Thursday, July 10, 2014

Tequila & Mezcal Basics

Bullet Points:
  • Both distilled from the agave plant. There are hundreds of species of agave plants, for Tequila specifically, the spirit must derive from the Blue Weber Agave species in order for it to be defined as Tequila. Think of Tequila as a smaller, sub-genre of Mezcal.
  • The Mexican government regulates the production of Tequila and Mezcal rather strictly. Unfortunately, the U.S. often disregards these regulations, even as the World's number 1 importer of Mexican spirits.
  • There are six types of Tequila/Mezcal:
    • "Joven" meaning "Gold". Contains additives like sweeteners are caramel coloring, and is not 100% Agave.
    • "Mixtos". Tequila that is not made from 100% Agave. According to regulations, it must contain at least 51% Agave and the rest is a mix up other additives. However, as noted before, the U.S. does not always recognize these regulations and often times you will not find these identifiers on the bottle's label.
    • "Blanco" or Silver. 100% Agave Tequila or a "Mixtos" that has been aged no more than 2 months.
    • "Reposado" meaning "rested" is Tequila aged from 2 to 12 months in oak barrels.
    • "Añejo" meaning "aged" is Tequila aged in oak barrels from 1 year to 3 years.
    • "Extra Añejo" is aged more than 3 years.
  •  Tequila was once only produced in the state of Jalisco. Now it is produced in 5 states including Jalisco, along with Michoacan, Guanajuato, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. Mezcal is mostly produced in south Mexica in the state of Oaxaca (pronouced Wah-HA-kah).
  • The Agave plant, although it resembles a cactus, is actually a succulent. On average, it takes 8-10 years before the Agave plant is ready for harvest. The plant is hacked at until you have what is none as the piña which is then cooked or roasted until it is ready to ferment. With Mezcal, the traditional method is to dig a deep fire pit, throw the piñas in let roast for days to weeks before uncovering.
  • Robust Tequilas and Mezcals are distilled in pot stills and sometimes even ancient clay stills, although column distillation is common as well.
  • The misconception of the worm at the bottom of the bottle of mezcal is more of a marketing scheme rather than a sign of authenticity. To read more of the urban myth that is the Mezcal Worm, go to www.mezcal.com/worms.html.

Principle Cocktails:  
  • Margarita
  • Paloma
  • Tequila Sunrise
  • Bloody Maria
  • Tequini
  • Matador
Popular Brands:
  • Jose Cuervo: The best selling tequila in the world. Founded in 1795. They have several expressions including mixtos and 100% agave tequilas along with flavored tequilas.
  • Patron: A pop-culture icon spirit, sold as a premium 100% agave tequila. The original Patron was first created by the Siete Leguas distillery, one of the oldest distillery in Mexico. It was sold to Saint Maarten Spirits in the U.S. where it was then sold as Patron.
  • Don Julio: Founded in 1942, 8th largest spirit brand in the U.S. by volume.
  • Sauza: Founded in 1873, Sauza makes two mixtos and several 100% de agave tequilas including tequila brands Hornitos, Commemortivo, and Tres Generaciones.
  • 7 Leguas: One of the oldest distilleries in Mexico and maker of the original "Patron".

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