Tequila and Mescal or Mezcal, have an undeserved negative reputation due to the abuse of the spirits by ignorant youth. In reality, Tequila and Mescal have a refined nature, much like wine. Spring break college students have, for years, traveled south of the border in search of cheap alcohol and a good time. Shots of the inexpensive brands lead to wild behavior and thus, colorful stories post-vacation. The infamous liquor earned its status as the hangover king long ago, but decades later the immature partiers have grown up and are willing to give tequila another try. I am pleading the fifth, as far as if I have ever done any shots, but let’s just say I am more mature now and ready to give my more sophisticated palate a chance to shake off the memories of youthful indiscretions.
I enlisted the help of Tequila Master Alfredo Sanchez of The Four Seasons Punta Mita, Mexico to educate me about the finer points of Tequila and its smoky cousin Mescal. When I arrived at the Four Seasons’ outdoor lunch spot Ketsi, Alfredo was waiting for me at a table full of special bottles of the spirits and traditional accompaniments for tasting.
We tasted each liquor in special bowls. The cuastecomate tree has round shells are cut in half, the fruit removed and hollowed out. These naturally made mini-glasses were the perfect vessels for our tasting.
WHAT I TASTED
This blended white Tequila is $65 per shot! Alfredo suggests it should be served in a short snifter or another nice glass. It goes perfectly with a cigar in a relaxing atmosphere.
Marques Salmiana Plata Mescal:
Marques Salmiana Plata Mescal is made with Agave Salmiana. This company is one of the oldest in the country and comes from the state of Guanajuato. A shot sells for around $12.
Wahaka is the phonetic pronunciation of Oaxaca, the main state in which Tequila is made. It is the brand most people recognize as the one with the worm in it.
BruXo No. 4 Barril:
This is a new brand on the market since 2010, No. 4 is their “exotic” version. I found it to be a bit salty..
Marcanegra comes in a beautiful green bottle, is sweet but also has a smoky flavor. The second sip reveals different herbs, fruits and is very interesting. It’s a bit minty.
Los Danzantes is made with blue agave and is grown in Oaxaca. The flavor keeps going and going and tastes like band-aids to me, but has almost no odor. It was my least favorite at first taste..
El Jolgorio Pechuga:
This is seasonal signature mescal and during certain seasons goes through a third distillation where most other Tequilas have only two. They add chicken breasts and fruits from the season to the blend (pechuga is the word for breast). Alfredo told me they sometimes use rabbits. I tasted banana in it and no meaty flavors.
THE SALT MATTERS
Forget Morton table salt, Tequila and Mescal are meant to be tasted with authentic Mexican gourmet salts. I tried four different types of salt used by the locals. Each one has unusual ingredients that may seem strange outside Mexico, but I found them to be quite tasty:
worms and chilies.
grasshoppers and chilies.
big ants with wings and chilies.
Hawaiian black salt with Guajillo Chili Volcanica
The proper way to use the salt is to sprinkle it on a piece of fruit, sip the liquor and then bite into the salted fruit. I tried the Gusano with the Wahaka and the Chapulin with the Pechuga on pineapple. Other good fixings to use are pomegranate or jicama. The Mescal Los Dantes was divine with Chicatana and pineapple.
HOW TO TASTE
Mexican spirits have a strong link with traditions. Chasers for Mexican spirits are most common; Mexicans do not do shots.
According to Alfredo, “Imagine if all the Mexicans were drinking it straight all the time. Our bars would be a mess!”
I am sure the bars in Cabo San Lucus have been a mess from time to time with silly U.S. kids on spring breaker. Alfredo suggests you sip or combine the spirits with a s\Sangreta (mixer).
I sampled the Posada Tequila with a red Sangreta -Worchester sauce, Maggie sauce (which is like soy sauce), pepper, salt, tomatoes and orange juice. I tasted the Marques Salmiana Plata Mescal with a green Sangreta (recipe below).
All of the brands I tasted were certified organic and are 100% agave, which matters since a lower percentage equates with a lesser quality. Agave plants grow in different regions with distinctive climates giving the tastes and vintages unique flavors. Like wine, the terroir (the geography, climate, soil, natural elements) in which the plant is grown determines the outcome of the vintage.
I highly recommend you revisit this taboo treat from your youth and give it another chance. The surprisingly sweet varieties were my favorite and with over 200 brands to choose from, The Four Seasons Punta Mita is the perfect place to begin your journey.
- 1.5 ounces Poached cilantro.
- 1.5 ounces fresh mint
- 1.5 ounces Poached spinach
- 6 ounces Natural syrup
- 6 ounces Lime juice
- 1 Chile Serrano with seeds
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 4 ¼ cups Orange juice.
- Place all the ingredients in the mixer and mix them until they get liquid and easy to serve.
I was a guest of The Four Seasons Punta Mita and the Riviera Nayarit, Mexico’s Pacific Treasure. I was for sure was wowed by the experience, but the opinions are my own. Special thanks go to Alfredo Sanchez for being a patient teacher and great history professor.