those factors aren’t much in evidence
beyond listing the tequilas in regional
groups. Restaurant generally say only
that they prefer drinks made with
blanco tequila, chains prefer to have
specialized variants on the Margarita,
independents and craft bars are
more interested in drinks that take a
different approach. But much depends
on location. On the West Coast, bars
and restaurants want more fresh fruit-
driven and seasonal drinks, while in
the East, more potent, stirred drinks
using longer-aged expressions are
appreciated. He’s even been asked for a
barrel-aged Margarita.
Meanwhile, branded Margaritas
are making headway. At the recently
opened Stampeded 66 in Dallas, a half-
dozen or so Margaritas differ in fruit
components (passion fruit, guanabana,
etc.) and brand included (Cuervo, Par-
tida, etc.). Not too far away at Haceinda
on Henderson, a handful of tequilas
infused with pineapple, strawberry and
habanero with mango are served at five
degrees from a draft system or used as
ingredients in cocktails.
The biggest change in the mass-mar-
ket restaurant world, says Martinez, is
the replacement of mixto tequilas with
inexpensive 100% agave brands in the
bar well, and a slow but steady move-
ment away from giant schooners of fro-
zen Margaritas.
Still, the appeal is undeniable.
Jimmy
Buffett’s
Margaritaville
restaurants served more than 4 million
Margaritas throughout 2012, and for
the February 22nd National Margarita
Day, the chain offered a one-hour
Margaritaville University Margarita-
making class. At the 41 Abuelo’s
Mexican Restaurants, the National
Margarita Day celebration featured
discounted Margaritas including the
1800 Hand-Shaken Margarita and
the Frida Margarita (Herradura Silver,
Grand Marnier, agave nectar).
At the more experimental end of
the spectrum are bars such as Chicago’s
Mercadito, where numerous creative
agave cocktails make the list—Big Nose
Goes to Mexico (Herradura blanco,
tequila reposado, dark rum, guava
and orgeat syrup), Pepino el Pyu (Tres
Generaciones blanco, cucumber, lem-
on, hoja santa and cumin salt), Black
Sand (blanco tequila, watermelon, dry
vermouth, Mexican oregano, mint and
black salt), and the Dizzy Oaxacan (mez-
cal, grapefruit, lemon, ginger beer, bit-
ters and cayenne pepper.)
In an separate bar, Double A, be-
low Mercadito, the same drink devel-
opers (the Tippling Brothers, Tad Car-
ducci and Paul Tanguay) put together a
more contemporary menu, with cold
drinks (Easy to Love, made with Mila-
gro blanco, Aperol, honey syrup and
lemon) and hot (Hot Mulled Cider
with Olmeca Altos reposado, apple ci-
der, thyme, chiles morita and guajillo,
clove and cinnamon).
Even in Las Vegas, the home of the
bad frozen Margarita in a bucket, bars
are stepping up their tequila game. The
Cosmopolitan Hotel’s bars and restau-
rants serve, among others, the Madame
Curry (Gran Centenario Reposado,
mango purée, curry spice, yuzu sour
and simple syrup).
LOOKING
AHEAD
The biggest change in many years in
the tequila business in the U.S. market
promises to be the move (announced in
March, to take effect July 1st) by Jose
Cuervo from long-time distribution
partner Diageo to Proximo Spirits,
where Cuervo brands 1800 and Gran
Centenario already reside. The much-
smaller Proximo will have its hands
full managing the fortunes of the
world’s largest tequila brand, especially
as consumer attention is increasingly
turning to niche and specialty brands.
Whatever happens, you can
probably bet on the fact that when
2013 is done, the American market
will have continued to order more
tequila, made in more ways and served
in more drinks. Whether those bottles
and drinks hinge more on brand name,
origin or stylistic category may have to
wait for 2014.
n
Tequila is made from the blue agave
plant, which resembles a cactus but is
actually a member of the lily family. At the
heart of the plant is the “piña” (similar
in appearance to a pineapple), which
produces the aguamiel (“honey water”)
that is fermented and distilled.
Tequila may only be produced in
designated areas of Mexico, most notably
the state of Jalisco; the spirit takes its
name from the town of Tequila.
There are two basic classifications for
tequila: 100% blue agave, which must be
100% from blue agave plants and bottled
in designated regions of Mexico; and
mixto, which must be at least 51% from
blue agave.
Tequilas are further segmented based on
aging.
Blanco
(aka silver) is clear and
unaged.
Joven
(aka gold or abocado)
spends several months in tanks before
bottling.
Reposado
(meaning rested) is
the first definitive level of aging; these
tequilas rest in wood (usually oak) barrels
for two to 12 months.
Añejo
(meaning
“old” or “mature”) applies to tequilas
aged at least one year in oak barrels;
these tend to be darker, smoother and
more complex.
Extra añejo
tequila has
rested at least three years in barrel.
Tequila 101
tequila
tequila
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