Not just another Tequila Sunrise

Photo by TheCulinaryGeek/flickr

Tequila is a regional type of mezcal made from a fermented mash of the piñas, or hearts, of the Agave Azul Tequilana Weber species of the agave plant. Unlike other mezcals, tequila can also only be made from this azul (Spanish for blue) agave harvested in designated regions in the Mexican state of Jalisco and limited regions in four other states. In Jalisco, production is centered in a few communities near Guadalajara — the original and most famous of which is the town of Tequila.

The differences in tequila styles have largely to do with aging — except for the oro (gold) tequilas which simply have colorants and flavorings added and which can pose kashrut issues. I prefer blanco (white) or Reposado (rested) style tequilas for most cocktails. Blanco is un-aged, a white spirit fresh off the stills.

Reposado has been aged at least two months, but less than 12, in oak barrels, which tends to be a little subtler than Blanco as the aging mellows the spirit a bit, softening the edges.

Whether for drinking straight or mixing in cocktails, only use tequilas that are 100 percent blue agave. The other stuff, technically known as mixto tequila because up to 49 percent of the base sugar pre-fermentation is derived from cheaper sources than the hearts of the blue agave, isn’t worth drinking.

Some of my go-to brands of tequila are: Arette, El Tesoro, Don Julio, Patron, Herradura, El Tesoro, Chinaco, Siete Lieguas, Siembra Azul and Cuervo Tradicional. They are at the heart of a delicious Tequila Sunrise or La Paloma.

Tequila Sunrise

1.5 ounces tequila (Blanco or Reposado)
3 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon grenadine (There are several store-bought options, though it is easy and better to make at home: Boil 1 cup of pomegranate juice with ¼ cup of sugar until the sugar dissolves and the consistency is a simple syrup; cool and mix in freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste; probably half a lemon is enough)

In a cocktail shaker filled with hard, cracked ice, shake the tequila and freshly squeezed orange juice very well, then strain into a large, chilled cocktail glass. Add grenadine and semi-stir it very gently. The result will look like a sunrise emanating from the base of the glass. Over-stir and you’ll lose the sunrise effect.

If using store-bought OJ, build the drink on the rocks rather than shake it. Many folks will garnish it with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry — I never do.

While the Tequila Sunrise is delicious and much more famous, La Paloma (“the dove”) is even better. Don’t take my word for it. Give it a try.

La Paloma

1.5 ounces tequila (Blanco or
2-3 ounces grapefruit soda (Squirt is ideal; Fresca will do in a pinch)
Half a lime
Kosher salt

Run the cut edge of the lime around the rim of a tall or Collins glass and roll it lightly in kosher salt to rim the glass with salt, or do as I prefer and simply add a pinch of salt directly into the glass. Squeeze the lime juice into the glass, add the tequila, and then fill the glass three-quarters of the way with ice. I usually toss in the squeezed-out lime shell itself, and then stir a little — though it’s obviously not strictly needed. Either way, next add the grapefruit soda and briefly stir again. Drink lovingly and be refreshed. Garnish, if you wish, with a slice of lime or a slice of grapefruit. L’chaim!

Send your wine and spirits questions to Joshua E. London at [email protected].

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