When celebrating Cinco de Mayo, tequila should be the protagonist of your day! This distillate of the blue agave plant is by far the most popular drink in Mexico. It is produced mainly in the area surrounding the city of Tequila and in the highlands of the northwestern Mexican state of Jalisco. Usually, the differences in taste between tequila made from lowland and highland agave plants is noticeable. Plants grown in the highlands often yield sweeter and fruitier-tasting tequila, while lowland agaves give the tequila an earthier flavor.
Before the Spanish conquerers arrived in 1521, the Aztecs already produced a fermented beverage of the agave plant, which they called ‘octli’ or ‘pulque’. The knowledge and the technology of distillation that the Spanish conquistadors brought with them was far more developed. Once they ran out of their brandy provisions, they started to distillate the local agave brand, to obtain what is known now as the first North American indigenous distilled spirit. As with all popular things, mass production and export followed rapidly. But until today, the agave plant requires a manual cultivation, based on centuries-old knowhow, owned by the so-called jimadores. When the piña of the plant has the right amount of carbohydrates for fermentation, they are cut and brought to the ovens where they are slowly baked to break down some starches into simple sugars. The agave juice is extracted from the baked piñas by shredding or mashing them, after which it’s poured into large wooden or stainless steel vats in which it will ferment. A double distillation creates “silver tequila” which is bottled or aged in wooden barrels to develop a delicate flavor and amber color.
If you find a worm in your bottle of Tequila, be worried. In 1940, a mescal (made from the Maguey plant, a higher-quality variety of Agave) producer started selling bottles con gusano (with worm) as a marketing gimmick. Though, finding this worm (or larval) indicates that the tequila was made with infested agave plants, which obviously means a lower-quality product. This misconception unfortunately continues and makes it hard for tequila producers to represent their distillate as a premium drink.
Mexicans normally drink their Tequila neat, without using lime or salt. To keep this holiday (or for us Europeans, workday) a bit more socially acceptable, I suggest two cocktails: the classic Margarita and Paloma, the most popular tequila-based cocktail in Mexico!
As a student, I have sadly no budget to buy fancy tequila. Actually, no tequila at all. But I found you some good and easy-to-follow recipes to try out!
To make one cocktail (do make two though)
- 4cl Tequila
- 1,5cl triple sec (suggestion: Cointreau)
- 3cl fresh lime juice
Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with some ice cubes and shake well.
If you want, you can salt the rim of your chilled margarita glass with salt.
Pour everything into the glass (ice included) and decorate with a lime wedge.
To make one cocktail (same comment as above)
- 5cl Tequila (blanco or reposado)
- 15cl fresh grapefruit soda
- 1,5cl fresh lime juice
Rim a glass with salt.
Fill the glass with ice, add tequila and lime juice.
Top it off with grapefruit soda.