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Does the world need more premium vodkas? Whatever for? Vodka is officially defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division of the U.S. Treasury Department as "any neutral spirits, regardless of production method, which is without distinctive character and which contains less than four grams of natural flavor components per 100 liters at 100° proof." Vodka, in other words, is forbidden by definition to have any distinctive character — read "flavor." That's why the producers and importers of the stuff give us lots of hooey about how many times it's filtered, and spend all that time and imagination on packaging — and of course it's also why flavored vodkas (obviously defined differently), which used to involve just herbs or a few simple fruits, have gone crazy with whole menus worth of wacky variations (of course bacon vodka was inevitable and now there's peanut-butter-and-jelly vodka too, so where's the peanut-butter-and-bacon version?). I hope I speak for all sensible imbibers everywhere when I say "Хватит, уже!"
On the other hand, does the world need more premium tequilas? Absolutely. Bring them on. Unlike vodka, tequila has real flavor — the spicy, earthy, herbaceous flavor of the blue agave from which it's made, with agave from different regions lending various subtleties of flavor (in general, agave grown at higher altitudes is more robust and a little sweeter, while lowland agave has a more herbaceous character); and if we're talking about aged reposado or añejo tequila, add in various weaves of caramel and vanilla and wood. Suffice to say that no two tequilas (at least no two 100 percent agave tequilas) are alike, so the more well-made examples that are out there, the better, if you ask me.
Here are four new or newish ones I've recently encountered (with suggested retail prices), all to be recommended, if with varying degrees of enthusiasm:
Alacrán ($42). This tequila, whose full name is Autentico Alacrán Tequila, or A.T.A., is reportedly the project of a group of tequila-loving friends in Mexico City, and indeed the distinctive Alacrán bottle — an opaque black matte-finish flask with a vaguely rubbery feel and a scorpion logo (alacrán is the Spanish word for that creature) — has become a common site in upscale bars in that metropolis. Made by the Tierra de Agaves distillery in the Jalisco lowlands, which also produces the Lunazul and Certeza brands, this is a white tequila (there are no aged versions), light in body, clean, low-key, and faintly bitter. If the sometimes aggressive flavor and aroma of agave aren't for you, this might be a good choice.
Don Julio 70 Añejo Claro ($70). This unique offering from the always excellent Don Julio distillery (celebrating its 70th anniversary this year), based on agave from the Jalisco highlands, is billed as the world's first white añejo. That is, it is barrel-aged in small oak for at least a year (and no more than three) but, while it has taken on some wood-aged character, it has no color — which typically leaches into the tequila from the wood, usually with some help from added caramel coloring. This is medium-rich tequila in body, with the smooth, lightly smoky, elusively sweet character wood aging lends. The aroma is nicely developed, with some agave character, a hint of vanilla, and a whiff of oak. This is very pleasant sipping tequila.
Jose Cuervo Platino ($80). OK, so this isn't a new tequila — it's been around for about five years — but I had somehow never before encountered it, and I think it's so good that I have to mention it here. I'm a Cuervo fan in general: their fairly priced Tradicional Reposado is my standard tequila, and though I'm generally not a great fan of liqueur-quality añejos (God made cognac and armagnac for a reason), their top-of-the-line Reserva de la Familia extra-añejo is pretty remarkable stuff, satiny and floral but still rich with agave character. The Platino is a white counterpart to the Reserva de la Familia; in fact, it's billed as a Reserva de la Familia, too, and packaged in an antique-looking bottle and individually numbered and dated, just like the extra-añejo. It has an extraordinary aroma, full of agave with overtones of honey and a little Christmas spice. The agave (lowlands) comes through nicely in the mouth, too, with a peppery bite — this is tequila with an edge, but no harshness — and just a perfect balance of flavor. The Cuervo folks say this tequila is made by a proprietary process called esencia de agave — and agave essence is exactly what this makes me think of.
Qui Platinum Extra-Añejo ($57). On the heels of Don Julio's pioneering white añejo comes this offering from the Tequila Embajador distillery (which makes Embajador and several other tequila brands as well). It shows a little too much vanilla for my tastes — it's aged for three-and-a-half years in a combination of bordeaux and bourbon barrels — but it has good highland agave character (it's distilled in a pot still instead of by the more common column distillation), and is very smooth. In an earlier era, I might have called this "a ladies' tequila" — but it does have real some authority and makes a very pleasant shot.
