“O tequila, savage water of sorcery, what confusion and mischief your sly, rebellious drops do generate!”
~ Tom Robbins, ‘Still Life With Woodpecker’
“There is a great independence, and a confident immunity to risk, in all drinks made out of cactus.”
~ Alan LeMay, ‘The Searchers’
You know how some whiskeys work best as a shot, while others are made for sipping and savoring? You need to be thinking about tequila in the same exact way.
I’m not talking about cheap stuff you guzzle while wearing a gaudy sombrero in a loud Mexican restaurant. Top-shelf tequila is a spirit with proud history and vivid culture. It’s plant-based, often uses ancient means of production, and imparts rich, unique flavors you won’t find in any other liquor. And over the past decade, its consumption in the U.S. – and our Dive Bars – has more than doubled.
First introduced in the 16th century, tequila is made from Blue Agave, a spiky succulent that takes 8 to 10 years to mature (because it’s officially regulated like Champagne, tequila must be entirely produced in a specific region. All tequila is grown, distilled and bottled in the provinces surrounding the town of Tequila, Mexico). The spikes are then sheared off by hand and the agave heart – known as the piña and often weighing 100 pounds or more – is harvested. The piñas are steamed in brick ovens or pressure cookers to soften them, then milled – traditionally by a giant grinding stone –- to create a sugar-heavy pulp that is fermented, distilled, and aged in casks (Mescal, on the other hand is made from many different types of agave, produced mostly around Oaxaca, and bakes its piñas in smoky, earthen pits). This process creates three distinct tequilas: Joven (Spanish for ‘young’, and also known as blanca/white or plata/silver) is bottled immediately after distillation. Reposado (‘rested’) is aged between 2 and 11 months, and takes on a light golden hue from its wooden cask. Añejo (‘aged’) is casked for a year or more, making it smoother, deeper and more complex. Every distillery has its own distinct source of agaves, steaming/grinding techniques and barrels, giving every brand its own unique character. And lately, we’ve been really enjoying the premium tequilas distilled by Riazul.
Riazul grows their agaves on a 200-year-old family estate in the Jalisco highlands, where the cool climate and red volcanic soil imparts a higher sugar content and richer flavor to the plants. Their Plata/Silver, aged for two weeks in oak barrels, is a surprisingly silky joven with bright notes of fresh agave and tropical fruits. The Reposado is aged for nine months, giving it a more mellow taste that features oak, citrus, spice and chocolate. Their Añejo is aged an unprecedented two years in French cognac-cured barrels for a buttery smooth sipping experience, with lush flavors of vanilla, almond, caramel and cinnamon.
It’s almost a sin to use any of these in a margarita, and don’t even think of asking for a shaker of salt. Come by Dive Bar and try a Riazul neat or chilled with a single ice cube, and discover what artisanal tequila truly means.