BiteJuly2011v2:Layout 1 27/6/11 21:22 Page 18 18 Spirits: Tequila Don’t swear it off forever M exico’s national drink happens to be one of the things most wrong with the drinks trade. I speak of Tequila of course, rather than beer. Its mysterious hold over the humble weekend drinker has curiously not been the subject of closer scrutiny. Like its Scottish kissingcousin, Buckfast, its consumption appears to precede outbreaks of daftness, obnoxiousness and, occasionally, violence. A brief poll of Edinburghers suggested that behaviour of a less than sensible nature was usually the direct outcome of an evening spent imbibing the liquid. Some of the respondents went further, claiming that the drink ‘isn’t the tastiest, but makes for interesting conversation later in the night’, some participants simply turned pale at the mere mention of Tequila. It would appear that one disastrous encounter means a lifetime of fear and avoidance of both straight Tequila and cocktails which contain it. A million students have proven that there is nothing particularly pleasant about rivers of cheap Tequila, but there is plenty of quality spirit about, and it’s worth knowing what to look for in order to get over your fear of the spirit. Tequila’s production from blue agave dates back to the 16th Century – so our fate was sealed some time ago. The area around the city of Tequila is delineated, and only spirits from the specific regions are allowed to carry the name ‘Tequila’. The juice from the hand-harvested plants is fermented and then distilled in large pot stills. The resultant liquid is clear, with the darker types a result either of the addition of caramel or oak ageing. Tequila must legally be 51% blue agave (the rest can be made up with sugar and water), but quality spirit is made from 100% agave and will usually indicate this on the label. The spirit is sold as four types – Silver/White Tequila has no aging and has been kept in stainless steel for a maximum of 60 days, if at all. This is the most basic type, and is used mostly for mixing. Gold/Joven Tequila is simply silver tequila sweetened with caramel, making it ideal for specific cocktails and shots. Reposado Tequila spends at least 2 months in oak, taking on a rounder texture and smoother taste; these are popular in Mexico and are markedly higher in quality than the Silver and Gold types. Finally there is Añejo Tequila, which spends at least one year in oak, giving a more robust and complex taste and aroma. These are often described as being akin to high quality rums, whiskies et al; with the high-end spirit certainly meriting a serious taste. The application of these spirits in decent cocktails is also worth noting, with bar staff still championing the use of tequila with its unique flavour profile and texture. Tequila is a much misunderstood drink which deserves another look; regardless of what happened the last time you went near it. Frances Bentley is the Scottish Sales Manager for Champagne Duval-Leroy and can be contacted on 07824 775862.
BiteJuly2011v2:Layout 1 27/6/11 21:22 Page 19 Cocktails: Voodoo Rooms Mix it up Mexicano-style ddly enough one of the best places to drink tequila on its Oown or in a cocktail isn't even Mexican. The opulent splendour of the Voodoo Rooms in West Register St. hides one of the best selection of tequilas in town. Not only is the range great, but there are some useful tasting notes in their drinks menu to help you decide. If you're stuck, ask one of the bar staff who will be more than happy to pass on a recommendation. To get us started we tried a couple of their cocktails, the Primavera Cooler (£5.95) and the Amigo-Roni (£5.95). The Cooler was a refreshing blend of mint, agave, pear and citrus with a lingering, slightly bitter finish. A fantastic drink for a hot summer evening (assuming we ever get one!). I'll be honest and say I was disappointed in the Amigo-Roni. This was a Mexican take on the classic Negroni with Herradura Blanco Tequila in place of the gin and Aperol in place of the Campari. The drink was completely overwhelmed by the bitter citrus flavours of the Aperol which drowned out any agave that was there. Next time I'll ask for it to be served with more tequila and less Aperol. However my disappointment was soon tempered when we moved onto the tequilas. D ordered the El Tesoro Reposado (£3.95) and I chose the Arette Sauve Reposado (£4.95). These were wonderfully contrasting reposado (rested) tequilas. The El Tesoro was earthy, rich, darker in colour with loads of spice and a long finish –a perfect after-dinner tequila. The Arette was subtler, drier with a hint of sweet citrus and a smooth finish –a wonderful sipping tequila at any time. I decided to finish on an añejo (aged) tequila and took our barman's recommendation – the Jose Cuervo Reserva De La Familia (£6.00) and D went with the Patrón XO (£3.00). The Reserva was a rich, slightly sweet, very smooth tequila with only a hint of agave. Ideal for those who are used to good whisky or rum and are put off by the flavour of agave. The Patrón XO is quite simply one of the best coffee liqueurs you're ever likely to taste. Go and try it for yourself. They also do a wonderful selection of rums. But that's for another time... (M. Earl) The Voodoo Rooms – 19a West Register Street, EH2 2AA – 0131 556 7060 – www.thevoodoorooms.com – firstname.lastname@example.org Opening hours Fri-Sun noon-1am; Mon-Thur 4pm-1am 19