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PACIFICO'S GUIDE TO MEZCAL AND TEQUILA.


Mezcal is the name given to the distilled spirit made from the juice of the cactus like ( but actually related to the Lily family ) plant called Agave, Maguey and/or Mezcal. All names are used and all three are correct. There are more than two hundred varieties of this plant growing in different regions of Mexico.

One such region in Mexico especially known for its mezcal is just above the city of Guadalajara comprised of the state of Jalisco and other neighbouring states. The centre of this region is a village called Tequila. The mezcal produced from this demarcated region is called tequila and strictly speaking only mezcal made from this area may be called tequila. Some "tequilas" are produced elsewhere, such as in Spain and Portugal, but these are no more tequilas than are Chablis and Champagne which are produced outside of France, in California for example.

One can see from the above that tequila is a special type of mezcal in the same way as Cognac is a special type of Brandy. The major region today for mezcal production is in the state of Oaxaca.

There exists no link between mezcal and mescaline. Mescaline comes from the peyote plant which is in no way related to the agave. Though mescaline and mezcal sound similar and both alter the conscious (and probably unconscious) states, they do this in different chemical ways.



VARIETIES.

There are many brands and types of tequila and mezcal. From brand to brand and type to type there exists a marked difference depending, on areas of growth and type and style of production(just as with wine or cognac). Of the numerous brands of tequila, there are perhaps four main ones worth mentioning. They are Cuervo, Sauza, Orendain (all family names) and Herradura(Horseshoe in English). The 1990's have seen the addition of boutique or designer tequilas on the market. These include Chinaco, Porfidio, El Tesoro, Gran Centenario (plata, reposado, and a�ejo), 1800(reposada and Reserva Antigua) and Coleccion(at $1000 a bottle, this must be the most expensive tequila in the world).

Jose Cuervo ( Joe Crow in English ) brand is the market leader in the world. It is owned by Pacifico's friend Juan Beckman, an eleventh generation Cuervo family number. Cuervo's line is comprised of blanco, Especial, Tradicional, Cuervo a�ejo and Reserva de La Familia. Cuervo is the oldest tequila company, established in 1795. Cuervo Especial has a rich tequila flavour and in terms of value for money is probably the best there is. El Cholo, a Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles, California, which has been in existence for over seventy five years, is a large consumer of Cuervo 1800, selling over one thousand margaritas a day using 1800 exclusively in their award winning recipe. Cuervo Tradicional is 100% agave.
Sauza has recently gone out of the hands of the family. Javier Sauza, an acquaintance of the Pacifico Group through his daughter, Mimi, was the last of the Sauza ownership line. Sauza's line includes a "well" tequila Giro (a type of rooster), Silver or Joven(young), Gold or Medio Seco(medium dry), Hornitos(little ovens), Commemorativo, named for their hundred year anniversary, Galardon, and Tres Generaciones, named for their three generations of Sauza family tequila production. The Commemorativo and Tres Generaciones have a refined delicacy and can be enjoyed like a fine cognac.

Orendain and Herradura are much smaller companies whose products are followed more by aficianados than the mass market. Orendain Ollitas ( little pots ) has a full, distinctive flavour. Herradura A�ejo or Reposado (aged or laid away) vies with Ollitas in distinction, excellence and reputation. Both are 100% agave.

There are other less significant variations of tequila, such as those with almond, quince or lime flavouring added. Another new innovation in tequila has been a tequila based liqueur called Agavero.


PULQUE

An inexpensive, low-alcohol beverage of 6-8 degrees is made from the sap of the agave plant. This drink is very simply made by extracting the sap from a living plant and letting it sit and spoil(ferment). There is a period of time during which it can be drunk, but after which it rots. Pulque is drunk natural or "curado" (flavoured with fruit juice). It has a strange consistency and flavour, unlike any other drink. Pulque has been a very popular drink in Mexico for centuries due to its simple and inexpensive production. "Pulquerias" (bar-room selling Pulque) used to be notorious for wildness and danger and women, children and persons in uniform were not allowed. They were places where the poor went to get drunk. Pulque is rarely drunk or even seen outside Mexico, because of its short lifespan. In the last few years a canned version has been produced, making it possible to be kept and transported.



Al's 'All Time Top5'.

