Step away from the shot glass, this tequila deserves to be treated with respect.
The official lip, sip, suck celebration shot has been replaced by more discerning contenders of the agave-based spirit, no sombrero required. Still regretting a monstrous hangover from teen tequila days? It’s likely you were drinking the wrong type, either mezcal or a lower quality ‘mixto’ made from 51 percent agave, which is supplemented with sugars and other alcohol to form a liquid that’s better labelled as headache juice.
Real, premium tequila is 100 percent made from the blue agave plant and can be complex, smooth and utterly sublime. It’s sipped straight, not slammed, and is only produced in Mexico; with premium varieties shelved under three categories – blanco, reposado and a.ejo. Blanco is unaged tequila bottled straight after being distilled. The mellower reposado is ‘rested’ tequila, oak-aged in barrels for between two and twelve months. And lastly, there’s a.ejo: a darker, more complex tequila aged between one and six years. Make amends with this unappreciated spirit and take it like a true connoisseur.
1. HERRADURA REPOSADO
Herradura has produced premium tequila since 1870 and their reposado variety spends 11 months in American oak barrels, with tastes of vanilla, spices and pepper on the tongue producing a mellow yet memorable taste. (www.glengarrywines.co.nz)
2. TEQUILA TROMBA
Created by Marco Cendano, one of Mexico’s preeminent master distillers, Tequila Tromba is of the blanco variety and a great introductory variety for cautious tequila drinkers. A clean finish and fresh mint aroma will surprise the typical tequila-adverse palate. (www.neatspirits.co.nz)
3. CASA NOBLE ANEJO TEQUILA
This añejo-style organic tequila will stand up to any single malt whiskey with its complexity. Triple-distilled to ensure purity and quality, it’s smooth enough to sip neat. Matured in oak barrels for two years, caramel notes pave the way for an exceptional drinking experience. (www.glengarrywines.co.nz)
4. JOSE CUERVO PLATINO
Platino is proof that one of the world’s largest tequila brands can still deliver on premium quality. Crafted using a process called ‘Escencia de Agave’ during which the steam is recaptured, and with it, the flavour essences of the plant. (www.regionalwines.co.nz)
5. CASA DRAGONES 100% PURO AGAVE AZUL SIPPING TEQUILA
Its hand-signed labels enforce that this is to be sipped, not knocked back or mixed into cocktails; its smoothness due to modern distillation processes that eliminate impurities and harsh flavours. The aromas and flavours will impress even the finest nose. (www.mexicofoods.co.nz)
Tequila is best enjoyed in a narrow stemmed glass known as the caballito, meaning little horse in Spanish. In Mexico a traditional way to enjoy tequila is ‘bandera’ style, referring to the Mexican flag’s three colours. It consists of three shot glasses: lime juice, white tequila and sangrita – a sweet and sour accompaniment typically made from orange or tomato juice and hot chillies.