Everything You Need To Know About Tequila, According To An Expert
You've been drinking it all wrong.
Many people might recognise tequila as the to-hell-with-it shot you take at three in the morning. But did you know that most Mexicans sip and savour their tequila?
We got the inside scoop from David Camhi, local resident of Los Cabos and acclaimed bartender of Cabo’s La Lupita Taquiería y Mezcalería.
First, A Little History
Firstly, all distillations that come from the agave plant are called mezcales and production happens in almost every corner of Mexico. Agave has always been sacred to the Mexican people. Before they started distilling it to make mezcal, agave was one of the primary sources of food across the country.
There’s actually an historical dispute going on right now about the origin of the distillation – some say the Spanish conquerors brought the idea with them, but others say native Mexicans have dominated the art way before the Spanish.
Almost 40 years ago, producers of mezcal in the town of Tequila, in the state of Jalisco, asked the government for a Denomination of Origin, which they got. They then decided to change the name from mezcal de Tequila (“mezcal from Tequila”) to simply “tequila”. This means that, technically, only tequila made in Mexico can be rightfully called tequila.
This name change was one of the industry’s most important and intelligent moves, elevating tequila to a new level of importance in Mexico and the world. After more than four decades, tequila is now one of the world’s most renowned alcoholic beverages.
Let’s Talk Tequila
Traditional tequila is made with one plant and one specific species of agave – either the Tequilana Weber or Blue Agave. The agave plant takes eight to 12 years to mature, meaning the plant stays in the soil for this time.
Prior to the plant’s blooming stage, the Maestro Tequilero (“Tequila Master”) removes the plant from the ground and strips its leaves. This part is done by the Jimador, who must leave the centre of the plant – the fruit or pineapple, as we call it.
Then, they cook and crush the fruit, readying it for the fermentation and distillation processes.
Once this process is complete, you can do two things with the liquid – bottle it directly (this creates white or silver tequila) or put the tequila into a barrel — yielding one of two results: tequila reposado (meaning its spent less than a year in the barrel) or añejo or “aged tequila” (meaning its spent more than a year in the barrel).
And The Right Way To Drink It?
You may or may not believe it, but in Mexico, we don’t do shots of tequila or mezcal (unless it’s absolutely necessary!). We actually take small sips – in fact, we say that sipping tequila is like giving small kisses. That’s the way to do it.
If you’re going to buy a bottle of tequila, be sure to buy the ones that are 100 per cent blue agave.