Colman Andrews is The Daily Meal's Editorial Director. Follow him on Twitter at @Colmanandrews
The 8 Best Tequila Drinks to Help You Shrug Off Those Winter Blues
There was never so good a tequila cocktail as the Margarita. That was true 100 years ago, and it's true now. It just can't be beat. Perhaps that explains why there are so many fewer classic tequila cocktails than there are of those made with whiskey, gin, vodka, or otherwise. That's fine let the professionals whip up mixological complexities involving tequila, as well as 20 other ingredients, while we blissfully sip our Margaritas in peace. However, should the Margarita get boring (blasphemy!), there are other drinks to turn to, like a Tequila Sunrise at breakfast and La Paloma in the hottest hour of the afternoon. You can also riff on classic cocktails, like the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan, with tequila as the base spirit. So shake off that winter glumness and grab a bottle of tequila. Then, make one of these eight drinks&mdashor make 'em all.
A breakfast/brunch standard that goes with a side of eggs and toast.
&bull 1 1/2 oz. tequila
&bull 3 oz. freshly squeezed orange juice
&bull 1 tsp. grenadine
Shake tequila and orange juice well with cracked ice, then strain into a large, chilled cocktail glass. Add grenadine and stir gently, for no longer than is necessary to produce layers of oranges and reds.
The ultimate tequila workhorse, this recipe is worth knowing by heart.
&bull 2 oz. silver tequila
&bull 1 oz. Cointreau
&bull 1 oz. lime juice
&bull coarse salt
Chill a cocktail glass, and then rub its rim with lime juice and dip it in coarse salt. Add tequila, Cointreau, lime juice, and ice together in a cocktail shaker. Shake and then strain into the glass over ice.
A Manhattan that swaps rye whiskey for tequila, if that suits you best.
&bull 2 oz. tequila añejo
&bull 1 oz. sweet vermouth
&bull 2-3 dashes bitters
Add ingredients to a mixing glass, stir, then strain into a cocktail glass (chill if desired). Garnish with lemon.
Another tequila heavyweight, this one demands to be drunk on a hot day.
&bull 2 oz. tequila
&bull 1/2 oz. lime juice
&bull pinch of salt
&bull grapefruit soda
Combine the tequila (reposado, preferably), lime juice, and salt in a tall glass. Add ice, top off with grapefruit soda, and stir.
For something different and relatively unknown, try a Chalino Special.
&bull 3 oz. tequila blanco
&bull 1/2 tbsp. creme de cassis
&bull 1/2 oz. lemon juice
&bull 1/2 oz. lime juice
&bull 1/2 tbsp. simple syrup
Shake well with cracked ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a twist of lemon peel.
Technically, this is a tequila drink. And a vodka drink, and a gin drink, and a rum drink.
&bull 1/2 oz. vodka
&bull 1/2 oz. gin
&bull 1/2 oz. white rum
&bull 1/2 oz. silver tequila
&bull 1/2 oz. Cointreau
&bull 3/4 oz. lemon juice
&bull 2 tsp. simple syrup
&bull 3/4 oz. Mexican Coke
Shake ingredients (except Mexican Coke), then strain into a Collins glass over crushed ice. Top with Coke and garnish with a lemon twist.
A Negroni that subs in tequila for gin.
&bull 1 1/2 oz. reposado tequila
&bull 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
&bull 1/2 oz. dry vermouth
&bull 1/2 oz. Campari
&bull 1 dash Angostura bitters
Stir over ice, and strain into an old fashioned glass over fresh ice. Wipe the rim of the glass with lemon or grapefruit twist.
Finally, the most classic of cocktails gets the tequila treatment.
&bull 2 oz. añejo tequila
&bull 1/4 oz. agave nectar
&bull 2 dashes orange bitters
&bull 2 dashes Angostura bitters
Combine ingredients in a glass mixer. Add ice and stir quickly for 30 to 40 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass. Add one large ice cube. Garnish with an orange peel wrapped around a Luxardo cherry on a skewer.
Best Overall: Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
Del Maguey is a widespread favorite among bartenders everywhere, and its Vida expression—an organic, double-distilled mezcal made from the Espadín maguey (agave plant) out of the San Luis del Rio village—is an all-around excellent spirit for sipping or mixing in cocktails.
Ryan Fitzgerald, the owner of ABV in San Francisco, is among the many enthusiastic bar pros who find themselves constantly reaching for this bottle for more reasons than one. “Del Maguey has the same strong relationships with the same producers [after] more than 25 years. They truly care about mezcal, its culture, and its people,” he says. “They have always been dedicated to preserving the culture and heritage of Mezcal as well as the unique characteristics that each producer contributes to their Mezcal.”
Del Maguey Vida clocks in at 42 percent ABV and is known for its honeyed fruit-forward aromas and banana, citrus, sandalwood, and baking spice notes on the palate.
