I’ve been in Mexico for some time now and while I am a long way from being an expert on the subject of tequila I still feel somewhat duty bound to weigh in with an opinion. And being a gringo doesn’t disqualify me from having an opinion on the matter; in fact if you ask any Mexican you’ll only find the best he can offer is just another opinion too.

Cultural backgrounds and personal preferences aside, there are still some generally agreed upon standards of what constitutes great tequila.

For instance most of my local cantina drinking buddies agree that Herradura Blanco is the starting point by which all other tequilas can be judged. It is considered to be the closest thing flavor wise to what comes out of the perfect distillation process. When it is poured into a glass ‘pearls’ form at the top. It is a strong tequila – meaning higher in alcohol content than most tequilas – and is treated with respect. It is also considerably more expensive than other tequilas. In a working man’s cantina 80 ml shots cost 40, 45, and 50 pesos depending on the brand with Herradura Blanco costing in at the top. Some cantinas offer 90 and 100 ml shots sometimes costing the same or maybe only 5 or 10 pesos more than the prices I just quoted.

My favorite every day tequila is Puebla Viejo Reposado (meaning ‘rested’). From my experience it is the best value proposition costing 40 pesos in the cantina and 160 pesos for a liter bottle. My neighborhood shop sells a Puebla Viejo package of a 1 L bottle of Reposado and 200 ml mini-bottle of Anejo (aged) for 170 pesos which is by far the best deal around. It has a very well rounded flavor that lends itself to sipping.

My all time favorite tequila is Tapatio Reposado. It has a distinctive peppery flavor to it that I find very agreeable. A liter bottle will set you back 300 pesos (same price as Herradura Blanco) so I reserve it for special occasions only.

Image

Pancho maintains that tequila raises the blood pressure slightly so it doesn’t have any of those sedative like properties that come with drinking other spirits. I don’t know about that but we both agree that it takes a lot of work to properly manage the chemistry of a good buzz. Inter-mixing the right botanas (snacks) at the right time is part of that chemistry. Sliced pepenos (cucumber) and jicama with fresh chilies and squeezes of lime is not just one of the most loved bar snacks but goes awfully damn well with tequila too.

As a side story – I more or less had to quit going to the El Cito Cantina. And not because I was getting fat from the free bar snacks or that the tequila was cheap or that the servings were too big; only a prudish teetotaling idiot would complain about things like that. This isn’t California where there are lots or rules and regulations governing everything from food storage temperatures to shot glass sizes. I remember back many years ago when I was a bartender and someone – a man someone – complained to me that their drink was ‘too strong’. To my way of thinking that’s like complaining you got upgraded to first class without being asked first. Thank goodness there are still places like the El Cito that not just serves proper sized drinks but where every last man is grateful for it too.

Nope I had to give it up because of people like Salvador and Gilberto and Santiago; people too damn nice for their own good. Some of the friendliest men in town have a couple of drinks down at the El Cito a few times a week trading gossip, listening to the mariachis, and singing along when they feel compelled. That’s all good but they have this convivial habit of buying drinks and a way of doing it where saying no only works for so long before that tequila that you’ve been drinking starts saying yes. So I found it was best to avoid nice places like that; a couple of  cervezas and 4 or more shots later and your planned early night walk home magically turns into a late night cab ride.

Advertisements