Drinking & Enjoying Tequila

Tequila is a pallid flame that passes through walls
 and soars over tile roofs to allay despair".

So wrote Mexican poet, Alvaro Mutis. It is the pursuit of this pallid flame, of the  fire it ignites within us, that makes us lift the glass of tequila to our lips to savour. But what makes a memorable tequila experience?   Brevity, intensity and effect could be apt descriptors. For some it is the earthy, vegetable taste and aroma of the agave. For others it is the sharp bite of the blanco or reposados. Still others prefer the smooth, oaky body of the añejos. The best advice is to sample several different brands and styles of Tequila - some ditilleries have reputations for milder, more spicy products, others for powerful, pungent aromas and  explosive spirits.

Whichever you prefer, the traditional way to drink Tequila is to use a tall, narrow shot glass called a caballito ('little horse', or pony, also called a tequilito). Some aficionados claim anejos are perhaps better served in a brandy snifter so you can appreciate their nose. The caballito, with its narrow base and wider mouth, is said to be modelled after the original bull's horn, from which tequila was drunk. The bottom was cut flat so it could rest on a table. It's a perfect size and shape.

Sip Tequila. Eschew the lime and the salt. Forget the margarita mix. Don't even add ice. If you want to taste it, drink it neat. Some people like it served cold, especially the blanco variety. But try it at room temperature if you want to appreciate the full aroma and flavour profile. Afterwards, you can always put out a plate of lime slices and salt or drink a chaser of Sangrita, a popular non-alcoholic and spicy drink made of orange and tomato juices, that tastes a bit like a Bloody Caesar. In his poem "So That Hildebrando Perez Might Learn How To Drink a Shot of Tequila", Efrain Huerta wrote...

It's a shame that in your Limaperu you have no
Widow's sangrita (tomato juice, very special)
made by a widow born and bred in Jalisco, very tapatia,
to soften the hard gulp of tequila.

Taste tequila as you would a fine wine.  Vicente Quirarte, writing in Artes de Mexico no. 27, compares those hastily-downed "tequila shots" to "the paid favours of anxious adolescent sex." By the way, the proper order of the traditional method of drinking tequila is salt-tequila-lime: lick, sip, bite. But as Alvaro Mutis also wrote:

Tequila is frequently accompanied by two attendants:
salt and lime.
Yet it is always willing to engage in dialogue,
backed by nothing other than its lustrous transparency.

For some unfathomable reason, some drinkers and some distillers make an association between premium tequilas and premium cigars. To me, smoking while drinking is like sniffing a well-used, unwashed gym sock while eating sushi. Even a premium cigar can quickly overpower all other tastes.  

Lastly, it is important to remember that when you open a bottle of tequila you subject its contents to oxidization, just as you would a bottle of wine. A few weeks to a month can rob  tequila of its zesty agave flavours and decrease alcohol due to evaporation.  Drink it sooner than later. Enjoy.

Classic Cocktail: The Margarita

The Margarita has suffered terribly in modern times. In an effort to make it hip, quick, trendy, and cheap it has been bastardized far worse then any cocktail before it. Whether it is the use of inferior (or just plain wrong) ingredients, or commercially made mixes, the common Margarita these days tastes more like a 'Limeade' with a splash of orange juice than it does the delectable cocktail that it once was. A true Margarita is made from three ingredients: Tequila, Cointreau (Triple Sec), and fresh squeezed Lime Juice. Like any cocktail, the true art comes in arriving at the proper ratio of the ingredients in order to present a balance of the flavours. Arguably the best ratio for a Margarita is 3:2:1. Three parts Tequila, 2 parts Cointreau, and 1 part freshly squeezed lime juice.

  • 60ml Tequila - preferably a Silver Tequila
  • 40ml Cointreau or other Triple Sec Liqueur
  • 20ml Lime Juice

    Method: Shake with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Optional: You can prepare salt.
    - notes partially sourced from www.drinkboy.com


    Classic Cocktail:
    Tequila Sunrise

    The Tequila Sunrise is a cocktail so named for the way it looks when it is poured into a glass. The drink's name was popularized in the 1973 Eagles single "Tequila Sunrise" and in the 1988 Mel Gibson/Michelle Pfeiffer film of the same name.

  • 60 ml tequila
  • 120ml orange juice
  • 1 dash of grenadine syrup