Recently, I went tequila tasting at Mestizo – a fabulous Mexican restaurant in London. Located on Hampstead Road. Mestizo serves up simple, honest and most importantly, delicious Mexican food. But it’s home to the largest tequila selection in London.
Mestizo holds various tequila tasting nights, and the event we went to was hosted by a Herradura representative. My knowledge of this heady distilled beverage is largely limited to downing shots at the bar with a wedge of lime and lick of salt, or more recently, a penchant for frozen margaritas. But the tequila tasting night opened my eyes to the complexity of this drink and how Mexicans enjoy it in a much more sophisticated way to we Brits. I also learnt a thing or two about its history, and the common myths we might have heard around this Mexican spirit.
Top Three Myths about Tequila
Tequila is made from the Cactus plant
You might think this due to the typical image of a Mexican standing by a cactus with a bottle of Tequila, but it is actually made from the piñas – the succulent core of the Agave plant which looks similar to a cactus but is in fact a lily plant. Ancient Aztecs believed the Agave plant was a gift from Mayahuel – the goddess of fertility. The piñas go through a distilling and fermentation process to produce up to five types of Tequila.
Bottles of Tequila used to be sold with a worm in the bottom
They did come complete with a wiggly creature but it wasn’t the worm variety, it was a grub. During the prohibition era, a grub from the agave plant was placed inside the bottle. If the grub decayed, the Tequila was not the 40% alcohol content it should have been. If the grub stayed intact, you knew you were getting a genuine bottle.
Tequila has always been drank with Salt and Lime
Although salt and lime do compliment Tequila, this is more of a marketing gimmick. The Mexicans drink Tequila in many sophisticated ways, often straight with ice, and often like a small glass of wine with food.
Tequila Tasting at Mestizo: The three Herradura Tequilas we tried
The youngest Tequila which leaves the distilling process before the two month stage. It’s mainly clear but may have a subtle straw colour. Hints of citrus and wood. Main type used for making Margaritas.
Aged from two months to a year (the one we tried was 11 months old). Subtle toffee or caramel odour and more yellow in colour.
Aged from one to two years (the one we tried was two years old). Smells of banana and tropical fruits like pineapple
There were many things I learned from Mestizo’s Tequila Tasting.
Top Tequila Facts
– The spirit can only be granted the name ‘Tequila’ if distilled in Mexico, and also by law, Tequila must also be distilled at least twice.
– Tequila is a type of Mezcal, but Mezcal is not a type of Tequila.
– Tequila must compose of at least 50% agave but can also come as a ‘mixed’ or ‘mixto’ Tequila which means it contains 50% agave plus a mix of other sugar canes.
From my experience at Mestizo, I also learned about my personal preferences for this Mexican spirit. To me, the smell of the tequila rarely smells how it tastes. I was quite surprised by the lovely caramel odours from the Reposado and Añejo, but as soon as I sipped them I was hit by overpowering sharpness and heat which ran through my palate and nose. They are of course, around 40% alcohol content so what did I expect but wow, they pack a punch.
For me, the tequila tasting class was an interesting exercise and I’ll leave you with some of Mestizo’s Herradura cocktail recipes. So, if like me, drinking straight tequila is a bit too much to take, you can sip on one of these mouth watering punches.
Tequila Herradura Plata, fresh lime juice, salt and grape fruit soda in a Collins glass
LUCES DE ACAPULCO (Acapulco)
Tequila Herradura Reposado, coconut rum, blue Curracao, pineapple and orange juice, served frozen in a tall, slim glass
Tequila Herradura Reposado, Midori liqueur and Drambuie and orange juice served in martini glass
MEXICAN BOM BOM
Tequila Herradura Anejo, Franjelico, double cream, coconut milk, splash of Carnation and chocolate and agave nectar, served in a brandy snifter