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Tequila, the undiscovered (cocktail) spirit

The beauty and diversity of the Agave

We Americans love tequila.  It’s currently the fastest growing category of spirits sold in the US and we consume a great deal of it…albeit as margaritas or shooters with salt & lime.

While there is love for Tequila, there’s also a lack of appreciation for how truly diverse this spirit can be.

Tequila is made primarily in the Jalisco region in Mexico as well as smaller designated areas in five other districts.  The best ones, labeled as “100% Blue Agave,”’  are made with pure Blue Weber agave and contain no other ingredients.  These Tequilas are divided into different categories based on production and aging methods. 

Blanco or Silver is bottled with little or no aging.  It has classic, complex sweet-minty-fruity-vegetal flavors and aroma that are associated with Tequila but is also the harshest on the palate. Blanco Tequila is loaded with tannins, the same element that makes red wines dry and astringent.  Lime and salt are two elements that will counter the effects of tannin, producing a softer, more appealing sensation for the drinker. (The trick is to hit the lime and salt before the shot, not after. Dip your lime wedge in a bit of salt, hit it and take your shot. Even really cheap Tequila will taste better.)  The traditional recipe for a margarita always includes salt and lime for this reason.

Aged Tequilas are categorized by how much time they spend in white oak barrels, often used whiskey barrels from the US or Canada.  Reposado or “rested” Tequila is aged for a minimum of two months and generally less than a year. 

Añejo or “aged” Tequilas age at least a year in barrel and up to three years in some cases. Additional aging in stainless steel can be used to prevent excessive evaporation that occurs in the barrel.  The charred wood acts as a filter to absorb the more aggressive elements of the spirit and creates a richer, more mellow final product.  These Tequilas often express less alcohol burn on the palate. 

The final two types are Extra Añejo or “extra aged” which is held for a minimum of three years in barrel, and Cristalino, aged Añejo or Extra Añejo Tequila, that is mechanically filtered with charcoal to make a crystal-clear spirit that has the character of an aged Tequila with the fruited flavors of a Blanco.

Then there’s “Mixto” Tequila which is also called “Gold” or “Joven”. The least expensive versions only need to have 51% pure blue agave and the balance can be other types of fermentable sugars.  The addition of grain alcohol and coloring agents is also allowed.  Higher quality Mixto Tequila can be a blend of unaged and aged agave spirits with no grain alcohol used.  Mixto is primarily used for making margaritas or doing shots as cheaply as possible. (Lime & salt are a must here.)

For making variations on many traditional cocktails, substituting an aged Tequila for a barrel aged spirit like Bourbon or Scotch offers a new take on an old favorite.  Añejo and especially Extra Añejo will have many of the attributes of whiskey…notes of vanilla, caramel, butterscotch and smokiness, but trading the sweetness of corn for more subtle flavors of agave-tropical fruit, citrus notes and spice.

Blanco and Reposado Tequilas are great substitutes for white and gold rum in cocktail recipes.  They work well with tropical fruit and citrus flavors.

Here are some recipes we feature in the Parkhill’s South Cocktail Center.

Código Collins

Instead of an ordinary Tom Collins we have the Código Collins.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 oz Código 1530 Blanco Tequila
  • 0.5 oz Lime Juice
  • 0.25 oz Lemon Juice
  • 1.5 oz Grilled Pineapple Juice - try using fresh pineapple and grill it lightly before juicing to caramelize the sugars!
  • 0.25 oz Agave Nectar Water - mix agave nectar and water on a 1:1 ratio or to your preferred consistency and flavor.
  • Splash of Soda Water

How to prepare

Add everything but the soda water in a shaker and fill with ice. Shake vigorously and pour everything into a tall glass. Garnish with mint and a piece of grilled pineapple. 

 

Juan Daly

Like John Daly cocktails?  Try a Juan Daly!

Ingredients

  • 1.5 oz Código 1530 Reposado Tequila
  • 2 oz Fresh Lemonade
  • 2 oz Iced Tea
  • A sprig of crushed mint

How to prepare

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice.  Shake well and pour into a glass. Garnish with a slice of lemon and a sprig of mint. 
 

 

Añejo Manhattan

The last is a remix version of the classic Manhattan Cocktail … the Añejo Manhattan!

Ingredients

  • 2.5 oz Código 1530 Añejo Tequila
  • .75 oz Sweet Vermouth
  • 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

 

How to prepare

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass.
Add ice and stir. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with an orange twist & cocktail cherry.

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