Do you miss tequila as much as I do?
Actually, there’s been a bottle of the stuff in my home bar for the last eight months. So more precisely, do you miss the tequila experience?
Tequila meant poolside margaritas and debates about salt versus Tajín on the rim. Tequila meant pouring rounds of shots for friends who insist they can’t handle it but laugh and drink anyway. Tequila meant being at a bar downtown and acting with a kind of recklessness I can’t afford right now. More than any other spirit, just uttering the word tequila inspires a certain reaction.
Being stuck at home with a bottle of tequila — it’s not the same, is it?
Guess we just gotta make do, but luckily, I do think winter is a perfect time to experiment with this agave-based spirit. Tequila’s been growing in popularity over the last few years, but despite broad appeal, certain mythologies hold true in our minds: Tequila just doesn’t sell quite the same during the colder months. Maybe people don’t think the wintry aesthetic is right for a spirit that makes them think of Cinco de Mayo parties.
Just so we’re clear: Tequila made with 100 percent agave doesn’t give you a worse hangover than any other booze (some even swear it’s the “healthiest” booze for you). Nor does it make you act any crazier than five shots of another spirit would. And contrary to popular practice, I think that the spices and fruit flavors we associate with the winter make for perfect dance partners with tequila or mezcal, whether it’s cherry, pear, apples, cranberry, or pumpkin spice.
Personally, I think the key is to use a tequila with some age on it. Reposado and añejo are the two common labels you’ll see; I keep a blond-hued reposado around as my all-purpose tequila, while an añejo more closely resembles brown spirits like whiskey in color, character and earthy intensity. (If you’re still used to cheap bottles of silver tequila and José Cuervo Gold, a good bottle of aged tequila in the $25 to $40 range will knock your socks off.)
As for the cocktails, tequila can be used in both refreshing and warming forms. Consider 1) the winter paloma, made with cranberry juice and maple syrup to highlight the light caramel notes of the Dulce Vida reposado I picked out; and 2) my twist on the classic hot buttered rum, using an añejo tequila and portioned for two.
- 2 ounces reposado tequila
- 4 ounces cranberry juice
- 1/2 ounce lime juice
- 1/2 ounce maple syrup
- Soda water and ice to finish
In the bottom of your favorite glass, mix the syrup, lime juice and tequila. Add the cranberry juice, stir, then add ice. Top up the glass with a splash of soda water. Garnish with lime peel or (my favorite) some brandied cherries if you got ’em.
Hot Buttered Tequila (for two)
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 6 ounces water
- 1 ounce lemon juice
- 4 ounces of añejo tequila
Get the water to a boil in a small pot or pan, then toss in the butter, brown sugar and lemon juice. Take it off the heat and whisk like hell to create a creamy mixture. Divide it into two mugs and add the tequila. Stir and garnish with a grating of fresh nutmeg. No judgment here if you drink the entire batch alone — it’s just more efficient to make two portions instead of one in a pan.
What will Cinco de Mayo look like next year? I have a lot of daydreams in my head. Until then, I’m glad I can stay cozy with some good tequila as the winter unfolds.