Tequila looms large, and often not in a good way. Everyone who has reached maturity as a drinker has some truly wretched story about what they did (or don’t remember doing) under its boisterous influence. This has perhaps more to do with the way we novices, especially on the east coast, consume the spirit—it’s the shot someone hands us when we’re already too far gone, or the stealth ingredient in a margarita that was stronger than we thought. How to appreciate its finer points?
At a graduation party last night I had the good fortune to meet an esteemed Californian expert on the stuff, who tends to drink little else. From him I began to learn the basics that no in college ever tells you—that true tequila is derived from the agave plants of the varying Tequila regions in Mexico, much like true champagne comes from France’s Champagne province. As with Scotch, the geography has much to do with taste—the Jalisco highlands, for example, produce a more mineral-y, naturally sugared drink.
But the main rule? Never drink Jose Cuervo. As the aficionado was visiting from LA, where attention to tequila quality is presumably quite a bit sharper, he was playing it safe with the New York bars. We enjoyed a few rounds of Patrón Silver, pointedly ignoring the salt shaker that our lovely Teutonic waitress, Lucy, brought out. Soon enough I was surprised to find myself actually savoring the shots instead of trying to throw them back as though challenged. And I picked up on one other technique from my sense that I’ll have to employ next time—always having a Corona on the side.