Once the Liquor of Machismo and Margaritas, Tequila has Gone Decidedly Upscale
Jean T. Barrett
From the Print Edition:
Jack Nicholson, Summer 95
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While the lion's share of the tequila that is consumed in the United States ends up in a Margarita, many tequila buffs prefer to sip their blanco, reposado or añejo straight to savor the distinctive flavors. White or reposado tequilas are generally served in shot or cordial glasses. Sometimes these tequilas are accompanied by the traditional lime wedge and salt. They also can be followed by a chaser of sangrita, a Mexican invention. Sangrita bears no relation to sangria; rather, it is a mixture of tomato, citrus and/or tropical fruit juices, sometimes accented with grenadine, and spiked with hot sauce, lime juice, salt and other, "secret" ingredients. Its bracing spiciness is a great foil for a swallow of reposado.
Añejo tequila is best appreciated in a snifter, like brandy, either before, during or after dinner. "People are getting away from having shooters at the bar and enjoying tequila as they enjoy Cognac," observes Don Senich, general manager of Red Sage, Mark Miller's restaurant in Washington, D.C. "They like the robust flavor of tequila, but they like some of the edge taken off by aging. And some of these very expensive tequilas are over $60 a bottle, which is considerably more than many well-known Cognacs."
The key point to remember about fine, 100 percent agave tequilas is to sip, not slam them; the macho approach is strictly déclassé. The Ritz-Carlton's Cisneros ruefully remembers one of the first tequila tastings he conducted at the hotel, for six guests. The waitress poured a fine añejo into brandy snifters as Cisneros began to talk about the tequila they were tasting. In an instant, four of the six men had downed their tequila in one shot. "They said, 'Wow, this is good tequila,' but to me, they lost everything," he laments. Now, he is careful to explain tequila tasting before it is poured.
Jean T. Barrett is a Los Angeles-based writer on wine, spirits, food and travel and a frequent contributor to Cigar Aficionado and Wine Spectator.
Super-premium Tequilas: A Drinker's Guide*
White or Silver (Blanco or Plata) Tequilas
Centinela Blanco--This fresh and fruity tequila offers attractive pear aromas and is very smooth on the palate. Centinela is produced by a family-owned distillery in Arandas, Jalisco.
Chinaco Blanco--Light and clean in style, this white tequila offers a bright, herbaceous and perfumed nose with spicy flavors and a peppery finish. Chinaco is produced by La Gonzaleña distillery in Gonzalez, Tamaulipas.
El Tesoro de Don Felipe Plata--El Tesoro is produced by La Alteña distillery, an artisanal operation that is owned by the Camarena family and located in the mountainous Los Altos region of the state of Jalisco. El Tesoro silver is an assertive drink, full of fresh agave fruit flavors.
Herradura Silver--Herradura tequilas are made in a heavier, richer style, and the silver is a smoky, herb-scented spirit with a smooth, almost oily mouth-feel and a long finish. Like the other Herradura tequilas, the silver is 100 percent agave and estate-bottled, which means it is made only from agaves grown on the Herradura property in Amatitan, a town six miles south of Tequila in the state of Jalisco.
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