Continuing the Discerning Drinker series in Elysium Magazine, this focus for the next instalment is around tequila. Often tainted by a dabble with ‘one too many shots’ in youthful days of the past, tequila can acquire a notorious reputation that any spirit aficionado can take with them as the years roll on.
Not here. Elysium Magazine, as part of the series that educates the discerning drinker, one tipple at a time, uncovers how best to enjoy tequila. To help we’ve enlisted the help of mixologist Dean Shury from Chiltern Firehouse to help the discerning gent navigate the seas of tequila out there and how best to enjoy them.
The discerning gent is a fan of a good tequila but there’s plenty about. What’s the difference between the various types available and should I prefer one type over another?
For me, I always request a tequila that is 100% agave, this means 100% of the spirit inside of the bottle is distilled from agave. If it doesn’t say 100% Agave on the bottle it is a mixed tequila which can have as little as 51% agave spirit inside, with the other 49% being made up of spirit distilled from other sugars, normally sugar cane. Once you’re looking at 100% agave tequila the choice mainly comes down to ageing, many bar tenders like myself prefer a young unaged tequila known as a Blanco or Plata, these really show off the green herbaceous notes of the agave and are the best way to really judge a tequila brands quality. Other people might prefer a tequila which has been rested or aged in a barrel, the barrel softens the flavour of the tequila adding notes often associated with whiskies or cognacs for example. If that’s more your thing, go for a Reposado (rested) or Anejo (aged) or even an extra Anejo. It’s completely down to your individual taste and don’t necessarily think that a tequila that has spent longer in a barrel is better than a younger one.
If there is one thing I should always remember about drinking tequila, what would that be?
Remember the hard work that has gone into making it. It takes between 7-10 years for an individual agave to be mature enough to be used in tequila production. That’s a lot of work to keep it healthy over all that time. It really is a beautifully made, artisanal product and takes much more work to produce than most other spirits.
When drinking tequila, should it always be via a shot or is there another way to enjoy this spirit? Is the choice of glass a key consideration for tequila?
It’s up to you. I sip mine most of the time however I am still partial to a shot and love drinking tequila in a cocktail. You can substitute it in to most classics and with great effect often improving on the original. For this stick to one rule of thumb, replace whites spirits with a Blanco or Plata tequila and dark spirits with a Reposado or Anejo. My favourite is replacing the gin in a Last Word cocktail with a Blanco tequila, it’s a great drink.
We know that salt and lemon is a tradition with tequila, but is this really the right way to enjoy this drink? Would water or ice help? Or should I consider a mixer too? If so, what type of mixer?
If you are shooting decent 100% agave tequila there is no need for salt and lemon, these combinations have been used for a long time to mask the flavour of poor quality tequila and if it’s a decent tequila then there is really no need. For a lighter style of drinking tequila have it long with lots of ice and soda or tonic. You could also try drinking it like many Mexicans do- straight with Sangrita on the side.
How should a discerning gent drink his tequila? Talk us through the steps
When you are tasting tequila firstly hold the glass up to the light and have a look at the liquid, the colour will give you an idea of what you’re about to taste, check the legs then start with the nose, don’t stick your nose in the glass like a wine as it will be too much, but just hold it over the top of the glass and enjoy. With a younger tequila you will get green, agave notes- an older one will give you caramel and oaky notes. Then from there take your first sip, covering your tongue you will taste all the different notes as the tequila moves over different taste receptors. Repeat the process a few times and then sit back, enjoy and finish the glass.
If I wanted to impress my friends/boss/father-in-law when at the bar, what type of tequila should I order?
Ask him what he normally likes to drink, if he is a gin or a vodka man get him a Blanco or Plata tequila and if he is a whisky or brandy man then move on to the aged stuff. Just make sure it is a quality 100% agave tequila and they will love it.
Tell us more about your role / involvement with Patron Tequila?
Last year I was lucky enough to win the Patrón Perfectionist’s Cocktail Competition with a cocktail called Provedence. I focused on an aperitif serve and the drink has gone down with both Patrón and my guest’s at Chiltern Firehouse very well. Patrón took me to Hacienda Patrón in the highlands of Jalisco in April to see how their tequila is made and it was such an amazing trip. The passion and integrity of how Patrón make their tequila is incredible, from the production of the tequila to their environmental initiatives, to the way they treat their workers, it was great to see. I am still very close with the Patrón team here in the UK and will be part of the judging team for this year’s Patrón Perfectionist’s Cocktail Competition.