If you’ve been following along, you know that last New Year’s Eve I went to Puerto Vallarta with the fam. Puerto Vallarta is a popular beach resort in Jalisco. Which I also mentioned was the home of prominent Mexican stereotypes. Think mariachi and tequila.
Being an avid margarita drinker and someone who loves exploring wineries, I wanted to check out the tequila distilleries! I was keen on learning how tequila was made and I wanted desperately to spend a day sampling the alcohol.
However, tequila farms for tour are closer to Guadalajara. And while there were day trips, my parents were less than interested.
Luckily, we stumbled on a tour that would allow us to visit an old colonial town, San Sebastian. I wanted to see the Sierra Madre mountains and the Spanish architecture and mining villages so I was thrilled.
The best part of this tour was that it included a tequila stop where we would get to see a distillery, learn about the process, and sample tequila! Good enough for me.
Our bus pulled over to a small little brick store seemingly, in the middle of nowhere. A brick wall informed us that we had arrived at Restaurant Raicilla Distillery. We weren’t in the field, so agave plants weren’t lined up in sight but the distillery was covered with flowers and plants.
We meandered into a little courtyard with barrels and bottles of tequila with a lone agave plant in sight. The cynic inside me started complaining that this was just a sales opportunity for the farmer. I prepared to be disappointed.
However, I was pleasantly surprised and intrigued. Jesus, our tequila maker, started off by explaining the history of tequila.
Tequila comes from blue agave plants. Before modern day tequila, the Aztecs distilled their own milky alcoholic substance from these plants. Yum. But really, apparently it was very important for the Aztecs and used in rituals.
Unfortunately, the Aztec Empire fell and the Spaniards colonized Mexico. Colonization was a huge dick to these people so we’ll skip over the horrendous atrocities and discuss this another time. On to the tequila. The Spanish missed their brandy. Craving alcohol, they experimented fermenting with the blue agave plants. Eventually wah-la. We have our very own modern-day tequila.
But there’s a few other things I learned about tequila that my cheap college drinking days didn’t teach me. First of all, tequila is like champagne in the sense that for it to be real tequila, it has to be made in Mexico. Tequila can only be tequila if it is made with blue agave plants and fermented and made in specific regions of Mexico-including Jalisco.
Secondly, Mezcal is not the same thing as tequila. All tequila is mezcal, because mezcal is any alcohol in Mexico made from agave plants. But to be tequila, it must be made from blue agave plants. Got it? Basically, tequila and mezcal share similar rules to the rectangles and square rule. (All squares are a rectangle but all rectangles are not squares.)
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably tasted some awful tequila in your life. And if you had a bad experience with it, you’ve probably sworn off tequila forever.
But really, you shouldn’t.
Like wine, there are different types of tequila. Different ways of fermenting and flavors mean that alcohol levels and taste can vary to different extremes. And pretty sure tequila connoisseurs are an up and coming thing. What are the resume requirements for that job? Anyone…?
So, after getting a brief history lesson on tequila and being informed on how it’s made (if you’re not careful you can get moonshine!) we proceeded on to sampling the tequila. Read-throwing back mini-shots.
Now, you can’t just chug down tequila shots. We weren’t looking to get drunk here but to explore the actual flavors. Apparently, there is a way to drink tequila.
We were instructed count 1, 2, 3, deep breath in, and on the breath out let the liquid slide into your mouth and roll down your throat. The tongue gets ample time to absorb the flavors of the liquor and it doesn’t burn going down. But perhaps that was because it was quality tequila.
All in all, we sampled 5 different tequilas.
I remember two as being traditional tequilas. Good. But still-I wasn’t eager to have a glass by itself.
Then came the almond tequila. This bottle was so good that I have a half-drunken one in my kitchen right now.
Almond tequila introduced me to a whole new world of tequila tastes that I really didn’t know were possible. It was sweet, strong, and delicious. Perfect for drinking all by itself and taking in all the flavors.
Next, came the orange tequila. Specifically made as a margarita mix. This tequila was so sugary it was almost unbearable. But the fantastic fruit flavors would make for a wonderful refreshing marg. I’m imagining sipping one on the Puerto Vallarta beach right now.
Last but certainly not least, we sampled a chocolate coffee tequila. Talk about dessert drinks. You wouldn’t want to drink this alone. But it would be perfect poured into black coffee or, like the almond tequila, drizzled over ice cream.
If you are anything like me, you had no idea that chocolate coffee tequilas were a thing. Or that you could get sweet tequilas. I thought they were just gold or clear. But guys, this tequila is good stuff.
Moral of this story, if you’re in Jalisco, Mexico, get in on some type of tequila tasting. Even if you’re not a fan of tequila, the amount of different types of tequila and the process of making it will have you spellbound. Plus, do as the Romans do. Just don’t forget that lime and salt!