Tips for the tequila novice


July 24 is National Tequila Day, which has us at Metro thinking about how little we know (or, more aptly, remember) about this spirit. We asked Serena Fill, Tequila Librarian at La Biblioteca de Tequila, to take us through some of the basics.

What exactly is tequila?

“Blue agave is the basis for all tequila. There are two categories in the tequila family: [100 percent blue agave] or a mixto, which is what Cuervo Gold is, for example, which is going to be a minimum of 51 percent agave and the rest will come from something else — usually sugarcane, color and flavor. It has to be at least double-distilled, and it must come from one of five regions in Mexico. Jalisco is where most tequila comes from.”

What are the different types of tequila?
“You’ve got blanco, reposado and anejo, and in 2006 they introduced a category called ‘extra anejo.’ That’s anything aged over three years.

“Blanco is either going to be unaged — going straight from distillation to the bottle, or it can rest in stainless steel tanks for fewer than two months. It can actually also rest in barrels or wooden vats for less than two months, in which case they term it a ‘suave,’ meaning ‘soft.’

“Reposado means ‘rested,’ and that’s going to be aged from two months to just under a year in oak barrels, but they can also use 20,000 gallon vats — that’s where a lot of the variants come in, too. That’s why tequila has so many expressions.

“Anejo [which means "aged"], is going to be one to three years, and that is only aged in barrels. Extra anejo is anything aged over three years, and that’s a new category.”

What are the best ways to enjoy each type of tequila?
For mixed drinks, like margaritas, blanco is best. You don’t want to cover up the nuances of the aged tequila, unless you have a very talented bartender who can create a drink that brings out the nuances of the older, darker tequilas. Anejo is best served neat, perhaps with some water or ice to open up the flavors. “For the anejo,” Fill says, “the most that you’d want to adulterate it is by warming a brandy snifter and putting some Grand Marnier in there. It actually drinks like a cognac.”

How can we avoid that headache?
Tequila Semental is made from 100 percent blue agave, so there are no additives, which can add to the hurt. Plus, it’s triple-distilled. “One of the things that sets it apart from the other tequilas is the distillation process,” Fill says. “The master distiller lowers the methanol content to the lowest in the whole tequila industry. Methanol is a byproduct; it’s in all tequila. It’s what gives you the headache portion of your hangover.”

Cocktail recipes

Semental Tamarind Margarita
    1½ oz Tequila Semental Blanco
    1½ oz tamarind puree
    1½ oz fresh squeezed lime juice

Rim glass with chili pequin salt (chili pequin powder and Mexican salt), shake and serve over ice.

Central Park After Dark
    2 oz Tequila Semental Blanco
    1 oz strawberry puree
    ½ oz ginger liqueur
    ¼ oz agave nectar
    3 pinches diced jalapenos

Shake and strain into martini or highball glass.
— by Gonzalo Marin


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