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I learnt a lot about tequila during some alcohol training put up by work, and wanted to share. Hope you learn something new, I sure did! Anything you want to add please add as a comment!
Tequila was originally first found by the Aztecs in Mexico. Legend goes that the Aztecs found an agave plant that had been struck by lightening and was bleeding sap which they decided to drink. They then proceeded to have the complete out-of-body spiritual experience we now know as getting drunk. The lightening had split the agave plant and with the sun and heat it had begun to ferment and become alcoholic. The Aztecs hailed it as a gift from the Gods and collected the sap, reserving it for royalty, sacrificial slaves, etc. When the Spanish Conquistadors invaded they knew about distillation and began producing the alcoholic drink in the town of Tequila, hence the name. Tequila may only be called Tequila if it is produced in one of five possible states in Mexico.
Tequila comes in three varieties, these are Blanco, Reposado and Anejo.
When Tequila is matured it is kept in ex-bourbon oak barrels bought from America. The barrels can only be used once in the making of bourbon even though they are still fine to use, so they get relined and sent to Mexico. Due to heat and air pressure factors the wood grain of the barrels expands as they heat up drawing the liquid into the wood and later expel it as the barrels shrink again, so the tequila gains a beautiful scent and taste if left in the barrels for a long period of time, such as Anejo. The maturity of a tequila does not make one better than the other, simply different.
For tequila to be true tequila it must be made in one of five possible states in Mexico and it must be made from blue agave plants. The blue agave primarily grows in the hills and slopes of Mexico and takes about 8-10 years to fully mature.
A crop of Blue Agave plants
You can tell an agave plant is mature when the tips of the leaves turn red with sap. This means the sugar content is at its peak and perfect for making alcohol. The leaves are removed from the plant and the pina, or heart, is taken away. This pina can weigh up to 200kg! It is them steamed in an oven made from plant materials, mud and dirt to get the agave syrup. Next the yeast is added to ferment the syrup which is then distilled once, maybe twice, in a copper distil. the tequila is then placed in the oak barrels to be matured for however long.
Tequila either comes as 100% Agave or as a Mixto, meaning it is about 60% Tequila and 40% some other alcohol, typically grain based. You can also get Mezcal, which is made in the same way as tequila except that the entire plant is used rather than just the pina. Mezcal can be made from any type of agave plant, rather than being restricted to blue agave. Mixto is a good ‘speeder’ tequila, ie good for shots, martinis etc that don’t require much flavour. Good quality 100% Agave tequila is best reserved for being served neat or on the rocks. The slight flavouring in 100% Agave needs to be considered before you go mixing it with other spirits.
If you are doing tequila shots then most likely you have salt and lemon with you. Please don’t. It’s messy for the bartender to clean up and it looks tacky. The salt and lemon are there to mask the burning sensation of the tequila, and there are alternative ways of doing this. A good one is a lime wedge dipped on one side in castor sugar and the other in ground coffee. Have the tequila and then bite the lime. Another is orange with cinnamon. In the end though, shots are not the best way to enjoy the flavour of tequila. An excellent alternative is getting tequila and sangrita in separate shot glasses and slowly sipping one after the other.
The worm was added to bottles of mezcal to prove it’s alcohol content. People who made mezcal in their ‘backyards’ were watering down their product but you couldn’t tell once it was in a bottle obviously. the worm was added to prove that there was enough alcohol in it. If the worm wasn’t decomposed at all then the alcohol content was high enough. One work = a good mezcal, two worms = a better one.
Remember: All tequila is mezcal, but not all mezcal is tequila.