There’s something about tequila that screams sun and summer. Perhaps that’s because of its strong association with the margarita – arguably the ultimate hot-weather cocktail – or the spirit’s tropical origins. Whatever the reason, blanco (or white) tequila, the youngest and palest of the tequila family, feels like the perfect summer drink.
In its less refined mixto incarnation, which combines sugar derived from blue agave with up to 49 per cent cane or other sugar, it’s the stuff you likely knocked back with salt and lime in university. But in its premium, 100-per-cent blue agave form – something always prominently noted on the label – it can be a sublime spirit that not only shines in any number of non-margarita cocktails, but also stands up on its own as a satisfying sipper.
Before we get to that versatility, though, a bit about the blue agave part. A plant of the lily family, the piña, or core, of the agave contains sugars that may be fermented and distilled into alcohol, with the Weber blue agave the only species allowed in tequila – though other varieties are permitted for the making of mezcal, a related spirit. To legally be described as tequila, the agave must be grown in a defined region, which encompasses all of Mexico’s Jalisco province – where the large majority of tequila is made – plus parts of four other territories.
Contrary to the opinion of many, tequila made strictly from agave is not firewater – and neither is it more likely to get a person drunk than other 40-per-cent-alcohol spirits. Further, different tequilas can have very different flavour profiles that suit them for different purposes.
For a cocktail in which the tequila provides the accents rather than the emphasis, such as a paloma or margarita, a slightly earthy, robust blanco like that of Cazadores is ideally suited. A drink in which the tequila is more the star, such as the martini variation sometimes called the Tequini, is best served by a brand that highlights the nuanced character of the agave used, such as the herbaceous Tromba or the softer, slightly sweeter and more peppery Tierra Noble.
And on that note, much as a martini can be rather deliciously made using tequila in place of gin or vodka, almost any such cocktail can also be well served by substituting blanco tequila for the starring white spirit, from a tequila-based Negroni to the riff on the Bloody Mary known as the Bloody Maria. And as illustrated by dozens of fruited variations on the basic margarita recipe, tequila is also a superb partner for an orchard full of fresh fruits, muddled or blended.
Finally, for sipping on its own, either neat or with a cube or two of ice, you’ll want a tequila that fully expresses the character of its agave, such as the rich and fruity Herradura Silver. Although neither should you be shy about mixing it, or any of these fine tequilas, into almost any sort of cocktail – even a margarita.
Reposado’s Paloma Tradicional
This refreshing cocktail recipe comes from Toronto’s original tequila bar, Reposado, where they also make and can it for pickup or delivery.
1.5 ounces Cazadores Blanco
.75 ounces lime juice or
4 ounces (or to taste) Jarritos Grapefruit or similar grapefruit soda (Ting, San Pellegrino Pompelmo)
Half-moon slice of fresh grapefruit for garnish
Into a rocks glass filled with ice, add all the ingredients save for the grapefruit slice. Stir to mix and chill. Garnish with grapefruit slice and serve.
This recipe was developed by Owen Walker of Toronto’s El Rey Mezcal Bar for an online tequila pairing dinner hosted by Herradura.
1.75 ounces Herradura Blanco
.25 ounces Fino sherry
.25 ounces white vermouth
.5 ounces rich simple syrup (see note)
2-3 cubes of honeydew melon
2-3 cucumber slices
Mint sprig and honeydew melon slice for garnish
In a cocktail shaker, muddle together the cucumber and melon. Add the remaining ingredients, save for the garnish, and plenty of ice. Shake well and strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with melon and mint and serve.
Mi Swing es Tropical
Created by Daphnée Vary Deshaies, also known as Daphnee Dee, head of the bar program for the A5 hospitality group in Montreal, this is a lovely summer aperitif.
1.5 ounces Tromba Blanco
0.5 ounces Aperol
0.75 ounces lemon
1 bar spoon rich simple syrup (see note)
1 dash pineapple bitters
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake well. Add ice and shake again vigorously. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and serve.
Note: To make rich simple syrup, combine in a pot over medium-high heat 1 cup of sugar and ½ cup of water. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved, remove from heat and let cool. It will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks.
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