Tequila Mockingbird: Talking Mezcal, Aztecs and Mayhem

By Logan R. Brouse, August 31, 2018

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201703/logan.pngLogan R. Brouse, proprietor and mixologist of Logan’s Punch and Tacolicious, has run bars and clubs in Shanghai for over eight years. In between hangovers, he puts pen to paper in his column for That's to record his pontifications on the drink industry.

What I like about bars is the tales that come out of drinking and how even the most unbelievable sagas always make for good conversation. With that in mind – pour yourself a glass of something strong, lean back and get ready for a story involving mezcal, Aztecs and possibly mayhem, because today we talk Tequila and baby, I talk it like I walk it…

To start: all tequila is mezcal, but not all mezcal is tequila. Mezcal refers to a fermented agave spirit while tequila must be produced in certain designated states in Mexico (Jalisco, Michoacán, Guanajuato, Nayarit and Tamaulipas) and can only be made from blue agave, just like how Champagne can only come from Champagne, France. Similar to scotches, there are highland and lowland regions of Mexico that produce different tasting tequilas.

A crop of agave awaiting distillation. Image by Logan R. Brouse/That's

On top of that, you have mezcal, which comes from the Oaxaca, Guerrero, Durango, Zacatecas and San Luis Potosí regions and stool, a lesser-known agave-based liquor, which is from the Chihuahua, Durango and Coahuila regions. Now I know you nerds are wondering how this knowledge can help you meet potential mates at Manhattan. To this I answer, convenient strawman, let’s talk colors.

Tequila comes in several different shades, and much like the Swedish Women’s Hockey Team at the 2018 Olympics, there is no gold (pause for the amazing reference). We have our classic blanco or silver tequila, which is bottled right after distillation, then there is reposado (meaning ‘rested’ in Spanish), which is aged a minimum of two months and less than one year in wooden vats. Furthermore, you have the belle of the ball, anejo which is aged for at least 12 months in casks no larger than 600 liters. When you see tequila labeled as gold, it usually means a company adds coloring and flavoring to silver tequila. Read the label and try your best to get a reposado. Your lack of hangover will thank me.

Brouse harvesting agave on a recent trip to Mexico. Image courtesy Logan R. Brouse/That's

Let’s go back in time to the originators of Mexico City, the ancient Aztecs. They had been drinking fermented agave in some form or another since forever, with the spirit of choice between ritual sacrifices and pyramid building being a drink called pulque. It tastes like boozed up sweet potatoes and the smell matches. From this, enterprising individuals in Mexico made a version of the beverage we now call mezcal. According to one story I heard recently while researching tequila, tacos and Mexican strip clubs for That’s Shanghai, people all over the world started drinking mezcal with the most popular one being the one from Tequila. Linguistic experts, like the ones that work at Guadalajara’s Candy Shop, assured me that ‘mezcal from Tequila’ was shortened to tequila and a booze was born.

"Tequila is served with orange and cinnamon or naked (and you can touch the strippers)."

Now we know about tequila, but how do we apply this lesson? Here is a story of dubious credibility that I read on the menu at Tia Maria in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Just after the Second World War, businessmen on golf/work trips in Palm Springs, California learned to shoot tequila with a bite of lime and lick of salt. Soon their wives and girlfriends began joining on these outings, but the flavor didn’t go over well with them, so an enterprising bartender added ice, Cointreau (for sweetness) and fresh lime juice. Shaken and and poured into a salt-rimmed glass, the same elements turned into something far more drinkable. 

image via Flickr

Here comes the mayhem – in Mexico, margaritas aren’t a big deal. Tequila is served with orange and cinnamon or naked (and you can touch the strippers). So, what do they drink for their tequila cocktails if it’s not a nice limey marg?

Palomas – meaning the white bird, are an amazing mix of blanco tequila, grapefruit soda, lime juice and a little thing called love. Try it out yourself with the handy recipe below.

Image via negativespace.co

Loco Logan's Paloma

  • 45 ML blanco tequila (I prefer Altos)

  • 10 ML fresh lime juice

  • Ice (fun fact: in Spanish, ice sounds like the word yellow)

  • Top with Grapefruit Capi

Pour it all into a glass with sea salt and pink peppercorn rim. Enjoy!

[Cover image via Pixabay]  

See more of Logan's columns here

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