Smooth. Mellow. Contemplative. A perfect slow-sipping after-dinner drink….
Up until a few years ago, this was not a description I'd ever imagine applying to tequila. But then I'd never tasted an añejo before.
It's easy to think of tequila as a fiery, hangover-inducing spirit. Something to be coaxed and tamed with sugar and lime juice. Or else something to be tossed back as a throat-searing shot in a moment of bravado.
But the world of tequila is a surprisingly big one. If you look a little further, you'll discover as I did, that tequila has a quiet, thoughtful, and - yes - mellow side.
I had my own pivotal tequila moment during a trip to Mexico. I was staying in Playa del Carmen, a small Carribean coastal town not far from Cancun. My husband and I were strolling through the streets after dinner one evening and stopped in at a small bar.
We were faced with a boggling array of tequilas and nothing on the menu looked familiar. What to choose? The waiter asked us if we liked single malt scotch. (Yes!) He suggested we try an añejo. It was a pale amber liquid served up neat. As I raised the glass to my lips, I could smell that familiar tequila smell, but it was deeper, richer. And the taste was deeper and richer too. No burn, just mellow flavor. It was good.
AND THERE'S MORE...
Unaged, well-aged, or somewhere in the middle, there's much more to tequila than one might think. In the spirit of Escapes Month (and today being National Tequila Day, to boot) here's a look at the four types of tequila, as categorized by Mexican law:
The most common type of tequila available on the market, this is unaged tequila which has been stored in stainless steel tanks during its resting period. Clear and colorless, it is commonly used in mixed drinks such as the Margarita.
A young tequila with caramel coloring and flavoring added to make the spirit resemble aged tequila ("gold" refers to the color of the spirit).
Tequila aged in oak barrels for a minimum of two months, but less than a year (reposado means "rested" in Spanish). During the aging process, the spirit takes on some of the oak's coloration and flavor, although additional coloring and flavoring agents are sometimes added as well. Used as both a sipping and mixing tequila.
Premium tequila that has been aged in oak for at least a year - and in many cases, considerably longer (añejo means "aged" in Spanish). This type of tequila is smooth like a fine cognac or single malt scotch and is meant to be sipped straight - although some high-rollers have been known make drinks such as the "Millionaire's Margarita" with it!
Related: All About Margaritas
(Image: Nora Maynard)