26 November 2009

Just Another Thursday

Today has been the best day yet for walking the streets. It was overcast but not really very grey. The temps stayed in the mid 70’s and the humidity seemed to be very low. It meant I didn’t get dehydrated or totally drenched in sweat. Once I am out patrolling, I often forget to stop and consume enough liquids or even just rest. That was the case again today, but it didn’t do any harm.

I keep looking for those cheap, tire-soled huaraches like I bought in Guadalajara eons ago. They may be made for the common man, but the prices here are for the tourists. I don’t want them that badly that I am willing to pay what they are asking. I’ll spend my money on other things.

As I came out of the shoe shop, the owner of the tequila store next door started talking to me. I started asking about the various types of tequila. Roberto invited me in and gave me a crash course on how to rate a tequila without even tasting it.

Firstly, there are four different types: blanco (white); reposado, (rested); añejo, aged; and añejo extra. Roberto explained that the blanco, the stuff the smells and tastes like rot-gut booze, comes straight from the young agave plant. The reposado, is aged in oak for 6 months. The añejo is aged 18 months, and the añejo extra, for 18 months. (once again I should have taken notes because this may only be 98% accurate). He told me that if anyone tries to sell you a tequila that is aged more than two years, don’t buy it because you can’t do that with tequila.

He also pointed out that there is a sub-division of agave: agave blanco and agave azul, (blue). Turns out that agave plants are rather green until they are 5 years old and then turn blue, making for a more flavorful tequila. (now go check your backyard agave plants to see how old they are.)
Then there is the mark on the bottle that you must be sure to find. The letters NOM, followed by four numbers, followed by CRT. This assures you that the tequila was actually made in a certified factory.

He then showed me the visual test of a good tequila. He poured a few drops into a little plastic tasting cup and tilted it sideways so that I could see how the liquor slowly ran off the bottom of the cup, more like a sticky concoction and less like the way you would expect booze to flow. He said this was a sign of proper oak barrel aging.

The best test is when he poured a few drops in my hand and told me to rub it in like lotion. I was totally amazed to find that it was like rubbing aloe vera into your skin. You can actually feel the agave. I told him in all the years I had been a bartender I had never noticed that and, believe me, I have had a lot of hooch on my hands. He said that was probably because I was pouring Cuervo tequila which has too much sugar cane added to it making it sticky.

I did do a sniff test of the various varieties because although I absolutely hate the smell of tequila, (which is why I never drank it with the exception of one unfortunate night of 10 cent tequila shooters back in the day), I still have a perfumers nose for all things alcoholic. I almost gagged when I smelled the blanco and had a brief flashback to the aforementioned night. But the really good stuff came very close to smelling really good. As I think about it now, I am even considering going back for a taste test.

Roberto told me that I can take a short bus ride to a local factory to see the way they make it. He said they don’t really produce it there but it is set up for tourists to see the process. That will be a trip over the weekend.

I thought I had known a little about tequila, but it turns out I hadn’t.


Blogging note: you will notice how beautifully I have reproduced that “ñ” in añejo. Yes, I am typing on a Spanish keyboard that has 2 different keys to make the tilde. But no matter how many different combinations of keys I press, I can’t get it to work. I tried the symbol insert application but it has no lower case ñ. I pulled up another way to insert the letter but it doesn’t work with this keyboard. I had to get creative which meant that I typed in a Spanish word, hit the Spanish thesaurus check, came up with a different word that had a ñ, inserted it, then cut out all the letters expect the ñ, added the letters to the left and right, and have been copying and pasting ever since. I need to get an award for dedication to proper accent marks.