Today’s post is brought to you by Michelle Boyles of South Philly Fashionista. South Philly Fashionista helps you navigate your way through all the fabulous things Philadelphia has to offer. Think of Michelle as your personal secret shopper, covering everything from food to fashion and general fun in the city of brotherly love. Whether you’re a style hound looking for your latest fix or a foodie looking for a phenomenal dish, SPF has what you’re looking for.
Michelle and I had to chance to meet at a local event. It was one of those scenarios where we kind of new each other via Twitter but never had the chance to really meet one another. Once we had the chance to sit down and chat, it was an instant connection. During our discussions, I learned Michelle was a connoisseur of tequila. I knew I had to have her guest post on my site and I thought Cinco de Mayo time would be perfect.
I am so thrilled to have the Michelle, the South Philly Fashionista on my site today. She offers a great post on finding the best tasting tequila for you.
Ladies and gentlemen, tequila’s time has come.
TIPS for FINDING THE BEST TASTING TEQUILA by Michelle Boyles, South Philly Fashionista
Cinco de Mayo is around the corner and while the “holiday” may be surrounded by a bit of cultural controversy, it’s a great excuse to kick off the outdoor drinking season, enjoy some margaritas with friends and try to find the best tasting tequila for you.
To know me, is to know my love of tequila. I fell in love with this fine spirit a few years ago when my husband and I took our first trip to Mexico and the curator of the tequila factory museum all but dared me to try it. One sip of quality tequila was enough to open my eyes. And yet, many people I talk to cringe at the thought of a bottle of yellowish liquid with the proverbial worm at the bottom. If this sounds familiar, I have something to share: things have changed since your college days.
Twenty years ago, most tequila available in the US was of the mixtos variety, meaning the agave-based alcohol was mixed with additives and coloring. Those additives are the reason for the nasty hangovers of your youth. What you want is 100% agave tequila, the purest of the pure, sweetest nectar of the agave plant. Today, there are endless varieties of quality tequila for American consumers. Under that umbrella exists a range of options, depending on myriad factors.
The first of these is the terroir, a French term referring to the individual characteristics of the microclimate in which a product is grown, aged and distilled. Though all tequila is produced in Mexico, the air, water and soil of a given region have a direct effect on the flora that thrives there. So, highland and lowland tequilas have different flavor profiles.
Tequila is made from the pina (or core) of the agave plant, which takes seven years to reach maturity. A whopping 12 lbs. of agave is needed to make just one liter of tequila. The size and shape of each plant can differ greatly, making mechanical harvesting almost impossible. The plant is hand-harvested by jimadores and the pinas are either cooked under pressure, or slow roasted in a cavernous oven for no less than 26 hours. Yeast is added to the resulting liquid, which is then placed in fermentation tanks for 45 days to allow the sugars to convert to alcohol. After the fermentation is complete, the spirit is twice distilled and follows one of a few potential paths.
Blanco tequila (also known as plata or silver) is bottled immediately. Personally, this is what captured my taste buds in Mexico all those years ago. Many experts will tell you that blanco is only good for mixing, but I’ve heard some experts say, “Tequila doesn’t call for age.” I tend to agree. Even if you’re not into blanco, you have to appreciate it because a good blanco is the basis for good aged tequila.
Some tequila will be aged, traditionally in white oak barrels, which can be toasted to different degrees. Aging is actually new to the tequila process and began as an effort to compete with brown spirits like whiskey that were historically more popular in Mexico. The amount of toasting a barrel undergoes depends on the manufacturer’s recipe, but directly impacts the flavor, giving it a smoky quality.
Aged tequila falls into three categories:
- Reposada – aged for at least two months and is also suitable for mixed drinks.
- Anejo – aged between one to three years and has a complex flavor, ideal for sipping.
- Super or extra Anejo – aged for 49 months. A whopping 50% of the alcohol originally placed in the barrel is lost to evaporation. This is known as the “angels’ share.”
When selecting your option, keep in mind that there are only about 100 distilleries involved in tequila production, so several brands of tequila are often offered by the same manufacturer, meaning you don’t have to spend all your pesos to get a quality beverage. Start with a sip to acquaint your palate with the flavor notes.
Whichever you choose, you’re sure to find the days of the harsh tequila sunrise have passed. I’d encourage you to attend one of Tequilas tasting events or conduct your own to determine the best tasting tequila for you, but be sure to start with a blanco as the flavors of reposada and anejo will typically overpower the subtlety of the former.
Now, all this talk of tequila has made me a bit thirsty, so I’m off to conduct a tasting of my own.
THANK YOU to Michelle, the South Philly Fashionista, for guest posting on my site. Much love to you, girlfriend. Please be sure to show South Philly Fashionista some love – follow her on Twitter, like her page on Facebook and make sure to check out her blog.