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Tequila: The Spirit of Mexico

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More so than nature or nurture, tequila may be responsible for Bing Crosby’s voice. Crosby and fellow warbler Phil Harris were so enamored with the Herradura tequila they discovered while traveling in Mexico in the 1950s that they created their own import company to bring it back to the States, ensuring a never-ending supply of throat tonic.

Tequila is as misunderstood as it is mainstream. Contrary to popular belief, it is not sourced from cactus but from the Agave tequilana Weber, otherwise known as the Mexican agave plant, a relative of the lily. The finest tequilas are made from 100 percent blue agave.

Although some brands of mescal, a cousin of tequila, include a gusano (a moth larva), true tequilas do not. The worm was originally added to test the mixture’s alcoholic strength: If the worm remained whole, the spirit contained a suitable amount of alcohol. These days the harmless gusano serves merely as a gimmick.

 

Legally produced in three Mexican states, tequila is mostly made in Jalisco, near the sleepy little town of Tequila. The spirit is a highly versatile mixer, but a single cocktail, the margarita, popularized tequila. Some attribute the post–World War II origin of this mystique-laden cocktail to Danny Herrera, a bartender at Tijuana’s Rancho La Gloria. Others assign it to Pancho Gonzales at Tommy’s Bar in Ciudad Juarez. A few say Margarita Sames, a Dallas socialite vacationing in Acapulco, concocted the drink at a party she hosted in 1948, and word of the cocktail spread quickly to the States.

While “rested” (reposado) and aged (añejo) tequilas are fine for mixing, many aficionados prefer the fresher taste of unaged silver tequila for cocktail blending. The superb Chinaco Blanco has a creamy texture and plenty of pepper and spice. Texas-based aficionado Park Kerr created Nacional tequila, a limited-production boutique brand of intense agave character.

Those who still prefer their tequila neat are in luck. AsomBroso will soon release its La Rosa ($70), a pink-tinged reposado aged in Bordeaux barrels—the first of its kind. To permit production and shipping, Mexico is altering its legislation, which requires aged tequila to be golden in color. Early next year, look for AsomBroso del Porto ($550), a honeyed, smoky añejo aged in port casks.

 

Connoisseurs will have the elegantly balanced, amber-toned Herradura Selección Suprema ($300) on hand at all times, along with the José Cuervo Reserva de la Familia ($100), which promises a lush caramel complexity.

Margarita

{The one and only}

11¼2 oz. 1800 silver tequila  |  1 oz. Grand Marnier

Lime slices |  Kosher salt

1 oz. lime juice  |  2 oz. crushed ice

Moisten the rim of a cocktail glass with a slice of

lime. Pour salt onto a small plate and press the rim

of the glass into the salt. In a shaker, combine tequila,

Grand Marnier, and lime juice with ice. Mix and strain

into the glass. Garnish with lime.

Tequila Mockingbird

{Boo Radley says Salud!}

11¼2 oz. Patrón tequila

1¼4 oz. green crème de menthe

Juice of half a lime

Scoop of crushed ice

Ice water or cold club soda

Mix the first four ingredients in a highball glass.

Top with ice water or soda and stir gently.

Crazy Nun

{Here’s looking at you, sister}

11¼2 oz. El Tesoro Platinum tequila

Scoop of crushed ice  |  11¼2 oz. anisette

Fill an old-fashioned glass with ice. Add tequila and anisette and stir.

(Use less anisette for a drier drink.)

 

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