Tequila has had a bad reputation for years. It is associated with blackouts, horrible hangovers and poor decisions. People who drink tequila are usually drunk already, looking to get wasted and/or criminals, bandits and outlaws (if it’s in the movies then it must be true).
Preconceptions dealt with, tequila is having a transformative moment. No longer a drink pounded with salt and lemon by students in a club, tequila is becoming a respected, premium spirit.
Tequila is protected under Mexican law so it can only be produced in certain parts of Mexico, in particular the area of Jalisco. It is made from the pina of the Weber Blue Agave Plant which is not a cactus but actually related to apsaragus. Any spirit made from agave plants is referred to as a mezcal but only tequila is made from the Weber plant.
US law states that tequila only has to contain 51% Agave so there are many brands that mix different sugar based alcohols into their product. This had led to some of the prejudices against tequila. These cheaper versions and imitations of the spirit are of a lower quality and are not as pure. If you drank cheap whiskey the same way as people drink tequila then whiskey would have a bad image too.
Now craft and premium brands are taking over the market share from the old timers like Cuervo and Sauza. Patron was the first “craft” tequila to prove that premium and luxury would take market share away and now many brands are following suit. They were targeting a different audience of mature spirit connoisseurs and collectors.
Fine quality tequila should be sipped and enjoyed slowly over ice instead of shots. This sipping quality lends sophistication to proceedings and it is not surprising that tequila producers are now targeting women with their luxury products.
Tequila is now considered classy, with comparisons being made to the complexity of wine. You can now take part in tours of the Agave landscape just like a vineyard tour and the town of Tequila has become a destination that is revered by aficionados and enthusiasts, much like the old world winery towns of Europe.
There are also different government agencies set in place to preserve the integrity of the spirit all the while promoting its unique benefits and culture.
Tequila is also getting a reputation boost through celebrity endorsements and several A-listers even produce their own spirits. George Clooney produces Casamigos Tequila, Justin Timberlake makes 901 Tequila, Carlos Santana owns Casa Noble Tequila and the platinum bottle of Chris Brown’s Bonita Tequila is the only five time distilled award winning tequila. The connection between premium tequila and a celebrity, luxury lifestyle lends the brand a higher status than it has ever enjoyed.
As with all products, you have to do your research to trust a brand. Brand recognition does not always mean quality. Tequila is quite expensive to produce and only the products owned by large corporations can afford the kind of promotion and marketing that a spirit such as Patron enjoys. Smaller, independent producers have to rely on quality and taste to make them successful. Most of these producers aren’t interested in novelty or flavoured tequilas, they are simply trying to improve the process and end up with an exceptional spirit. In the same way that Patron and luxury brands took over from the original market leaders Cuervo and Sauza, the tequila consumer is asking for quality and taste and the independent craft aspect of the industry is growing as a result.
The demand for top shelf tequila is rising because it is growing in popularity among women over 30 as a status drink, and among the Chinese who recently opened their market to it. Tequila is fast replacing vodka as the spirit of choice in the U.S. The sales volume of the American market show a continuous growth since 2004 and reached an all-time high with 13.8 million 9 litre cases sold in 2014.
We asked Leo Molloy from 777 about the best ways to drink tequila.
“Tequila, for years sentenced to the far end of the shelf like the kid from the wrong side of the tracks, has experienced a surge in popularity accompanied by a flux of bottlings. Bartenders love its versatility and a new wave of connoisseurs are appreciating it as a sipping spirit.
In cocktails and mixed drinks, Blanco Tequila marries well with citrus and fruit juices. Most drinks calling for gin can be made with Tequila. When using Reposados and Añejos, think whiskey and what it blends with; Old Fashioned, Manhattans etc.
The most popular Tequila cocktail is, of course, the Margarita. Salt the rim of a glass and shake up Tequila, lime juice and a good quality triple sec. Everyone’s preference for a Margarita is different so find your own sweet spot. A good starting point is the ratio 2:1:1 Tequila : Lime juice : Triple Sec.”
Leo has provided us with a great recipe for a cocktail, just make sure to use a good quality Blanco tequila. 777 use El Jimador.
Mi Cobra Mas Sexy
This Margarita variation combines two very good friends, grapefruit and thyme. It takes a little planning ahead with the syrup and infusion, but after that, it’s straightforward.
– 50ml Thyme-infused Tequila*
– 25ml Grapefruit Liqueur
– 35ml Grapefruit Juice
– 25ml Lemon Juice
– 10-15ml Simple Syrup**
– 1 Sprig of Thyme for garnish
Salt the rim of a glass and set aside.
In a cocktail shaker, add all ingredients except the thyme sprig over fresh ice.
Shake vigorously for 20 seconds and strain into rimmed glass.
Garnish with thyme sprig draped over the edge of glass.
Place 3 large sprigs of thyme into a bottle of good quality Blanco Tequila. Make sure the thyme is completely covered and let infuse for 24 hours. Discard thyme and it’s ready to use.
Combine 500g caster sugar with 500ml boiling water. Stir until sugar dissolves and let cool completely before use.
Alison has been writing since she could hold a pen, which came in handy for her degree in English, Media and Cultural Studies. She has been working in media since graduating and is the latest features writer for TheTaste.
Writing for TheTaste allows her to combine her passion for the written word with her love of food and drink. Find her on Twitter @AliDalyo