“One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.” – George Carlin
With the White House proposing new taxes on all things Mexican (including tequila), should we rush to the nearest liquor store and stock up?
We’ve all had our tequila moments – salt, lemon and our amigo Jose Cuervo. But with finer tequila, you can forget the salt shaker and just sip – and savor.All tequilas share the same humble beginning: they’re a distillate made from the fermented juice of the agave plant, a succulent. All 130-plus varieties of agave have long, spiky leaves called pencas but only a few varieties are used for making tequila.
These are no houseplants; blue agave can grow to eight feet tall and 12 feet in diameter. Unlike most other spirits (such as vodka, which can be produced anywhere in the world), tequila is only made in Mexico. If it’s labeled “100 percent agave tequila” it must be both produced and bottled there. About 80 percent of blue agave grows in the Mexican state of Jalisco, the region surrounding Guadalajara.
Blue agave grows for six to eight years before it’s ready to be harvested. Its pencas grow in a rosette pattern; for tequila production its flower is removed, leaving a swollen central rosette called a piña (pineapple) or cabeza (head). The piñas are cut and cooked; the sweet juice is extracted, fermented and distilled, and you have tequila.
As it turns out, tequila is good for you – at least, it’s good for your bones. A study by researchers at Mexico’s Center for Research and Advanced Studies found that compounds in blue agave can boost absorption of calcium and magnesium, which are essential for bone health.
As for my initial question – should we start hoarding tequila? Maybe not, but it’s always fun to have a bottle of the good stuff in the cupboard.
Wine/Spirits Lingo of the Day: Tahona = Before distillers had modern machinery to extract agave juice from the piña, they used a tahona, a massive stone wheel drawn by a donkey or horses to crush the fibrous pulp of the agave after it was cooked. A similar contraption was used by rum producers in the Caribbean.
Vino ‘View: For a fine sipping tequila, try BlueNectar Reposado Special Craft. (80 proof; $54.99/750 ml) This bottle came to BigSexyReds with recipes, but we decided not to mix it – it was delicious on its own. Its golden color was created by aging it for up to eight months in charred North American oak barrels. We drank it in a rocks glass with one ice cube and tasted cloves and mint, with just a hint of sweetness from being infused with a kiss of agave nectar.
[Photo, “Blue Agave Fields.” By Alan Levine via Flickr]