordinary wonder and joy are interwoven through ordinary life; seek them relentlessly. Please share with me your wine, spirits and cocktail experiences or comments on the above article at debbiansm@gmail.com, or follow me on IG @debbiansm #barnoneja.

Dr Debbian Spence-Minott
An Alumna of the US Sommelier Association
CEO of the Academy of Bartending, Spirits & Wines
President, Jamaica Union of Bartenders and Mixologists (JUBAM) Limited
Chief Marketing Officer – National Rums of Jamaica, Limited

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