This Cinco De Mayo Why Not Sample Some New Tequilas
There are no shortages of official celebrations to commemorate tequila. There is National Tequila Day, which in the U.S. is celebrated on the third Friday in July. This year it falls on July 24. There is also an International Tequila Day, which is celebrated on the same day. In Mexico, National Tequila Day is celebrated on the third Saturday of March and is part of a week-long series of activities to commemorate tequila.
There is also National Margarita Day, which is celebrated every year on February 22, and which commemorates tequila’s signature cocktail. More than 1.6 billion margaritas are served in the U.S. every year, an average of more than 4.4 million a day. That’s a lot of margaritas! According to the Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS), the margarita is the most popular cocktail in the U.S., amounting to about 25 percent of all cocktails sold.
The most famous holiday associated with tequila and with its signature cocktail, however, is Cinco de Mayo. Celebrated each year on May 5, it has emerged as the principal day in which to commemorate tequila in the United States.
It has also become an occasion to honor Mexican culture and the contribution of Mexican Americans to the United States. The celebration have also given rise to the urban legend that more margaritas are served on Cinco de Mayo than any other day of the year. According to DISCUS, on Cinco de Mayo about half of all the cocktails served in America are margaritas.
Paradoxically, Cinco de Mayo has become a far more important holiday in the U.S. than it is in Mexico. In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is not a national holiday. Other than for Puebla and Vera Cruz, most celebrations are rather low key. Usually not much more than a short military parade or marching band.
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Cinco de Mayo commemorates the improbable victory of the Mexican army against a superior French military force at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.
With the U.S. preoccupied with the Civil War between the Union and the Confederacy, France’s emperor, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte III, the nephew of his more famous namesake uncle, saw an opportunity to create a new French empire in Mexico.
In December 1861, a 6,000 strong French army landed in Vera Cruz and advanced toward Mexico City. At Puebla, on the main road to the capital, a Mexican army of some 2,000 poorly equipped soldiers made a stand against the superior French force. Outnumbered three to one against a better-trained and equipped force, the Mexican army won an improbable victory and crushed the French force. Cinco de Mayo celebrates that unlikely victory.
No one is quite sure how the association between tequila and Cinco de Mayo was established. Privately, many Mexican tequila producers point to Brown-Forman’s Herradura, one of Mexico’s leading tequila producers, as the instigator of using Cinco de Mayo as an occasion to promote tequila and, in particular, its signature cocktail the margarita.
Regardless of the cause, Cinco de Mayo has become an important holiday in the U.S. a splendid occasion to celebrate Mexican culture and tequila’s ubiquitous cocktail—the margarita. Paradoxically, there are now more Cinco de Mayo parades in the U.S. than there are in Mexico.
Cuervo margarita poster from the 1960s
Photo, courtesy Jose Cuervo
The margarita has an equally colorful, though less historically significant history. It is a cocktail that consists of a mix of tequila, a sweet syrup or liquor and either the juice of a lime or lemon or a mix, typically sweetened, based on that juice. The relative proportions vary depending on the particular recipe and the ingredients used.
Generally, however, it is two-parts tequila to one-part sweet liqueur, to two to four-parts lime juice or mixer, depending on how strong the cocktail is made. Over the years, the sweet liquor portion has consisted of a broad range of spirits, including triple sec, Cointreau, Gran Marnier and Curaçao. The drink is typically served on the rocks or “frozen” as an icy slush. The rim of the glass is typically salted.
The origins of the margarita have never been determined and remain hotly debated. Notwithstanding its close Mexican association, most accounts of its invention place its creation either in the U.S. or along Mexican border towns catering to American tourists.
The first printed recipe to a margarita-like drink occurred in 1937. The Café Royal Cocktail Book has a recipe for a drink called a Picador consisting of tequila, triple sec and lime juice. Another explanation is that the margarita is simply a tequila-based version of a popular Prohibition era drink called a daisy. The original daisy was made with brandy, triple sec and lime juice. It’s possible that Americans frequenting Mexican border towns in the 1920s were offered a tequila-based version of the daisy. Interestingly, the Spanish word for daisy is margarita.
By 1945, tequila maker Jose Cuervo was already running advertisements promoting “margarita it’s more than a girl’s name.” According to Cuervo, the cocktail was invented in 1938, as a tribute to Mexican showgirl Rita de la Rosa. It’s likely that the margarita, both the name and the characteristic ingredients, were invented sometime between the 1920’s and 1945. Since most of the creation myths about the invention of the margarita occurred after those dates, it’s also likely that most of the popular accounts about the margarita’s invention are incorrect.
