I have a lot of friends that work seasonal forestry jobs; they often flee south across the Mexican border for their winters. They like some of the finer experiences in life, and a recommendation that always seems to come back around is tequila tasting. “It’s way better than it sounds. There’s an art to it!”
Chances are, many Mexican locals have no idea the wild and horrendous black-out behavior that takes place with their locally-made spirit out of the country. In Mexico, it’s a refined and respectable experience to taste tequila at a luxury boutique hotel in the Riviera Maya.
I arrived in Mexico for my first time in 15 years. I was there during a family trip when I was a teenager, now as a mature, early thirties male, I want to experience Mexico again through a new lens.
I flew into Cancun and booked a tequila tasting session right away. The Viceroy Riviera Maya is where I booked my stay. Soothing waves danced upon the shore and the sun shined directly overhead as Julian, our bartender, filled our shot glasses to the brim and delicately placed them in front of the group beside our complimentary nachos.
The tasting session has begun. Julian starts out by discussing champagne with us. “Tequila, is much like champagne, its territorial. It earns its name when distilled within 40 miles of the town named Tequila or in the highlands of Jalisco.”
Made from agave, a plant that looks like the top of giant pineapple, it can earn its classification on whether it’s made from 100% pure agave or not. When mixed with sugary alcohol substitutes, it lessens the quality of otherwise true tequila.
What does true 100% pure tequila taste like? Blanco is the newest contender on the block for tequila brands. It appears in the bottle only moments after distillation. Joven and then reposado, meaning young and then rested are the runners up, then Anejo tequila matures for many years before it is bottled and distributed. Depending on the age of these four styles of aging or lack thereof, the tequila will take on a dark, dusk, and smokey color and taste.
Does authentic tequila have a worm in the bottle? We’ve all heard of this. The mythological worm that’s rumored to be in true tequila to absorb the poison, making the spirit safe for consumption.
I asked Julian about this, and felt a little bit foolish when I heard the answer. The rumored worm is a real thing, but it’s not in tequila and never has been. Most people mistake this for another Mexican spirit made from agave; Mezcal.
I returned home from Mexico with a new knowledge and respect for tequila, one that will make me appreciate it outside of it’s blackout, stumble out of the bar effects.