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While popular culture might suggest otherwise,
Mexico’s most famous liquid export is no cactus
by-product, but distilled from blue agave, a large
succulent found primarily in the state of Jalisco, the
world’s major tequila-producing region. The spirit is
also produced in other parts of the country including
Nayarit and Guanajuato.
But despite (true) tequila’s Mexico-only provenance,
its versatility is what’s taking the spirit around the
world. Ruben Aceves, roving international ambassador
for Guadalajara-based hacienda Herradura, is one of
many preaching the gospel.
“The nice thing about tequila is that it can be
mixed with anything; juice or soft drink and even on
the rocks,” he says. “The way we drink it in Mexico is
just one way and every country has different ideas. But
tequila’s main enemy is tequila itself. There’s still a lot
of not exactly nice stuff out in the market.”
Indeed, it’s largely encounters with the bad and
the ugly rather than the good that’s earned the spirit
villainous status. Like all booze, due care at each stage
of production will yield outstanding drinking, even in
an entry-level ‘blanco’ tequila – a white, un-aged spirit
released almost immediately after distillation.
Longer barrel maturation leads to increased flavour
complexity, beginning with ‘reposado’ (tequila aged
between two months and a year in oak) and ‘añejo’ (one to three years)
through to the multi-layered ‘extra añejo’ (more than three years) styles.
While more bartenders and drinkers are now according tequila the
same respect once reserved for vodka and gin, WA pioneers such as
Santa Fe have long fanned the flames of a Mexican revolution.
In its early days, the Subiaco new-Mexican and south-west American
restaurant might have sold cheaper tequila purchased in bulk, but today,
Santa Fe sells more high-grade Il Jimador – its house pour used for
margaritas and most cocktails – than any other restaurant in the country.
Owner Veronica Kilgariff also curates a selection that stars bottles
from America and Mexico. But one doesn’t need to know that Corralejo
is a triple-distilled reposado or that Los Azulejos is an all-agave affair
to appreciate tequila’s myriad charms. From being the star of cocktails
and margaritas to being chased down with sangrita – an aperitif-like
combination of chilli and citrus juices – there’ll be plenty of opportunities
this summer to reacquaint yourself with this misunderstood drink. Ole!
RECIPE: EL DIABLO
At small bar par excellence Helvetica (Howard Lane, Perth, (08) 9321 4422), this tequila classic
gets a fresh, Asian-inspired remix with the addition of bold kaffir lime. Make the tequila
in-house by steeping fresh leaves – thinly sliced or crushed to release the flavours faster – in
your spirit for at least 24 hours. Taste-test regularly until desired intensity is reached.
45ml kaffir-lime-leaf-infused tequila
15ml Creme de Mure
30ml lime juice
Shake ingredients together in a cocktail shaker and strain over an ice-filled Collins glass.
Top with ginger beer and garnish with a lime cheek. Bottoms up.
THERE’S A NEW SHERIFF IN WHITE SPIRIT
TOWN AND THE HOMBRE’S NAME IS TEQUILA
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