As of January 2020, there are a total of 151 distillers authorized by the Mexican government to produce tequila. Many of them produce multiple brands, both for themselves and for third parties. There are 1,465 brands of tequila bottled in Mexico and another 300 brands bottled outside of Mexico. By law, all expressions of 100% blue agave tequila must be bottled in Mexico. Tequila, which is less than 100% blue agave, what in the past was called mixtos, can be bottled anywhere. Mixtos tequila are fermented from a combination of at least 51% agave sugars and the balance from something else, typically corn syrup.
Below are tasting notes on a range of tequilas relatively new to the U.S. market. These are all expressions produced from existing distilleries for third parties. All of the tequilas are 100% blue agave. Bottle sizes are all 750 ml. The ARP is the average retail price in the U.S.
JAJA is a tequila brand created by Elliot Tebele, founder and CEO of Jerry Media, along with Maurice Tebele and Martin Hoffstein. He’s better known in social media circles as [email protected] f**kjerry. His Instagram account has millions of followers. JaJa is Mexican online slang for ha-ha, what in English would be LOL. Presumably that name was easier to clear through the TTB as an alcoholic beverage brand than his Instagram handle.
The tequila is produced at the La Cofradia distillery in Tequila (NOM 1137). The distillery produces 60 different brands, including such well known ones as Casa Noble and Mi Campo.
The JaJa Tequila core range
JAJA is triple distilled. Historically, tequila was double distilled, but triple distillation is becoming popular, especially among new brands, as it makes for a smoother tequila and is a point of differentiation from other brands.
JAJA Blanco, 40% ABV, ARP $36
On the nose, there is a classic raw agave/earthy aroma, with hints of apple and tropical fruit accompanied by a little licorice. On the palate, its smooth, fruity, with a noticeable pepperiness. The finish is medium length, with a lingering caramel note and a soft but persistent pepperiness.
JAJA Reposado, 40% ABV, ARP $43
The Reposado is aged in ex-bourbon barrels for six months. On the nose, there is a hint of oak that quickly gives way to sweet tropical fruit notes of pineapple and melon. There is black pepper in the background, along with some vegetative notes. On the palate, its smooth, sweet, with distinctive tropical fruit notes, especially pineapple, along with some vanilla and caramel notes and a hint of milk chocolate. The pepperiness is more pronounced and lingers longer. The finish is medium length, with a persistent sweet pepperiness.
JAJA Añejo, 40% ABV, ARP $50
JAJA Añejo is matured for two years in ex-bourbon barrels. On the nose, its sweet and buttery, floral, with pronounced aromas of vanilla and caramel, along with tropical fruit. The agave note is less vegetal than in its siblings, more cooked. On the palate it’s smooth and sweet, the pepperiness is persistent, but not as pronounced as in the Reposado. Its very fruity with tropical fruit notes, along with some dried apricot, vanilla and caramel. The finish is long, sweet, peppery, with a lingering dried fruit note.
The Tromba Tequila Core Range
Tromba is a tequila brand founded by Eric Brass, James Sherry, Nick Reid and Marco Cedano. Cedano was formerly the Master Distiller and Manager at Don Julio. It’s named for the intense thunderstorms often seen in the Jalisco Highlands during the rainy season. The name literally means “big rain.” The Ontario, Canada based company produces its tequila at the Tequila el Viejito distillery (Nom 1107) in Atotonilco in the Jalisco Highlands. Twenty different tequila brands are produced at the distillery. Tromba tequila is double distilled.
Tequila Tromba Blanco, 40% ABV, ARP $34
On the nose, there is a pronounced agave flavor, more cooked than vegetal, but embodying elements of both, followed by a pronounced black pepper note, citrus zest and some tropical fruitiness. On the palate, it’s smooth, sweet, with a tingling pepperiness that steadily builds. It’s fruity, with a hint of green pepper, anise and some mint. The finish is medium, with lingering sweetness and a bit of pepper.
Tequila Tromba Reposado, 40% ABV, ARP $40
The Reposado is aged for six-eight months in ex-bourbon barrels. On the nose, it has the same mix of vegetal and cooked agave flavors, although the cooked flavors are more pronounced then in the Blanco. There is a hint of oak, along with some sweetness, citrus zest and a hint of banana and melon. As it opens up, there is a saline, almost minerally note, which emerges. On the palate, its sweet and very smooth, with flavors of banana, pineapple and melon, a bit of licorice and chocolate, along with the requisite caramel and vanilla flavors. There is a mild, but lingering pepperiness. The finish is long, sweet and slightly peppery.
