Spirits, Grandeur and Friendship
GUADALAJARA. The Tequila volcano peak reaches almost three miles, a mighty sentinel overlooking the primary Tequila distilleries and agave fields of Mexico. According to legend, the agave embodies the spirit of the goddess Mayahuel, a divinity that possessed four hundred breasts to nurture four hundred offspring. Thus, some of the mystique of Tequila, made from the agave, a lily that thrives in the volcanic soil and blazing sunshine of the highlands and lowlands in the state of Jalisco.
|Journalist Sheila Callahan at Casa Patron|
Mexico is rich in history and heritage: Mariachi music, well-mannered people with beautiful children, remnants of ancient civilizations, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and, of course Tequila. The regal spirit’s essentials, when understood, opens the door to more drinking enjoyment. Blanco is clear and aged no more than 60 days in stainless steel tanks. Reposado (rested), the best-selling Tequila in Mexico, is aged in wood for a minimum of two months, while Añejo (old) Tequila, is aged in wooden barrels, which sometimes are used Bourbon or even Bordeaux barrels, for a minimum of 12 months with some aged up to four years.
Tequila appreciation begins with the blue agave, a very hardy plant harvested by rugged jimadores. The resulting heart or piña (it looks like a giant pineapple) finds its way to one of the distilleries in the region. It is cut, placed in ovens, steam baked and the carbohydrate transformed to fructose. Then it is fermented, distilled, bottled and labeled.
Many of the distilleries are quite familiar: Sauza, Don Julio, Jose Cuervo, Herradura, Cazadores and Patron are Tequila powerhouses with a global presence. These are dominant brands with technologically advanced facilities located in breathtaking venues that Mexico justifiably showcases. A week into the Tequila trail and you realizes that these are comparable to the Bourbon and whiskey distilleries of Kentucky and Tennessee.
Although spirits like Bourbon and whiskey are different in composition and taste, the share common ground with premium tequila. There are rigidly enforced procedures, formulas and regulations. Tequila’s trustworthiness ranks alongside Cognac and Champagne.
Some traditionalists say that Tequila should be consumed in particular ways that honor the spirit. A popular chaser is Sangrita, a tangy mixture of tomato and orange juice. Blanco and Reposado are often sipped out of a caballito or shot glass. Añejo, say many others, should be served in a French snifter. Atlanta Mixologist Stephanie Ruhe suggests a glass by Riedel, one she says is “similar to a flute glass. It’s delicately designed and aesthetically suitable for gentler Tequila enjoyment.” And, drinking straight spirits, even the noble Tequila isn’t always appealing to women. It gets hot here in the Deep South and there’s nothing taboo about ice.
Tequila is Experience Blacno, Reposado and Añejo and then determine what you prefer. Enjoy it straight, on rocks or add a splash of lime to a rich Añejo. Tequila, one of the world’s great spirits, is multidimensional. The added complexity from a measure of Cointreau, Triple Sec or Combier magnifies the Tequila experience. Design your own cocktail.
Tequila remains the blue agave’s gift to the world.