Happy National Tequila Day! For too many drinkers, mentioning tequila conjures up stories of wild nights and painful hangovers. Despite the connotations, the spirit is surging into the spotlight both on its own and in cocktails.
Made from blue Weber agave plants, Mexico’s native spirit is available in many different forms. One of the most important things to look for is to make sure that the tequila is labeled as being made from 100% blue agave. Under Mexican law, as long as the base is at least 51% agave, it can be called tequila.
Further, there are no laws against artificial coloring or flavoring being added to ensure consistency. Therefore, the price and flavor of different tequilas vary widely. These range from blanco and oro (white and gold) to reposado, añejo, and extra añejo (rested, old, and extra old). Differences in aging and ingredients can result in tequilas that can be used in a wide range of cocktails.
“Tequila was brought to the masses during the Chicago World Fair in the 1890s,” says Alan Kennedy, brand rep for Trianon Tequila. “It grew in popularity during Prohibition and then got a huge bump from the song “Tequila” in the ‘50s.”
In drinks, “it naturally pairs well with citrus and spice notes due to [its] terroir,” he says. “It also has a natural salinity that boosts flavors in cocktails.”
Two tequila cocktails that every drinks lover should know are the Paloma and the Batanga. “Both [of these] are actually Mexican, where margaritas aren’t,” says Kennedy.
Image via Sauza
Named “The Dove,” the Paloma is tart, sweet, slightly bitter, and refreshing. Though the name and location of its invention are lost to time, it’s still the perfect refresher on a hot summer day.
1/2 oz. lime
2 oz. tequila
Pinch of salt
Directions: Add lime, tequila, and salt to a highball glass. Fill with ice, top with grapefruit soda, and stir.
Image via Poco Tequila
The Batanga was created at a bar called La Capilla in Tequila, Mexico by owner Don Javier Delgado Corona. On paper, it’s a simple mixture of tequila, lime, and Coke with a salted rim, but the result is far from simple.
1 whole lime
2 oz. tequila
1 Mexican Coke
Directions: Cut the end off of the lime. Run the cut side of the lime around the rim of a highball glass. Dip the rim into salt. Fill the glass with ice, and squeeze the rest of the lime into the glass. Add the tequila, and fill to the top with Coke. Stir gently to combine.