Ten Terrific Tequilas To Ring In Cinco de Mayo
But instead of just imbibing some mysterious "ita" drink conjured by the bartender (though some of these can be very nice), consider trying a new brand straight and chilled in order to really note the flavors.
Not a lot of Tequila gets consumed straight in the U.S. For many, they don't want to see it unless its in a traditional margarita, or otherwise tarted up with lots of fruit.
Here is my guilty pleasure when I'm not drinking it chilled and straight. Take a shot of tequila, and a 100% fruit frozen popsicle. Cut the the popsicle off the stick into a blender, add the Tequila, blend, and serve. Garnish with lime and or salt on the rim of the glass as with a standard margarita, or get jiggy with the salt. Blend the salt with orange zest, or fresh ginger, or fresh rhubarb, mint, or even basil. Be your own mixologist.
You can also use frozen fruit in a bag, but the popsicle approach makes for a perfect serving size, and friends get a kick out of it.
Before you venture out, though, make sure you know what you are drinking.
The least expensive tequilas need only be distilled from 51% blue agave juice. The rest comes from various other sugars added during fermentation, most often sugarcane spirit. The more expensive-and some argue the best-tequilas are made from 100% blue agave juice.
Generally speaking, there are three colors of tequila: white, gold, and darker gold.
White, marked as "blanco" or "silver" tequila spends no time in oak barrels. Examples of this are Jose Cuervo's Especial Silver, which is a blend, a "mixto," of greater than 50% un-aged blue agave spirit, with the rest made up of other spirit, such as sugar-cane spirit.
Gold, which gets its color either from short-term aging in barrels or via caramel coloring, is what most people drink, accounting for 44.5% of sales. It pays to read labels and research your brand on the Internet to see if color comes from aging or not.
Gold Reposado (literal translation is "rested," and designates blanco tequila that has been rested in white oak barrels for between two months and a year) and añejo ("aged") tequilas are the ones that are really worth drinking straight and the bigger price tags.
Any tequila that does not state "100% agave" is a blend, usually a blend of agave and sugarcane spirit. It makes sense that these "mixtos" are generally under $20, while the pure agave spirits are more expensive. Agave plants take 10 to 12 years to mature to the point of being harvested. Sugarcane, the source of the blending spirit, comes up every year, so it is cheaper.
With that knowledge under our belts, here are ten tequilas that I would encourage anyone to ask for at the bars today.