While last week may have brought us the official “National Tequila Day”, if you’re like me, everyday - er, I mean, every other weekend in a responsible, adult manner - is national tequila day. Those who know me, know I drink two things: champagne and tequila, and since I’ve already alluded to my love for the bubbly, I thought I’d show some love this time around to my favorite, Mexican libation – the complex yet smooth, tequila.
No longer seen as merely a party-starter, “tequila culture”, if you will, is becoming more and more appreciated as the sophisticated spirit has several variations. With its versatility, it has been recently popping up on craft cocktail menus everywhere. Blanco (clear, unaged and bottled within two months of distillation), Reposado (golden hued, aged between two-twelve months in barrels), Anejo (darker yet in color and aged between 1-3 years in oak barrels) and even the smoky, relative Mezcal all have their unique properties and tasting qualities. Mezcal alone could lend itself to an entire blog or even an in-depth course here at The Chopping Block, and we’re actually working on getting a class together to highlight this spirit’s complexity (stay tuned for more on that).
For now, I will attempt to keep this blog as focused as possible (as again, we could go in many directions about this wonderful beverage) and give you a couple of fun facts and favorite drinks to enjoy.
In Mexico, Tequila is drank neat, without lime and salt; sure they’ll include those sides with a margarita but not when taking a shot. Ok Mexico, noted.
The plant from which tequila is made, is Blue Agave and is actually closer to a lily plant than to a cactus (contrary to popular belief). It takes 8-12 years for the Blue Agave plant to mature enough to make Tequila. You cannot rush perfection.
One of my recent favorite drinks to highlight a few different types of tequila is the Long Walk on a Short Pier from the cocktail geniuses over at Three-Dots-and-a-Dash. Composed of Blanco Tequila, Mezcal, Guava, Fassionola (a fruit-forward syrup featured in many, classic tiki drinks), Passionfruit, Pomegranate, Red Cherry, Ginger and Bitters – the drink has a smooth yet strong tropical vibe, worthy of any hard-working, wanna-be pirate, all served up in a festive glass.
Perhaps that’s another reason to love tequila: the pure atmosphere it conjures. Typically associated with warmer weather (perhaps due to its native land Tequila, Jalisco a state not far from Guadalajara, Mexico), who doesn’t love an outdoor party? Our Stephanie Cascio talks about her go-to summer drink the Paloma, and I couldn’t agree more – tequila pairs perfectly with pools and patios.
Speaking of patios, when looking for a new twist on the good-old tequila shot (because, yes tequila is now a sophisticated sipper, but it still shines in its truest application), I head over to West Loop watering hold, Federales. The ever-crowded spot has a retractable roof, a solid menu of tacos and its attention-grabbing, main attraction: the “tequila bell”. With servings delivered in ice shot glasses, guests must drink before they melt then test their aim by throwing said, empty shot glass at a large bell in the center of the bar – only those who hit just square enough cause the heavy bell to ring – much to the crowd’s enjoyment, causing cheering and cheers all around. In fact, I think I’ll head there now.
If you’re looking for a place to enjoy tequila-forward cocktails, head to any one of these top Chicago bars, all serving stellar tequila beverages and join us in our La Vida Loca class (upcoming August dates and times below), which includes a classic Margarita. Cheers!
- Saturday, August 5 7pm Merchandise Mart
- Saturday, August 12 7pm Lincoln Square
- Thursday, August 24 7pm Lincoln Square
For instruction on making our favorite Margarita, download our guide to The Perfect Cocktail. The Vivanco Tequila Cabeza The Chopping Block carries in our stores from Jalisco, Mexico is the perfect smooth highland blanco tequila for this drink and many other summer cocktails. Minerals, black pepper and citrus overlay a lovely slightly honeyed agave taste. The finish is warming with black pepper, citrus and grassy notes.