Tequila Tromba Añejo, 40% ABV, ARP $52
The Añejo is aged for approximately 20-24 months in ex-bourbon barrels. On the nose, its sweet and creamy, with cooked agave notes, along with vanilla and cinnamon reminiscent of a crème brûlée like quality. On the palate, it’s very smooth and creamy, sweet, with flavors of cooked agave and vanilla, along with some dried fruit notes and a hint of licorice and chocolate. The finish is medium sweet, with lingering fruit and cooked agave notes and a slight green pepper note at the very end.
The Santera Tequila Core Range
Photo, courtesy Santera Tequila
Santera was created by master distiller Augustin Sanchez, It’s made at the Destiladora del Valle de Tequila distillery (NOM 1438) in Tequila. One of the largest producers of tequila in Jalisco, the distillery, owned by the Maestri family, produces 107 different brands of tequila. All of the Santera tequilas are double distilled.
Santera Tequila Blanco, 40% ABV, ARP $42
On the nose, the cooked agave notes are subtle. The aroma is more floral, along with some anise, vanilla and just a bit of cinnamon and a hint of a wet stone minerality. On the palate, it’s sweet, with vanilla and tropical fruit notes. There is an initial burst of pepperiness, which fades quickly. The finish is medium length, with a lingering dried fruit sweetness and a bit of pepper and chili powder.
Santera Tequila Reposado, 40% ABV, ARP $48
The Reposado is aged in oak for six to seven months. The nose is very fruity, with aromas of cooked apple and tropical fruit, along with some anise and like its younger sibling a hint of wet stone minerality. On the palate, its sweet, with pronounced tropical fruit notes of melon, pineapple and mango, along with some pepperiness. There is a hint of wood, but it is quite subtle. The finish is short, sweet, with a pepperiness that quickly fades.
Santera Tequila Añejo, 40% ABV, ARP $54
On the nose, there is a pronounced vegetative note that fades quickly to reveal sweet and fruity notes and a hint of oak. On the palate, there is a pronounced note of vanilla, caramel and cinnamon and cloves, along with fruitiness. There is a pronounced pepperiness, both black pepper and chili pepper notes, along with some milk chocolate. The finish is long, with sweet caramel notes and tropical fruit notes of pineapple accompanied by a lingering pepperiness.
Photo, courtesy Prospero Tequila
Prospero Tequila is a joint venture between Conecuh Brands and pop star Rita Ora. It’s produced at Tequilera Don Roberto (NOM 1437) in Tequila. The distillery produces 18 different brands. The tequila is double distilled and uses a diffuser in the production process. The Master Distiller is Stella Anguiano, one of the few female master distillers in the Tequila industry.
Prospero Tequila Blanco, 40% ABV, ARP $34
On the nose, the tequila is very floral, with notes of citrus and licorice, along with some tropical fruit notes. It’s fresh, with a wet stone mineral character. On the palate, it’s sweet, creamy, with vegetative, citrus zest, some fruit and a pronounced peppery note. The finish is medium length, sweet and very peppery.
Prospero Tequila Añejo, 40% ABV, ARP $43
On the nose, the Añejo is very clean, fresh and very floral. It’s sweet, with aromas of overripe apples and tropical fruits, along with vanilla and cinnamon. The agave notes are quite subtle and emphasize cooked sweet notes. There is just a hint of anise and green vegetal agave notes in the background. On the palate, its very peppery, featuring more jalapeño and chili than black pepper. Sweet, tropical fruit notes of mango and melon emerge beneath the pepperiness. The finish is medium length, sweet and peppery.
These are all very interesting tequilas. Although they offer different flavor profiles, they are all very smooth and very drinkable. They’re, technically, well made with no obvious flaws. They reflect the modern style of tequila, one designed for the American palate. They are smooth and sweet, and feature a lot of the tropical fruit notes typical of long, 50 to 80-hour fermentations. They differ markedly in one significant variable—pepperiness. That varies from mild to chili and jalapeño hot, and from fleeting to lingering.
On the whole, I find these tequilas rather subtle. They would work well, in my opinion, straight up or on the rocks. In a cocktail, like a margarita, for example, they would be overshadowed, as are most tequilas, by the influence of the mixers.
Still, if you like tequila and want to expand your repertoire, they are all worth exploring, and definitely worth a taste.
Smoke: Another Winning Formula
A decade ago, while recuperating from a broken neck that he had suffered a year earlier in a crash at Michigan International Speedway, racecar driver Emerson Fittipaldi was flying a small airplane over his farm in Brazil when the aircraft lost power and plummeted to the ground. Fittipaldi survived, but with back injuries that for years afterward prevented him from piloting planes or driving racecars.
