Those of us who are unfamiliar with Jalisco (or any of the other blue agave-producing parts of Mexico) might associate tequila with a rather compulsory round of shots, accompanied by a salt and citrus ritual that brings a brief shudder to the system before the night becomes an uncontrollable blue. But for los Mexicanos the ‘lip-sip-suck’ of salt and lime is only a requirement when drinking ‘tequila cruda’, or cheap, low-quality tequila that’s best avoided at all times.
Unfortunately, as around 85% of all tequila stays in Mexico and the US, most of the world is left in the dark when it comes to the more refined nature of the spirit, while familiar with the more widely purveyed ‘mixto’ tequilas which are only required to contain a minimum 51% of the blue agave that defines the drink.
When imbibing the ‘puro’ 100% agave tequila, it’s common in Mexico to savour the complex taste by eschewing any accompaniment, although that certainly isn’t to say the spirit is not at its best when tempered with the right ingredients. Here are a few ideas for trying out some of the finest tequila drinks and cocktails.
This is a Mexican favourite that can be found throughout the country, and is even canned and sold in supermarkets for convenience. Its taste is sophisticated and refreshing, and for this reason, it is the perfect drink to accompany a spicy Mexican meal.
Palomas are generally made by mixing tequila blanco (aged for the shortest time and the purest of tequilas) with grapefruit juice and soda, often with added sugar syrup to take off the bitter edge, and served on the rocks with a wedge of lime. Manufactured sodas, such as the Mexican brand Jarritos, are commonly used, however freshly-squeezed juice brings an organic touch to the cocktail that makes a huge difference to the flavour.
Perhaps the most famous of all tequila drinks from Mexico, there are at several tales claiming the invention of the Margarita, as is the case with many cocktail myths and legends. Its long history, along with its zingy, zesty taste, are perhaps the reasons why this tequila drink is one of the biggest names among the most glamorous party cocktails.
Although served in many glasses, including the classic cocktail glass, Margaritas are more traditionally served in the wide-rimmed margarita glass, so shaped to allow more space for garnishes, as well as salt and sugar.
It’s common to make margaritas by running a lime wedge around the frozen-frosted rim of the glass before coating the rim in salt spread over a surface. A shaker should be filled with ice, tequila blanco, triple sec and lime juice, and then shaken for around half a minute before being strained into the glass.
Variations on the classic Margarita often include the use of sugar syrup, or changing the fruits used for grapefruits, tamarind, melon or avocado.
Legend has it that while an earlier version of the drink used crème de cassis, lime and soda, the modern version was created in the trendy San Francisco suburb of Sausalito, and then popularized by the Rolling Stones at a party before their 1972 tour of America.
This more recent and better-known version is made by pouring tequila and orange juice into an Collins or a highball glass with ice, before adding grenadine that sinks to the bottom to resemble a dramatic sunrise.
The many variations on this drink include the Tequila Sunset, using brandy or dark rum in the place of grenadine, the Caribbean Sunset, using rum instead of tequila, and the Florida Sunset, with pineapple and orange juice.
Allegedly one of the first tequila cocktails, El Diablo uses a reposado (tequila aged between two months and a year, and smoother than a blanco). Diablos also contain crème de cassis, fresh lime juice and ginger ale, for a taste that’s smooth, fruity and spicy.
Pour all of the ingredients but the ginger beer into a tall glass of ice, and top up with the ginger beer, and garnish with a blackberry.
The Matador is a simple cocktail made with tequila blanco, fresh lime juice and pineapple juice, all shaken and strained into a martini glass or a champagne flute. The drink is comparable to a Margarita, though not as well-known.
A fairly new tequila cocktail, appearing over the last thirty years, La Rosita combines reposado tequila with Campari, sweet vermouth, dry vermouth and angostura bitters, stirred over ice and strained into an old fashioned glass, garnished with an orange twist. La Rosita is complex, and more bitter than the average tequila drink.
In addition to these big names in the world of tequila drinks, there are a number of different slants on other spirit cocktails that have become more widespread in recent years. These include the Bloody Maria, Tequila Fizz, Tequila Mojito and the Tequila Sour. No prizes for guessing where these drinks found their inspiration!
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