Feeling a little overserved on the day after Cinco de Mayo?
Moderation is always the better way to go. Easy to say. Hard to do.
But if you’re feeling a little less than fine today, perhaps it’s because you didn’t follow some basic rules of tequila consumption during the revels of Cinco.
As a public service (even though it’s akin to closing the barn door after the horse has bolted, and you probably won’t remember this for next year’s Cinco celebrations), here are some handy guidelines for holiday consumption.
1. Don’t drink frozen margaritas. Just don’t. Avoid them. If some well-meaning yahoo orders one up for you, smile politely and let it sit there and thaw out in undisturbed silence. Why should you imbibe something that by its very nature has no taste (being frozen)? Beyond that, knowing that frozen margaritas are made from the cheapest—and most sugary—pre-mixed ingredients and are frozen so you won’t taste how horrible the sludge is should deter you from even casual consumption of those things. And all that sugar makes a potential hangover much, much worse.
2. Don’t drink “mixto” tequila. What’s ‘mixto,'” you ask? “It’s not listed anywhere on the bottle of tequila I just had.” Well, yes it is, but not directly; it’s more about what’s not there. If the bottle says “Tequila” only—that’s a mixto, the colloquial term for a tequila that is only 51% agave spirit, the rest being any form of alcohol and in reality usually cane sugar. Why willingly pay money for what is essentially tequila-flavored rum or vodka??? And in those flavored and frozen margaritas? You can bet they’re using cheap mixto tequila. ‘Nuff said.
Instead, go for the ‘real thing’—a bottle of tequila that proudly and clearly states “100% Agave” or “Puro de Agave”—so you know you are getting the true, unadultered, un-diluted agave in its natural form and flavor. Don’t fret: there are plenty of moderatey priced tequilas that are still 100% Agave (look lower down in the suggestions and you’ll see a couple.)
So unless you’re still in college and haven’t developed any discretion in taste as yet, or are seriously unemployed and almost indigent, resist reaching down to that dreaded bottom shelf for the ultra-cheap stuff. You’re better than that, aren’t you? You’ve reached a point where quality is more important than being cheap, haven’t you? You’re worth it, aren’t you? It’s an easily affordable luxury.
3. Avoid sugar in your drinks. Flavor is fine. So are fruit juices. But avoid the over-sugared confections that some people call ‘dessert cocktails’. Forget the alcohol you’re consuming: it’s the sugar that might be the major culpirt in why you’re not feeling good. Avoid the sugar binge. (Re-read point #1.) If you’re drinking the purer 100% Agave form of tequila, and avoiding over-sugared drinks, you’re doing a better service to your body and your taste buds.
4. A short list of quality tequilas you can find in Oregon:
Tequila can be expensive—but it doesn’t have to be! One of the best—the cleanest, brightest, snappiest in flavor and thus prized by both Mexicans who revere tequila and bartenders who like to make the best drink they can, choose el Jimador 100% Agave Tequila. Hands down one of the consistently best bargains in Tequila; great for making mixed drinks, yet fine enough to consume all by itself for its purity and intensity of flavor.
Espolon Tequila is another moderately priced tequila worth seeking out. A recent addition to Oregon, it’s nicely priced and provides a softer, fruitier style of tequila if that’s what you’re looking for.
When you’re ready to step up a notch—a big notch—in style and quality and pure expression of tequila—head for Casa de Herradura. This fine old estate tequila is one of the best there is, classic 100% Agave (they don’t make any other kind) that goes an extra step or two to guarantee a quality taste experience. Where most Blanco/Silver tequilas are straight out of the still and into the bottle, Herradura Silver goes that extra step and lets their new tequila gently rest and soften and develop a lovely silky texture and richness of flavor that is quite distinctive. So distinctive, it’s the favorite ultra-premium tequila in Mexico (where, one assumes, they know just a little bit about tequila. Forget all those ‘gringo brands’; for Mexicans, Herradura is the classic iconic tequila). Likewise with their Reposado, which requires only a brief two months of aging in wood but at Herradura is aged for at least eleven months and thus is corresondingly richer and more mellow in flavor and complexity. If you’re a fan of Reposado, this is the one to have on hand.
Another fine tequila, this time from the Highlands, Los Altos, is Corrido Tequila. Lovely, full-flavored tequila, and here the Corrido touch is clearly seen in their attention to barrels, where they customarily use both Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey barrels and Maker’s Mark Bourbon barrels as part of their aging regimen. The Corrido Reposado is particularly good, with the floral, fruity style of Highlands tequila bolstered by frankly spicy elements from the barrel mellowing process.
Finally, when you’re ready to step up to true and literally hand-made tequila from the old school, shell out a few extra bucks for the La Fortaleza, a tiny, tiny distilleria in the village of Tequila, virtually in the shadow of the gigantic Jose Cuervo and Sauza factories. This is “small batch” tequila in the best sense of the word: selective harvesting, small ovens for roasting the pinas, the original tahona stone grinding and open-pit washing of the pulped plant, and two small stills to make tiny trickles of the puro de agave. La Fortaleza is not only the purity of distilled tequila, it’s the legacy of five generations of the revered Sauza family, in the form of Guillermo Sauza and his dedication to his forebears. Expensive, but worth every single penny.