By Chris Simmons
Remember the old saying, “One Tequila, Two Tequila, Three Tequila, floor!”? Or the balance it took to pour salt on one hand while holding a lime in the other and slamming back a gnarly tasting shot? Well safe to say, those memories are part of the American lexicon of Tequila drinking stretching back at least the past few decades, and either you or the person sitting next to you has a story about a bad Tequila experience that makes them shiver. So why the sudden interest in Tequila? You see it on Oprah. George Clooney, Justin Timberlake and Adam Levin are touting their own new brands. Tequila bars with celebrity chefs are popping up all over the country. So what gives?
To understand the seemingly overnight interest in the spirit that was sworn off with many hazy next-day confessions of “Never Again”, we must first understand what makes the spirit what it is. Most people when asked what Tequila is made from, will either answer with some type of cactus, or with the correct answer: agave (which by the way, is actually not part of the cactus family as many believe). And not to get too geeky about alcohol but in order to create it, sugar is where it all begins. With wine, those sugars come from grapes. With rum, it comes from refined sugar cane or molasses. With whiskey, the sugars come from corn, wheat, barley, rye or other similar grains. So back to Tequila, where the sugar comes from agave. There’s a catch though, in that most people don’t realize there are actually two different “types” of Tequila. In the good ‘ole USA, we call them either a 100% Agave Tequila or a Mixto. The difference is in the sugar, literally.
A 100% de agave Tequila, by law, must have 100% of the sugars used to create the alcohol coming from the Blue Weber agave plant. So when you drink it, you can be sure that it’s all agave. By contrast, a “mixto” version of a Tequila only needs to contain 51% of its sugars from agave. The other 49% can come from any other sugar source, almost always meaning an inexpensive cane sugar. It’s those 49%, if they come from a cheap source, that will have you reaching for the headache pills in the morning and wishing you owned stock in Gatorade.
So the next time you plan a big night out, skip the salt and lime and be sure to check the bottle label. Remember, you’re looking for “100% de agave”, because the good time is all about the sugar.