All across Dublin city, the Taste of Mexico festival is on, so what better time to learn a thing or two about tequila? Expert José Torres teaches us how it should be done.
1. It’s not just for shots.
“Tequila,” explains José, “should be kissed”. This means you sip it slowly. There are lots of different kinds, and some tequilas have even been aged in bourbon barrels, so there’s plenty to appreciate – look out for colour, breathe in the scent, and taste the multitude of flavours, from sweet and herbal to warm and earthy.
2. It’s not made from cacti.
Contrary to popular belief, tequila doesn’t come from a cactus. It’s made from the the blue agave plant, which is cultivated in plantations and can take eight to ten years to mature. Flavours can really vary depending on where the agave was harvested.
3. It’s not just for drinking at 2am.
In Mexico, lots of people enjoy blanco tequila (the youngest kind) before food, or tuck into some reposado (aged in wood for at least two months) or the premium añejo (aged for at least a year, often in oak barrels) as a digestif. The mellow, sweeter tones of the aged varieties make a perfect after-dinner treat.
4. It’s not just for margaritas.
As much as we love a good margarita, tequila is much more versatile than that and a great stable to have in your drink trolley. At Xico on Dublin’s Baggot Street, barman (and tequila nerd) Stephen Tighe likes to use some 1800 añejo to put a twist on a classic Old Fashioned. If you’re making margaritas, stick to blanco, which works well with other flavours (and is also the most affordable).
5. It does make a great shot (just not with salt and lime).
Tequila shots as we know them find their origins in the 1930s, when an epidemic of Spanish influenza attacked Northern Mexico and, oddly, doctors prescribed tequila with salt and lime. To this day, Mexicans reach for it when they have a cold coming on (or tourists coming over). A more authentic way to drink it is to chase a tequila shots with a “sangrita”, a tangy mix of tomato juice, a splash of fresh OJ, achiote paste, paprika, salt, pepper and a tiny bit of Worcestershire sauce.
So now you know. If you’d like to learn more, head to the tasteofmexico.ie and sign up for some of the tastings going on across the city. Don’t forget to visit us on Facebook too, where we’ll be giving away tickets for one lucky reader, and a guest, to the final Taste of Mexico party – the Fiesta Jose Cuervo – tomorrow, November 20, in Lillie’s Bordello. Expect lively tunes from Mariachi San Patricio, delicious and authentic food from participating Taste of Mexico restaurants as well as a Jose Cuervo margarita competition.