The latter restriction proved especially disheartening for Fittipaldi, who, in 1972, at age 25, became the youngest driver to win the Formula One World Championship. He won it again in 1974, and later claimed two Indianapolis 500 titles, in 1989 and in 1993. (He was the first driver to earn $1 million from Indy 500 races, and his total earnings from those contests exceeded $4 million.)
As trying a time as the recovery period was, cause for celebration did arrive a few months after the crash, when Fittipaldi&rsquos grandson Pietro was born. Fittipaldi&rsquos friend Augusto Reyes, a Dominican Republic tobacco grower who had been making cigars for various brands since 1990, presented the new grandfather with a Churchill he had rolled just for the occasion. &ldquoI really enjoyed it,&rdquo recalls Fittipaldi of the cigar. &ldquoIt was a celebratory experience. It reminded me of our get-togethers [with other drivers] after winning a race. It was not just a smoke it was a ritual. It has to be done in the right place, and with the right people.&rdquo
Reyes said that he could make more cigars for Fittipaldi, with different tobacco blends, and put the racer&rsquos name on their bands. Initially Reyes made only enough cigars for Fittipaldi to smoke himself and to give to friends. In 2001, he and Fittipaldi, whose racing career seemed to have been ended by the injuries he suffered in the plane crash, launched the Fittipaldi brand. They introduced their cigars in Germany, Russia, Ukraine, and the United States. &ldquoI was very picky,&rdquo says Fittipaldi. &ldquoHe would make a number of blends, send them to me, and I would pick and choose until I finally approved&mdashmilder ones for the United States, fuller-flavored tobaccos for Europe.&rdquo
The Fittipaldi brand now includes five different blends that range in strength from a fast idle to full throttle. All are made with Dominican binders and fillers. The latest release is the Anniversary Edition, which arrived in the United States in August 2006. The medium-bodied robusto (Fittipaldi&rsquos favorite size) with a Connecticut shade wrapper celebrates the racer&rsquos 1972 and 1974 F/1 championships. The cigars were made in 2004 and then aged a year before being released in Europe in 2005.
In addition to having his own cigars, Fittipaldi also is back on the track. He has raced in the Grand Prix Masters series with other racing legends, and he represents Brazil in the World Cup of Motorsport. Having experienced crashes as a younger man&mdashin racecars and in an airplane&mdashFittipaldi, who is now 60, is aware of the risks of these competitions. &ldquoIn golf or tennis, if you lose a ball in the lake, you either lose the game or you can start over,&rdquo says Fittipaldi, who was named for the poet and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson. &ldquoBut in motor racing, if you lose your car, you crash. So you learn to enjoy every day. Cigars are a part of that celebration.&rdquo
In March, Fittipaldi had another reason to celebrate: His fifth child, Emerson Fanucchi Fittipaldi, was born. As is customary, he marked the occasion by handing out cigars, ones with his signature on the bands.
Don Julio Blood Orange Margarita
Don Julio Blood Orange Margarita
A squeeze of blood orange juice into a margarita is not something you&rsquod probably expect, but it&rsquos absolutely worth a try. It gives a slight sweetness to the cocktail that is complemented well by the salt rim on the glass - and it&rsquos delicious.
1 1/2 oz Tequila Don Julio Blanco
1 oz Fresh Mexican Lime Juice
2 oz Fresh Blood Orange Juice
1 bar spoon superfine sugar
1. Rim a chilled rocks glass with salt.
2. Combine Tequila Don Julio Blanco, fresh Mexican lime juice, fresh blood orange juice, and superfine sugar into a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake well.
Two simple ones:
2 shots of tequila
1 shot of Triple Sec
1 shot of Cranberry Juice
All you have to do for this one is add the tequila, Triple Sec and Cranberry Juice to a mixer with crushed ice. Shake for 20 seconds. Distribute into champagne flutes. Then top it off with the champagne and enjoy!
2 shots of tequila
2 shots of sugar syrup
2 shots of Campari
Orange zest for flavour
For this one, add the shots of tequila, sugar syrup and Campari into a mixer with a small amount of crushed ice. Shake for 20 seconds. Fill the champagne flutes with the champagne. Add the mixture. Add the orange zest.
A more impressive one:
The Mexican 75 is a twist on an old classic, the French 75. Now, though, instead of gin and lemon juice you’ll be using tequila and lime juice.
2 shots of lime juice (freshly squeezed)
4 shots of tequila (silver is better)
4 shots of agave nectar (if this isn’t possible, lime juice and a bit of lime zest will work just as well)
Add the lime juice, tequila, and agave nectar into a mixer and fill it halfway with crushed ice. Shake for 20 seconds. Strain the mixture into three champagne flutes. Fill each flute with champagne.
