Wednesday 14 December 2011

A Beginner's Guide To Tequila Part 3 - How To Enjoy Tequila

So you looked at what is available, did a little research, then decided on a decent tequila for yourself. Now, how do you enjoy it?

Traditionally, tequila is just enjoyed straight in a very short glass, or even a snifter - similar to Scotch or Cognac. Sometimes it is enjoyed alongside sangrita, which is a drink made from oranges, grenadine, and chili peppers. Drinking tequila shots with salt first and lime afterwards is really only done outside of Mexico, and began only as a way to mute the bad flavour and burn of a cheap product. Unfortunately, practices like this spread and began to really narrow people's palates and contributed to the crusade in the 1970's and 80's (which we are working hard to get rid of today) to ruin cocktails by making them overly sweet or juice-y.

Cocktail-wise, the most famous tequila drink is obviously the Margarita, which is responsible for the spirit's popularity in the U.S., and contains tequila, lime, and triple sec liqueur. There are other cocktails popular in Mexico, such as the Paloma, which is grapefruit, tequila, soda, and sometimes lime. Other American cocktails have changed dramatically, like the Tequila Sunrise, which originally contained tequila, crème de cassis, lime, and soda, but eventually evolved into the much less interesting tequila, orange, and grenadine. Once again, the 1970's ruined a good drink.

My next post will be entirely on the Margarita, its history, a recipe, and some apt 1940's music to enjoy while you sip. Today, I'm going to give a couple cool recipes to try - some that are hopefully new to you.
Typically, tequila is enjoyed with juice, but below are some interesting things you can do to better showcase the taste of the spirit.
First is probably the best cocktail to make with any good spirit - the actual Cocktail - the Old Fashioned.

Tequila Old-Fashioned
2 oz reposado or anejo tequila
2 dashes chocolate bitters 
1/2 oz simple syrup (or a barspoon or two full of agave nectar/syrup)
Build over ice in an old-fashioned/short glass

When you say "old fashioned," most people think of bourbon or rye with Angostura bitters, but old-fashioned only means to enjoy a cocktail the 'old-fashioned-way.' This just means spirit, bitters, sugar, water. You can enjoy any spirit old-fashioned, and you can try different bitters to match with the spirit. A lighter or vegetal bitters such as celery bitters will match well with gin, a bitters with a full spice profile like Angostura or Peychaud's matches well with whiskey or dark rum, and the full, dark, spicy and somewhat malty presence of a chocolate bitters pairs amazingly well with a tequila. I was able to pick up some Bitter Truth Xoxolat Mole bitters in Seattle for under $20, and it's very interesting and completely different than any other bitters I've had. The mole flavour works excellently with tequila, and of course makes sense as they both come from Mexico. If you can't get your hands on a more interesting bitters, Angostura will always do.

The Rosita Cocktail
1 1/2 oz tequila blanco
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz Campari
1 dash Angostura bitters
Stir with ice, strain over ice in a rocks glass, garnish with a lemon twist

This one is only about 20 years old. It's a much more interesting direction to take tequila, and probably one you haven't tried yet. The herbal flavours and aromas from every other ingredient really plays on the tequila in a unique way. It's quite complex and I highly recommend it to someone really looking for a new kind of tequila cocktail.

The Prado Cocktail
1 1/2 oz tequila blanco
3/4 oz lime juice
1/2 egg white
1/2 oz Maraschino liqueur
Shake without ice first to emulsify the egg white, then shake with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with a lime wheel

Maraschino actually works very nicely with tequila, which should open a lot of doors for you to start experimenting.

The best way to try out new things and come up with new drinks is simply to take a cocktail that you know works, and substitute an ingredient. That's basically how all the cocktails we know and love were invented and evolved. Try making a Manhattan with tequila anejo instead of whiskey, or try a tequila blanco Martini instead of using gin, or a tequila Mojito instead of using rum, etc, etc. You'll be surprised how many of those variations taste really good.

As mentioned, next post I'm going to give the history of the Margarita, some cool variations on the recipe, and some fun 1940's music to enjoy alongside.

[[ click here to see Part 1 of A Beginner's Guide To Tequila ]]
[[ click here to see Part 2 of A Beginner's Guide To Tequila ]]

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