Tequila: It’s not just a drink, it’s a place

on 07/07/11 at 1:24 pm

Spirits
This April 2011 photo shows workers at Destileria la Fortaleza, the last distillery in Tequila that still uses a tahona, a giant lava stone, to crush the juices from the baked agave, in Mexico. Photo: Photo: Tracie Cone / AP

It’s said the national drink of Mexico has magical properties: It closes contracts and opens doors, makes shy people bold and helps form friendships.

To the uninitiated, the wrong tequila consumed incorrectly also opens medicine chests.

The first thing one learns on a tour of the heart of Mexico’s tequila country is that no one here drinks tequila as a shooter — it’s better sipped from a brandy snifter or champagne glass so that the full sweet and buttery flavors and aromas of the agave can come through.

And the aficionado would never drink anything other than a tequila made from 100 percent agave. Anything less, like the popular Jose Cuervo Gold, is a “mixto” that by law only has to contain 51 percent of alcohol distilled from agave. The rest could be any other sugary plant like the beet, which makes it potentially hangover-inducing.

Tequila consumption has increased 45 percent in the U.S. over the past five years. It’s no wonder, then, that the country is waking up to the tourism power of tequila, the drink, and Tequila, the place — the center of the farming region of the prickly Weber blue agave plants from which the spirit is distilled.

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