This earthy Mexican spirit adds depth of character and warmth to any number of cocktail mixes and is definitely worth exploring.
Tequila Time: 3 Ways to Reinvent Your Favourite Cocktail
Disclaimer: TASTEdriven assumes no responsibility for drunk texts sent after reading this post.
Tequila is an acquired taste but over the years has grown to become my poison of choice when the bartender asks ‘what’ll you have?’. For some, just a whiff of its heady aroma can be enough to conjure memories of questionable late night choices or a feeling of dread when someone yells, “let’s do a shot…rage!” (we all have that friend). But there’s so much more to tequila than the bar rail plonk of your nightmares, earning a place on the premium shelf next to the good gin and your favourite 12-year-old. This earthy Mexican spirit adds depth of character and warmth to any number of cocktail mixes and is definitely worth exploring.
I’ve been experimenting with a few different combinations replacing the primary spirit in traditional cocktail recipes with tequila, or doctoring up tequila-based favourites for a fresh take…a boozy trial and error experiment, to be sure. Read on for three tequila-infused libation ideas for the next time cocktail hour beckons.
Before I go any further, let’s clear something up…there is no worm found in a tequila bottle. That’s the gift with purchase that sometimes comes along with its smoky cousin, mezcal (more on that in a future post). Hailing from the town of Tequila in Mexico’s Jalisco region located between Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara, tequila is the noble spirit distilled from fermented agave. Over 200 varieties of the spiny, cactus-like plant thrive in Mexico’s arid desert regions but the blue agave, also known as Agave tequilana, is the only species that can be used to produce tequila per the region’s DOC guidelines. It’s actually not a cactus either, but rather part of the succulent family like aloe vera.
Once harvested, the heart of the agave (or piña) is steamed, then crushed to extract the juice and left to ferment between 7 – 12 days. From there, the mash is distilled twice which yields tequila blanco, also known as silver tequila. Tequila aged between two and 12 months is known as reposado, and left to age up to 3 years tequila is known as añejo. Personally, I prefer reposado best for its mild flavour and smooth finish over the sharper edge of a blanco. They’re each very different so the best thing to do is sample and find out which one agrees with you most. Regardless of the variety you choose, make sure the label says ‘100% agave’ which will be most cases if the tequila is produced in Mexico.
There are many delicious options available across Canada. Brands like 1800, El Jimador and Milagro are excellent choices in the under $50 range, and for a splurge there’s Patron, Don Julio and Casamigos between $60 – $100 for a 750ml bottle. One of my favourites called Corzo is really hard to find in Canada – the last place I found it was in dutyfree at the Edmonton airport. If you stumble across it, give it a whirl for me.
- 1½ oz blanco tequila
- 1 lime, cut into 8 pieces
- 5 – 6 mint leaves
- 1 – 2 small sprigs of cilantro
- Soda water
- 1 tsp sugar (I prefer raw sugar, but granulated sugar works just as well)
Place the lime pieces, mint, cilantro and sugar in a tall glass. Using a muddler or the handle of a wooden spoon, muddle everything together for a few minutes until the sugar is somewhat dissolved in the lime juice, and the mint and cilantro release their natural oils. Fill the glass with ice, pour in the tequila and top up with soda water.
Optional: If you’re brave, try adding a small slice of jalapeño pepper into the mix when you muddle the lime. The heat plays incredibly well with the cooling mint and it’s an unexpected touch, but be careful…a little goes a long way!
Negroni a la Mexicana
- 1 oz reposado tequila
- 1 oz Campari
- 1 oz sweet vermouth
- orange zest
With only 3 ingredients, there’s nowhere to hide so you’ll want to opt for a premium
tequila. Pour the tequila, Campari and vermouth over ice in a rocks glass and give it a quick stir. Add a slice of orange zest and enjoy.
TIP: use an oversized ice cube or ice sphere instead of regular ice cubes. The larger size ice melts slower and avoids over-diluting.
- 2 oz blanco or reposado tequila
- juice of 1 lime
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- rosemary salt to rim glass*
- ½ oz rosemary syrup**
The herbal hint of rosemary plays well off the sharpness of the lime for an unexpected take on the classic margarita. Combine tequila, lime juice and syrup in a cocktail shaker with a few ice cubes. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds, strain over ice in a rocks glass rimmed with rosemary salt . Garnish with fresh rosemary.
**Rosemary Salt: blitz 1/4 cup salt and 3 sprigs fresh rosemary in a food processor until the rosemary is finely ground into the salt. Store in an airtight container.
**Rosemary Syrup: to make the rosemary syrup, combine 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup water in a small saucepan with 4 – 5 sprigs of fresh rosemary. Simmer over medium heat until the sugar completely dissolves (about 5 minutes). Don’t overcook the syrup or it will start to caramelize and darken – the syrup should be clear and colourless. Let the rosemary steep in the syrup until cooled, then remove and store refrigerated in a glass jar for up to 1 month.
If you’re in the mood for something on the simpler side, you can’t go wrong with a good reposado and soda on the rocks with a squeeze of lime. Ever.