  1. Gran Centenario Anejo
  2. El Tesoro Paradiso
  3. Cuervo Reserva de la Familia
  4. Herradura Selecion Suprema
  5. Chinaco Anejo


Al's '5 to Avoid'.

  1. Anything not from Mexico.
  2. Any Tequila that's dark brown (for example, Orendine Anniversario) as this indicates the addition of caramel.
  3. Any tequila without a NOM (Norma Oficial Mexicana) number.
  4. Any tequila named after either a Aztecian or Incan god or King.
  5. Any tequila named after any items of Mexican clothing or headgear.
Mezcal is more rough edged and less distilled than tequila. There are much fewer brands available and not much difference in quality between them. Try the lightly coloured Ultramarine or the appropriately named Bronco which has a higher alcohol content.



HOW MEZCAL AND TEQUILA ARE MADE.

Commercial tequila is made in the following manner. The plants are harvested after being in the fields for eight to twelve years. The long spear like leaves are then cut off leaving the large, fleshy cores which have the look of enormous pineapples. These pinas, which can weigh up to 200lbs, are then steamed to make them juicy and the juice extracted. This juice is then fermented and double distilled to produce tequila. This may then be bottled to give a Blanco or silver tequila. Colouring and/or flavouring added to give a Joven Abocado (gold) tequila or aged in wood to give either a Reposado ( in tanks or barrels for three months to a year ) or an Anejo ( in barrels, 350 litres or less for one year or more).

Mezcal is produced in much the same way except that instead of the pinas being steamed in stainless steel vats they are cooked in an earthen oven fired by wood. This gives mezcal a distinct smoky flavour.

Mezcal is often seen with a worm in the bottle. The worm is found living on the mezcal plant and is sold as a delicacy in Oaxaca. Why the worm was originally put in the bottle is open to speculation. It was probably done to show that the mezcal was of suficient strength to pickle the worm. Today the worm is there out of tradition and as a unique selling point.



DRINKING

Any discussion of tequila or mezcal drinking should begin with the word CAUTION. After long years in the hot Mexican sun the Agave plant produces a drink which creates a different and, in many ways, more powerful influence than other alcohols. It is an energetic, crazy high which can, and does "take one's legs away".

A strong allure of drinking tequila is to do "neat" or straight by the shot glass or out of the bottle as "caballeros" or the common folks do. Somewhere back in time, tequila started to be drunk with salt and limon (the Mexican form of lemon). The back of the hand between the thumb and index finger was licked, salt was poured on the moisture and licked off. A shot or drink of tequila followed, then a slice of lime was bitten and sucked. Anything so sensual was bound to become popular. It's not certain how this ritual started, but propably it had something to do with aiding the palatability of rough, unrefined tequila. The same may be said for drinking sangrita(a spicy tomato/citrus, non-alcoholic drink) as a tequila "chaser".

The use of salt and lime with eating and drinking in general in Mexico is widespread, as in the case of beer drinking accompanied by salt and lime. Mezcal can also be drunk in the same manner as tequilla, but is more commonly simply sipped straight.

In Mexico, with the first shot or drink of tequila or other alcohols, the toast of "Salud" (health) is usually offered. Second libation is accompanied by "Amor" (love), third "dinero" (wealth), and fourth "Tiempo Para Disfrutarios (time to enjoy them). The cocktail known as "Margarita" has undoubtedly done a great deal for the popularity of tequila. Where or how this drink started is open to widely varying stories and myths ( like many other elements connected with tequila and mezcal ). It is not known whether the famous cocktail started north, south or on the border, but today it is equally popular in all three places. The blending of lemon juice with tequila using triple sec as a sweetener is a perfect continuation of the manner of "shooting" tequila in the traditional style.

A good Margarita is not easy to make. The ingredients need to compliment each other and the proportions need to be exact to create the correct balance of flavours. At Cafe Pacifico we constantly monitor the Margaritas to ensure the best quality and consistency.

There are other, less significant tequila based cocktails, among which are the Tequilas Sunrise(Tropical), made famous by the song by the Eagles, and the Durango, named after the Mexican city. More recently the Slammer (Boom-Boom in Germany and Rapido in France) has also gained considerable popularity.



Caf� Pacifico holds regular Tequila tasting sessions!






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