The party is over in Jalisco. I am back at home, working off the pounds I put on from great Mexican food and letting my liver recover from days of tequila tastings and dinners with rounds of cocktails. All in the name of research of course.
Tequila and Mexico go hand in hand and in many ways the rise of good tequila parallels the rise of Mexico’s economy. A lot of standards regulation and process improvement over the years has led to a spirit that is far better now than it was in the days when nobody outside Mexico would think of drinking the stuff straight in a snifter.
You can still buy the lousy stuff for under 10 bucks a bottle at your local store, but the people cranking out that low-quality tequila are doing it to meet demand, not because they like to drink it themselves. They’d much rather talk about the 100% blue agave brands that can stand up on their own–no mixing, no bite of a lime after a shot to kill the taste.
If you want to make a good impression next time you’re mixing up a batch of cocktails, get 100% agave blanco (not aged) or repasado (aged a few months) tequila and you’ll all taste the difference. Or spring for the anejo category–aged longer–and it’s a surprisingly smooth spirit to sip on its own, with all the complexity of a good cognac, bourbon, or scotch.
If you find yourself in Guadalajara or near Lake Chapala, take some time to get into the countryside. The hills are covered with agave plants and there’s a dormant volcano looming over the town of Tequila, which is a nice place for a stroll. At some distilleries you need to make an appointment to come take a tour and do a tasting, but at others you can just drop in anytime. The Jose Cuervo operation is a slick tour with an admission fee, but others are informal affairs where whoever is there shows you around and then you belly up to the bar for a sampling and comparison.
Tequila tourism is in its infancy, so it’ll be a long while before this is as popular as notable wine regions or the highlands of Scotland. But that means few tour buses and plenty of bargain accommodation, so head there now and beat the crowds.
Tequila in Tequila Part 1