An old Classic:
A champagne margarita will go down brilliantly at any event.
2 shots of tequila
2 shots of cointreay
2 1/3 shots syrup
4 shots lime juice
750 ml champagne
Lime wedges for taste
This recipe should make around 4 margaritas. Add ice to the glasses and divide the tequila amongst them. Top them off with the champagne and stir. Add some syrup to make it sweeter, then add the lime juice. If you want more tequila, add more! Squeeze the lime wedge in and add it to the top of the drink.
A quick and easy one:
The tequila sparkler is the fastest to make and great if you’re in a hurry to get more drinks out.
All you need is 1 shot of tequila, some grapefruit syrup (to be made beforehand), 2 shots of champagne.
The grapefruit syrup has to be made beforehand and make sure guests know there’s grapefruit in it because there can be intolerances!
Remove the grapefruit zest of 1 grapefruit with a peeler. Combine with the juice. Cover in sugar and water and boil in a pot. Dissolve the sugar by stirring in a figure of 8. Take off the heat. Cool. Strain into an airtight container and refrigerate.
Now that that’s done the rest is simple:
Add the tequila and grapefruit syrup to a champagne flute and top off with champagne. Measurements are a matter of taste for this. Add a segment of grapefruit to the glass.
A fruity one:
If you want something a bit more summery, then this will be the cocktail for you! Perfect for garden parties and days out on the beach.
470 ml Fresh strawberries with no stems
½ shot of tequila
60 ml of orange juice
120 ml of lime juice
230 ml of ice
Blend the strawberries, orange juice, lime juice and ice. Half way through, add the tequila. If more is needed add after blending. Pour the mixture into a champagne flute, filling about two thirds of the glass. Add champagne until the glass is full. Add the lime wedges and strawberry to the top of the glass.
Depending on whether you want your cocktails to be sweeter or more sour, wet the rims of the champagne flutes and then rub the rims in a pile of either sugar or salt. This also helps the look of the cocktail and ensures that it’s a drink to party with!
All of these recipes can be made with prosecco as well, if you’re looking for a cheaper option.
If you’re trying it out and don’t want to spend as much, save money on the champagne rather than the tequila to still get the best taste
4 New Tequilas Are Cause for Celebration - Recipes
Born of the lush, volcanic soil of the tequila valley, the majestic Blue Agave infuses the landscape from which Próspero Tequila is created.
Designed by Stella Anguiano, one of Mexico’s premier female Master Distillers, Próspero is a hand-crafted spirit that offers an unparalleled flavor with a smooth, elegant and perfectly balanced finish. Exquisite care is taken throughout the production process to ensure that each bottle reflects pride in the spirit – inside and out. Every element is crafted by hand from the elegant bottle to the perfectly balanced liquid, to the artistically illustrated label. Próspero is driven by a commitment to maintain the same process and quality that comes from family tradition – doing things slowly, with patience and with passion.
100% Blue Agave Tequila produced in the lowlands of Jalisco, Mexico
Rich in aromas and bright tones, Próspero Blanco provides an unparalleled flavor that offers consumers exceptional quality for the price.
(Ultimate Spirits Challenge – Rated 93 Points)
(Distiller.com – Rated 94 Points)
Aged in oak barrels, Próspero Reposado has a distinct golden tone and a flavor with rich round notes of vanilla, white flowers and lingering spice.
Aged for a minimum of 12 months in oak barrels, Próspero Añejo has flavors of spice, toasted caramel, cacao and roasted fruit.
(Wine Enthusiast Rated 97 Points, Superb)
(Selected as one of Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 Spirits for 2019)
Tradition, identity and a rich Mexican history has defined the vision of Stella Anguiano, one of Mexico’s most distinguished female Master Distillers of 30 years. Stella’s passion for each step of the process comes from a respect for family traditions and a desire to create exceptional products with superior characteristics. She remains committed to paying tribute to Mexico’s heritage while still pushing boundaries in her craft and excelling as a woman in a
male-dominated industry. From Stella’s hand, Próspero is a celebration of women a spirit made with all women in mind.
“Women are here. We see women in all areas of the industry… bringing our knowledge, our desire to succeed, and especially our passion to do things well.” – Stella Anguiano
Rita Ora is an international pop singer and multi-talented industry leader across TV, culture and fashion.
