When in doubt, drink Tequila

The view from the balcony was breathtaking – the sand, the sea and the sun all conspired to produce an amazing tableau. Sitting on the balcony every day, we never grew bored with the sight.

Situated in the heart of Cancun, Mexico, we settled into a rhythm for our vacation, foreswearing our usual wine for a week filled with Margaritas. Our visit to the downtown Walmart had yielded an inexpensive, but reasonably nice quality, bottle of Tequila, along with the ubiquitous Jose Cuervo Margarita mix. It wasn’t fancy, but the duo did the trick and kept us awash in cocktails for the week.

Admittedly, a true Margarita should be made with Triple Sec and lime juice (instead of the mix), but we took the lazy journey to Margaritaville.

During our trip, we had the pleasure of visiting the Hacienda Tequila where we were given a brief tutorial on how tequila is made and were reminded on just what it is that makes tequila, well, tequila.

Tequila is part of the larger class of spirits called Mezcal, which are produced from the agave plant. Tequila hails from a delimited area within Mexico, centered around the state of Jalisco, but with differences in aromas and flavors stemming from the various terroirs. In addition, it must be made with 100% blue agave, which is considered to be a superior variety of agave. While these plants resemble cacti, they are actually related to the Amaryllis family.

Jimadors (field workers) harvest the core of the blue agave when the plant is between 6 and 8 years of age. The cores are cooked with direct heat for 36-48 hours and then left in the ovens with residual heat for an additional 24-36 hours. This cooking process is necessary in order to convert the starchy core into a fermentatble sugar. After cooking, the cores are milled to extract the  sugary liquid and remove the extensive fiber. This liquid is fermented into an alcoholic liquid, which is then distilled in pot stills, generally with two distillations.

Depending upon the maturation and ageing, tequilas are labeled as follows:
*Gold or Joven – unaged, with the addition of coloring agents (mostly caramel)
*White or Blanco – unaged or rested a maximum of two months
*Reposado – minimum of two months aging in wood
*Anejo – minimum of one year aging in wood
*Extra Anejo – minimum of three years aging in wood

We tasted through a number of tequilas at Hacienda Tequila, most of which were sipping tequilas — too good to be adultered with margarita mix. One of our favorites was the Casa Azul Reposado, which we purchased in the airport’s duty free shop on the way home. We also loved the Casa Azul Anejo, but it was pricier than we preferred to spend. Now, all we need to do is pour some tequila, close our eyes and be transported back to our Cancun balcony.

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