One Tequila, Two Tequila, Three Tequila….

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Well, you know the rest. Or do you?

Since starting work at a Spanish Tapas Restaurant in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania on the Main Line, I have become a student of tequilas. Makers, classifications, production methods, aging process, you name it. Here’s a little rundown of what I’ve learned so far and what information you can take with you next time you’re itching for this south-of-the-border spirit.

The Basics

The Blue Agave- A cactus-like plant that produces tequila

Tequila is made from the blue agave plant, grown most exclusively in the highlands and the lowlands of the Mexican state Jalisco. Those who harvest the agave plants for production are called  jimadores, still adhering to a specific manual technique to produce the juices necessary for fermentation. The juice is allowed to ferment in stainless steel or wood vats for a few days to convert the sugars to alcohol. The liquid is distilled twice and even three times more before being transferred to barrels for the aging process.

Generally speaking, there are 3 major “types” or classifications of tequila:

Blanco– Spanish for “white.” This tequila is young with a ripe, peppery bite. Blanco tequilas are usually bottled immediately after distillation or have only aged up to six months at the most. The flavor profile for Blanco tequilas is very masculine. These are typically the best tequilas to order in your margarita.

Repasado–  Spanish for “rested.” Repasado tequilas have been aged anywhere from 2 months to one year. The taste here is smoother and more feminine. Richer and more complex flavors are characteristic of repasado tequilas, as they rest in wood barrels with unique flavor attributes.

Anejo– Spanish for “aged.” Aged a minimum of 3 years in oak barrels, these tequilas usually offer the richest colors and flavors. These tequilas usually rest in the same barrels the repasados have. They are best enjoyed sipped from a snifter so you can detect and appreciate the complex flavor overtones

Most importantly: Ways to Drink

Tequila shot with salt and lime

Shot: Tequila shots are best served with lime and salt. The salt’s job is to lessen the burn of the tequila, and the lime enhances the flavor. Not to mention, it’s a fun process: Lick, shoot, suck!

Margarita: You’ve no doubt enjoyed a Margarita or two in your day. This traditional drink combines tequila, triple sec and fresh squeezed lime juice. I prefer mine on the rocks, but frozen or straight up is just as well. Rim the glass with some salt and you’re golden.

Snifter glass: This is the way to do it if you want to appreciate the tequila’s subtle nuances. Shooting tequila means missing out on the complex flavor profile your palette craves. Next time, instead of ordering a shot or a margarita, try sipping from a snifter and let your palette explore the tequila’s fragrances and tastes.
It’s a good idea to know a little bit about what you’re buying so you can get the best taste and bang for your buck. Plus it doesn’t hurt when your knowledge impresses bartenders, your server and your dining companions.

P.S. Don’t limit yourself to Patron. There’s so much more out there! Start with Chinaco, Corralejo, El Mayor or Herradura. Happy drinking!

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