Mexican foods and flavours are increasingly popping up on restaurant menus and street food stalls all around the world, enticing consumers to explore a more sophisticated side to the country’s cuisine. A celebration of the country that gave us tamales and tostadas is not complete without a sip of Mexico’s national drink.
Master Tequilera Sonia Espinola, Director of Heritage for the Jose Cuervo Foundation, has dedicated her life to spreading the authentic art of tequila drinking with the world, as one of the first females to be officially recognised by the Mexican government as a Tequilera. She shares her three tips for drinking tequila, the Mexican way:
1. Know the difference
Not all tequilas are created equal. First of all, for a drink to be called tequila, it needs to have the denomination of origin. There are only five areas in Mexico where tequila is produced. If an agave-based spirit is produced outside of these regions, it is not tequila.
But most importantly, depending on how they’ve been aged, tequilas fall into three categories:
· Silver tequila such as Jose Cuervo Especial and Jose Cuervo Tradicional Silver have not been aged, which means their colouring is clear and the agave flavour comes through more strongly.
· For tequilas to be called ‘reposados’ (rested), they need to have spent at least two months but not more than a year in oak barrels. For instance, Jose Cuervo Tradicional Reposado is 100% blue agave tequila, rested in white oak barrels for at least two months.
· Finally, tequilas that have been aged in barrels for over a year are called ‘añejos’ (aged), whilst ‘extra-añejo’ (extra-aged) tequilas have spent at least three years in the barrels. Reserva de la Familia is such an extra-añejo, with strong oaky flavours and more complexity coming through every sip.
2. Sip, don’t shot
You can, of course, enjoy tequila as a shot. Our Jose Cuervo Tradicional Silver is carefully bottled to conserve its flavour and finish at freezing temperatures and there’s nothing quite like a cool shot of Tradicional when you’re at a party. But if you truly want to appreciate tequila the Mexican way, you have to sip it from a glass like you would sip whiskey or rum. This is especially true for the aged tequilas (reposado, añejo and extra-añejo).
Use a tasting glass or wine glass to really open the flavours up. Nose it gently with small sips. An agave plant, the foundation of all tequila, requires a minimum of six years to reach maturity; most are harvested after ten years or longer. A decade of work takes a lot of patience; by sipping the tequila and taking in all its complex flavour notes, we show our appreciation for this journey of the agave, from field to glass. When I host dinners for friends, we like sipping a glass of Jose Cuervo Tradicional Reposado, which has been rested in oak barrels for up to six months. I love the flavour of roasted agave and the subtle hint of oak, pineapple and white pepper.
3. Toast to Independence Day the Mexican way
A Mexican Independence Day celebration is not a real fiesta without the Banderita, a combination of three drinks in the colours of the Mexican flag: a green lime juice represents the independence movement, Jose Cuervo Tradicional or Jose Cuervo Especial Silver stands for the centre of the Mexican flag and a red tomato-based chaser called Sangrita represents the blood of the national heroes. Line the glasses from left to right and you’ll have the Mexican flag in a drink, ready to be sipped: Salud!