Buuuuh Daa duh-duh Da duh-duh duh. Buh Daa duh-duh Da duh-da!
Buh Daa duh-duh Da duh-duh duh. Buh-duh-duh-duh-duh duh duh...
Everyone's favourite Mexican libation! Or is it... In the last decade, Mezcal has experienced a boom in popularity, and for good reason! Mezcal is smokey, strong, delicious on its own or fabulous mixed in a cocktail. Perhaps the most common question asked during the Virtual Cocktail Class has been: what is the difference between Mezcal and Tequila?
Technically, Tequila is a type of Mezcal. Mezcal is the umbrella term for any spirit made using Agave as the main ingredient. Agave is an enormous succulent that mostly grows underground in the deserts of Mexico. The quintessential physical attribute of the Agave is their rosettes of strong, spiked leaves. There are hundreds of different species of Agave, and you can use any one of them to make mezcal.
But let's say you don't want to make mezcal, you wanted to make tequila. In this case, there is only one specific agave varietal that you're allowed to use: The Blue Weber Agave. If you don't want to use to Blue Weber Agave to make Tequila, then you're not making Tequila, you're making Mezcal. The Mexican laws that regulate Tequila production are some of the strictest alcohol laws in the world; they're even more extensive than the laws regulating Champagne production in France.
The best Tequilas are made with 100% Blue Agave. This is a statistic that Tequila producers wear with pride. Any 100% Blue Agave Tequila will almost always have that fact on their label. If you're looking at your bottle of Tequila now and noticing it does not say 100% Blue Agave, then you have a Mix-To Tequila.
Remember those strict Mexican Tequila Laws? Technically, according to those, your spirit only has to be 51% Blue Agave to be legally called Tequila. So the smart folks over at certain Tequila brands that I will not name (*cough* JOSE CUERVO *cough*) make a 51% Blue Agave product, and fill the other 49% with all sorts of cheap stuff that leads to a nasty hangover. This is called Mix-To Tequila.
Virtual Cocktail Class does not employ any doctors at this time, so we won't ramble about the potential health benefits of Tequila, but we will say that we've literally seen Tequila wake the dead. Well... not literally. But anyone who has ever had a truly awful hangover, and has managed to keep down a hair-of-the-dog shot of 100% B.A. Tequila will know that it's restorative powers are second-to-none. But if you want to avoid the hangover, simply stick to sipping 100% Agave Tequila, Soda, and the juice of a fresh lime wedge. Don't mix your spirits. Don't add sugary Coke/Diet/Ginger. High Quality Tequila + Soda + Lime = Minimal Damage.
Ok, so you're in the Tequila section of the liquor store and you've found all the 100% B.A. Tequilas. Why are they all different colours? Some of them are clear, some are light brown, and some are dark brown and way more expensive than the rest of the bottles... What's going on?!
100% Agave Tequila is categorized into three different groups depending on how long they have been ageing.
1) Blanco/Plata: The Un-aged Tequila. Blanco means 'white', and Plata means 'silver' so these spirits should appear as clear as Vodka on the store shelves or your home bar. Un-aged Tequila is the purest way form of Tequila as it has been unchanged by the ageing process and is the purest representation of what the Blue Weber Agave spirit is. Traditionally speaking, your classic Tequila cocktails, like a Margarita or a Paloma, are made with Blanco.
2) Reposado: aged 2 Months - 1 Year. This Tequila is going to be darker in colour than your Blancos because, before it gets bottled, this Tequila sits in a repurposed Bourbon barrel for a while to develop a more complex flavour. Why Bourbon barrels? Because, legally, Bourbon distillers are only allowed to use each barrel once, so they sell their spent wood to Tequila distillers. In recent years as Tequilas' popularity has ballooned and bartenders have familiarized themselves with the spirits, we've seen a boom in classics made with Reposados.
3) Añejo: Aged 1-3 Years. The oldest and smoothest Tequila of the bunch. Three years in a bourbon barrel smooths out the bite that a Blanco has and leaves a smooth and rich spirit, much closer to a nice Scotch or Rye than people realize. If you're a big brown liquor fan and are looking to get into Tequila, this is the category to start with.
Now that we've expanded our knowledge of Tequila, it's time we take a little trip down to Margaritaville, where we're not putting any of our booze in a blender.
In a cocktail shaker add:
1oz 100% Blue Agave Blanco or Reposado Tequila
1oz Cointreau (or any other Orange-flavoured liqueur)
1oz Fresh Lime Juice
Strain into a Kosher Salt-rimmed glass
And, finally, Enjoy.