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Drink Tequila in Mexico
Tequila Doesn’t Give You A Hangover. “Yeah, right!” you say?
“Yeah, right,” say mixologists and tequila makers on both sides of the border.
“Tequila treats you the same way you treat it,” says Steve Calabro, bartender at Rick Bayless’s Red O in Los Angeles. “If you aggressively slam it back, it will get mad and return the favor.”
Start with a quality tequila. Your first clue is to look for “100% Agave” on the label. Under Mexican law, tequila must be made from only the blue Weber agave plant (pictured) from the Tequila region in the state of Jalisco.
US regulations, on the other hand, allow it to be called tequila even if contains as much as 49 percent other liquids, commonly sugar-based alcohols. That means if you drink it, you’re mixing alcohols. Many experts say that’s what gives tequila its bad reputation.
Sue Torres, chef of Sueños in New York City, also credits “chemicals and additives such as coloring or a worm” for tequila headaches. The worm makes for a colorful story (merchants legendarily put worms in bottles of mescal, tequila’s first cousin, to show that the contents were alcohol, not water), but, Torres cautions, “Don’t buy mescal that has a worm in it.”
Tequila has health benefits.
Experts say that a shot before lunch can stimulate the appetite, and one after a big dinner can aid digestion. Pairing that shot with a glass of water is a good way to go.“Being someone with blood sugar sensitivities,” Torres says, she believes that tequila is better for the body than other alcohols. “The sugars are simple sugars, so they break down easily in your body.”
“I have read that tequila has a component that can, in moderation, aid in lowering cholesterol,” says Roger Bailey, head bartender at Filini in Chicago. Studies have shown that tequila can break down dietary fat, which can indeed help lower LDL levels, the bad cholesterol. In addition, he says, “tequila will alleviate mild strain, tension, and headaches,” though he adds “I don’t suggest slamming tequila to get rid of a migraine.”
You’ve gathered by now that moderation is key. All our experts caution that overdoing any alcoholic beverage is harmful.
Tequila Makes You Smarter. Or at least, knowing about it makes people think you are.
The Tequila Regulation Council recognizes five types of tequila: Colorless blancos and platas (silvers) are typically right out of the distiller (blancos are higher proof), reposados must age at least two months and añejos over one year. A newer category, extra-añejo, ages even longer. Herradura, for example, ages its extra-añejo for 49 months, by which time the liquid has lost 40 percent of its volume; makers call this evaporation the angel’s share.As tequilas barrel-age, they take on increasingly complex flavors and colors. Silvers typically taste most like the agave plant, and the clean flavor makes them a favorite for mixing cocktails. “It you can make a nice blanco tequila, you can make a beautiful reposado, añejo or extra-añejo,” says Herradura’s Ruben Aceves.
“A great reposado or añejo tequila will lend slight woody and vanilla notes, and if you are lucky it will have some smoke to it,” says Roger Bailey. Aficionados prefer to sip these aged tequilas like brandy. Not to mention, when some añejos cost in the hundreds – or thousands – of dollars a bottle, it seems a waste to mix them.
One category the Tequila Regulation Council does not recognize: gold. That’s a marketing name for tequila enhanced with caramel coloring. But that’s mixing, and now you know about mixing.
Another cool story: the origin of the margarita. Paul Tanguay, of Chicago’s Tippling Bros. and Mercadito, says that around the turn of the last century, a popular cocktail called the daisy was made of gin or brandy plus lemon juice and grenadine or syrup. “During Prohibition, people started flocking to Mexico, and it’s said that there was a racetrack in Tijuana that started making daisies with tequila,” substituting lime juice, agave and Grand Marnier for lemon, simple syrup and grenadine. “Margarita is Spanish for daisy.”