Don't be Scared!
For most people the mere mention of Tequila stirs up strong emotions. Images come to mind of drunken party goers doing shots. I mean who hasn’t been to Mexico and taken a booze cruise? You also hear comments like “I end up naked if I drink Tequila”. Well, I am here to tell you that Tequila has a bad rep. There’s so much more to Tequila than margaritas. It is a sophisticated drink to be enjoyed like a fine whiskey.
The town of Tequila, located in the state of Jalisco, was the first to produce Tequila, thus, this fabulous elixir took on that same name. Tequila was founded in 1530 by the Ticuila Indian Tribe and Jose Cuervo was the first to export the liquor to the U.S. in 1873. Tequila can only be made from 100% blue agave and produced only in 5 states in Mexico – Jalisco, Michoacán, Gunanjuato, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. 90% of Tequila, however, is produced in Jalisco.
Tequila vs Mezcal
What is the difference? Since Mezcals are any agave based liquor, technically all Tequilas are Mezcals, but not all Mezcals are Tequilas. What? It’s sort of like that rule in Geometry that all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. Confused yet?
The agave plant is a spiky leafed member of the lily family that is related to the century plant. Tequila can ONLY be produced from 100% blue agave in one of the 5 above mentioned states. Mezcal is made from the fermented juice of ANY agave plant and can be made throughout Mexico. They are both harvested the same way by a “jimador” using a sharp instrument called a coa. When the plant is mature enough, the leaves are stripped away and the center of the plant called a piña is harvested. The piñas are cut into quarters and slowly baked in steam ovens called autoclaves for Tequila or baked in underground ovens heated with wood charcoal for Mezcal. This cooking process is what gives Mezcal its smoky taste, which isn’t for everyone, myself included. It takes 12-15 pounds of agave to make a 1 liter bottle.
Types of Tequila
There are 3 main types of Tequila: Silver or Blanco (White), Reposado, and Anejo. All Tequila distillers follow the same process, but not the same recipe. So this affects the taste from one brand to the other. Silver Tequila is agave in its purest form. It is typically unaged and can be bottled right after distilling or aged in steel tanks for up to 2 months for a smoother taste. This type is good for mixing and blends well into fruit based drinks. Reposado, which means rested, is aged in toasted and charred White American Oak barrels for 2 – 11 months. It gets its golden hue from the barrel and takes on a vanilla, cinnamon, or pepper taste from the oak. Añejo, which literally means aged, spends anywhere from 1 – 3 years barreled and darkens to an Amber hue. This causes the tequila to develop a smoother, richer, and more complex flavor. But what about the gold tequila I pay extra for in my Gran Gold Margarita? Skip it! It’s basically silver tequila with caramel color.
No, we aren’t eating the tequila. NOM stands for Norma Oficial Mexicana or the Official Mexican Standard. This is the distillery number assigned by the government to identify and regulate where tequila is produced. Authentic tequila must have a NOM number located on either the front or back of the bottle. Why is this important to you? Well since many distilleries bottle tequila for different brands, if you have a favorite tequila, chances are you will like other tequilas with the same NOM number. For example, Herradura, which I like very much, has a NOM number of 1119. When I looked it up, I found that El Jimador also has the same NOM number and is less expensive. My favorite tequila is IZKALI Reposado imported locally in Stafford, Texas by Ignacio and Lydia Flores. Its NOM number is 1545, so I’ll be sure to check out other tequilas with the same number. Want to find to find the NOM number for your favorite tequila? Check out the NOM Database.
The best way to learn more about tequila and enjoy them for the flavor is to attend a tasting. I was fortunate enough to be part of the Tequila Appreciation Society’s exclusive Herradura Tequila tasting. It was a fantastic demonstration and educational experience. The Pastry War on 310 Main Street offers amazing tequila tasting classes with exotic accompaniments like Oaxacan Worm salt and orange slices or dried and spiced grasshoppers with pineapple dusted with Tajin. For unique house infused tequilas, I recommend a trip to El Big Bad at 419 Travis Street. If you’re on the north side of town, Yucatan Taco Stand in Market Street offers a great selection of Tequila Flights. Just remember the next time you hit the bar, avoid that house margarita, order your favorite cocktail made with tequila or just have some on the rocks to sip and savor!
This past summer I happen to be in Los Olivos, CA. and I saw an advertisement for a wine and cupcake pairing. I was immediately mesmerized. A few random thoughts crossed my mind. I love wine. I love cupcakes. I really love wine. What evil genius had created such a thing? How can I get some? I immediately headed to Sarloos and Sons to see what all the fuss was about and all I can say is that it was a magical experience.
Well, that Summer lovin’ that brought me such joy was now a faded memory. Then I started to brainstorm a way to get my cupcake wine fix! I am always looking for new wines to try and am VERY fortunate to have a boutique wine shop close to home. I conspired with Effie Stees of Envy Wine Room in Old Town Spring (OTS) to put together an exclusive tasting for the members of The Spring/Woodlands Foodie Tasting and Deals group and it was a success! Effie contacted Cake Swirl in OTS and came up with four perfect pairings. My taste buds were in heaven!
Now for any wine tasting, you should always follow the 5 S’s:
For our first pairing, we enjoyed a Meyer Lemon Cupcake with Lemon cream cheese frosting paired with Ana Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand. Ana is the 2015 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Gold Class Champion and Regional Reserve Class Champion for the International Wine Competition. The wine was dry and light bodied with a zesty freshness to it. The tartness of the lemon cupcake really brought out the brightness in the wine and helped balance out some of the grassy notes.
The second course was a Vanilla Bean cupcake with Vanilla Buttercream frosting paired with Bruce Wayne Chardonnay, Sonoma County. The chardonnay is barreled in French and American oak. It has flavors of apple, pear, and vanilla with a creamy finish making it absolutely delicious with the cupcake.
Next up was a Red Velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting paired with Juliet Pinot Noir, Australia. This was by far my favorite wine. Fruit forward and subtle with a smooth and vibrant finish. The berries in the wine and the velvety chocolate cake brought to mind visions of chocolate dipped strawberries.
Finally, we finished the evening off with a Triple Chocolate cupcake with dark chocolate frosting paired with Jigar Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County. I cannot say enough wonderful things about this wine! Fruity with a hint of spice and vanilla. Bold enough for a steak, yet smooth enough to pair with the finest dark chocolates.
Looking to host your own cupcake party? The Golden Rule to follow is the wine should always be sweeter than the dessert. But cupcakes are sweet, you say! No worries, follow these easy tips:
Lemon or Citrus cupcake - Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling
Italian Crème or Vanilla cupcake - an oaked Chardonnay
Chocolate or Fruity cupcakes - Pinot Noir or Merlot
Dark Chocolate - Zinfandel or Cabernet
Or create your own combinations. Just have fun with it and enjoy!
About the Author
I like eating, traveling, and enjoying liquid libations. I'm all about great wines, signature cocktails, and local brews.