Tequila often gets a bad wrap, but it's actually an incredibly delicious spirit with a complex flavor. Even its partner, mezcal, offers a unique, smokey yet sweet profile to any cocktail. Both are often misunderstood but deserve a better place in the hearts of all those who love cocktails.
History of Tequila and Mezcal
Tequila is made through distillation, with the primary ingredient being the blue agave plant. Per Mexican law, tequila can only be made in Jalisco and a limited number of municipalities. Mezcal sets itself apart from tequila in its preparation. Mezcal is made from the core of the agave plant, which is then roasted underground for a minimum of three days. This gives mezcal that distinctive, smoky flavor.
Setting Itself Apart
Tequila has several different distinctions, each a different flavor profile, or even color. Blanco tequila is possibly the most well-known, and the tequila that's most closely associated with margaritas or Palomas, and is bottled immediately after being distilled.
Reposado tequila is aged for a brief amount of time, anywhere between four weeks to 12 months, specifically in oak barrels. Reposado tequila often has a soft, golden hue. When reposado and blanco are combined the end result is joven. Simply put, it's a blend of the blanco with aged tequila.
The oldest tequilas are añejo and extra añejo. Typical añejos are aged anywhere from 12 months to 3 years in oak barrels. An extra añejo is aged over 3 years in oak barrels. Mixto is a type of tequila that contains anything less than 100 percent of blue agave and is often mixed with other spirits, thickeners, or other ingredients.
Margaritas come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and forms.
The Basic Margarita
It would be amiss to not directly address margaritas when talking about tequila. Margaritas are nothing more than four simple ingredients: tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice or homemade sour mix, and simple syrup. The salt or sugar rim and lime wedge garnish are optional finishing touches. Some choose to add agave instead of simple syrup, and both work very well in a basic margarita recipe.
It's important to use homemade sour mix should you opt for a more complex margarita flavor. Store-bought mixes are often too sweet or lack a proper lime flavor. To make this, add one cup sugar, eight ounces water, eight ounces lime juice, and eight ounces lemon juice in a bowl. Stir until sugar has dissolved. If you want your mix less sweet, use less sugar.
Flavors and Different Recipes
Margaritas can be frozen by blending with ice, or served skinny-style but omitting the simple syrup and sour mix, just using tequila, lime juice, a splash of simple syrup, and fresh-squeezed orange juice with tequila.
There are a wide variety of flavors of margaritas. Think blueberry, coconut, strawberry, grapefruit, spicy, cucumber, watermelon. The list runs on. Most tropical flavors work incredibly well with tequila, just as several herbs such as mint and basil do too. It's easy to experiment and layer flavors with different margaritas or play with a sweet, sour, or spicy rim.
Tequila and Mezcal Drinks
Tequila is more than margaritas. It can be enjoyed as simply as being poured over ice, enjoyed neat, or mixed with lime cordial. More well-known cocktails include the Paloma, Mexican martini, Bloody Maria, or something as classic as a tequila sunrise. There's even creamy tequila!
Mezcal offers a smoky, tropical feel to cocktails. Consider a mezcalita or watermelon mezcalita, Oaxaca old-fashioned, a loaded pistol, a cocktail with mezcal, strega liqueur, sweet vermouth, and grapefruit bitters, or the exceptional mezcal Negroni, the same measurements as the classic but with mezcal instead of gin.
Give It Another Try
Tequila should be respected because it's deserving of it. It's a complex spirit that adds a gentle sweetness to any cocktail it touches, and it can be enjoyed fabulously on its own. Mezcal gives drinks that gentle smoky flavor without overpowering other flavors. They're spirits well deserving of their place in any home bar space.