In my adventures with cocktails over the past few years I have sampled all of the main base spirits like gin and rum, as well as some pretty exotic ones too. However, there is one spirit that has been almost entirely neglected by me – tequila. Sure I’ve mixed up the odd Margarita, and had a few of these tasty concoctions, but that’s about it.
I’m not really sure why it’s taken me so long to embrace it. It’s perhaps in-part due to nasty experiences with shots of horrible tequila whilst at university, and also because aside from the cheap and nasty stuff, it’s not easily available in this country. However, I have now finally purchased a decent bottle – Don Julio Añejo for those who like to know these kinds of things – so let’s see if I can’t do some catching up.
Tequila is a Mexican spirit that is made using at least 51% agave, a plant often, incorrectly, assumed to be a type of cactus. Cheaper tequilas can also include other ingredients to make up the remaining 49%, but the best use 100% agave and if at all possible you should buy tequila labeled as such.
Tequila is available in various ages, the youngest being blanco, which is un-aged and clear. The next oldest, reposado, spends between 2 months and a year in oak barrels. Añejo tequila is aged between one and three years and finally extra añejo is aged for anything above three years. Gold tequila has the appearance of añejo tequila, but is merely an imposter getting its colour from additives.
Tequila Old Fashioned
- 2 shots añejo tequila
- ½ bar-spoon agave syrup
- 2-3 dashes orange, lemon or grapefruit bitters
- Add syrup and bitters to an old-fashioned glass and stir. Add ice and tequila then stir well. Top off glass with ice and garnish with a strip of lime zest.
If you’ve only ever tried cheap blanco shots, or even a Margarita made with good reposado, añejo tequila will probably come as something of a surprise. Although aged just a few years the tequila is rendered incredibly smooth and nuanced compared to its harsher, younger siblings. The Tequila Old Fashioned has a lovely vanilla tone with plenty of citrus. Its finish is slightly spicy, with the citrus continuing through.
Trying this cocktail inadvertently turned in to a comparison of The Bitter Truth and Fee Brothers lemon bitters, both of which I have owned for some while but never actually used in a cocktail before. The Bitter Truth proved to be superior, tasting a lot more natural than the Fees which seemed quite sweet and artificial.
However, if you have them then Fee’s Grapefruit bitters are definitely the ones to use in this drink. The grapefruit hints work wonderfully with the tequila providing a very balanced drink. After this, tequila is definitely a spirit I will be exploring further…
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