Passion is the driving force that propels Rita’s every endeavor and her fierce support of women’s initiatives are widely celebrated. Hence, it’s no surprise Rita has aligned her creativity and energy to launch a super premium brand that is unlike anything that has come before. As the Chief Creative Partner of Próspero Spirits, Rita Ora partners with Stella Anguiano to introduce Próspero Tequila – a spirit as unique and original as the women who’ve created it.
And who better to introduce the Próspero RitaRita cocktail than Rita herself! Salud! />
The RitaRita recipe:
2 oz. Próspero Blanco Tequila
1.25 oz fresh strawberries, pureed
1 bar spoon balsamic vinegar
.5 oz. orange liqueur
.75 oz lime juice
1 oz. wildflower honey
3 -4 leaves fresh basil
Pour Próspero Blanco Tequila, strawberry puree, balsamic vinegar, orange liqueur, lime juice and honey into a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously. Strain into a margarita glass and garnish with fresh basil leaves.
Pasote Tequila’s New Bottle Ready for Cinco de Mayo
From our companion website in Latin America, Mundo PMMI, 3 Badge Beverage Corporation has renewed the bottle and label for one of its most renowned products, Pasote Tequila, in conjunction with this traditional holiday.
This new presentation’s rollout coincides with the anniversary of a historical event with undeniable importance for the company’s broad Mexican consumer base in California: the 1862 Battle of Puebla, which marked the Mexican’s army defeated French invaders, and May 5 th has become the day to celebrate Latino Pride for Mexican immigrants and their descendants.
/>Pasote Tequila refreshes its packaging in conjunction with Cinco de Mayo celebration. The brand has four expressions of tequila sourced from 100% estate grown blue agave and produced using pure rainwater, natural spring water and neutral aging barrels.
We spoke with August Sebastiani, founder and Proprietor of 3 Badge Beverage Corporation based out of Sonoma, CA which owns the Pasote brand for its tequila produced at El Pandillo distillery in Jesús María Jalisco, northern Mexico.
Sebastiani has a track record of over 20 years in the liquor industry and his company sells tequilas, mezcals, rums, wines, and gins, either manufactured by the company or directly imported from their places of origin. With his solid experience, Sebastiani has successfully provided 3 Badge products with a differentiating seal of innovation and quality through their presentations. The Pasote tequila portfolio, which includes Blanco, Reposado, Añejo, and Extra Añejo, honors the Aztec culture by depicting their deities’ masks on each label.
"Well, it's interesting to talk about our new bottle and its design, which at the end of the day represent a consumer's first impression and the most important aspect towards building a brand", said Sebastiani, before explaining the update process that 3 Badge started over a year ago for Pasote.
Through a revolutionary approach regarding principles of design permanence, 3 Badge management decided to significantly change their labels and bottles. "We feel that it is highly important to frequently refresh our packaging, and to the extent in which these changes are more or less noticeable, we can speak of an evolution or a revolution", said Sebastiani, pointing out that the changes made to commemorate Cinco de Mayo are more aligned with the first concept. “It was something more gradual because we wanted to move towards a more premium appearance. It is not about making changes each year, but we will probably work on renewing some of the thirteen brands that make our portfolio to generate new attention”.
For Sebastiani, when consumers get accustomed to a particular look, even the smallest changes stand out: "The biggest challenge we faced was making sure that our consumers, marketers, and sellers received and appreciated the new image of Pasote tequila bottles while preserving everything inside them".
The bold new labels have an organic and tactile texture, celebrating the robust history of Aztec culture with masks, each honoring a different deity.
The renewal of Pasote bottles is aimed at reflecting the position the brand has gained for its high quality and its recognition within the ultra-premium tequila category. “We found that our original packaging, despite being beautiful, authentic, rustic, and connecting with the brand, should better reflect its position as part of this category. The bottle is more streamlined now and carries labels with smoother patterns and a more organic appearance. In addition, the glass provided by Saverglass for our bottles is now transparent, of extremely high quality and flawless, which gives them a cleaner look”, added Sebastiani.
|Read this story on a spirits bottle "cool as ice."|
Shining With its Own Light
3 Badge seeks to create better experiences for consumers through their new bottle and label designs and, although the effects of the pandemic have somewhat altered market conditions, Sebastiani believes that at some point people will once again go out to bars, and then the company might fully measure the renewals’ impacts: “The view that you have of the bottles from three feet away is different from the one you get when they are illuminated from above or below from six feet away. We wanted something that could shine under appropriate lighting, that would stand out among competing products on shelves, and we are very pleased with the outcome".
August Sebastiani, founder and proprietor of 3 Badge Beverage Corporation based out of Sonoma, CA, which owns the Pasote brand for its tequila produced at El Pandillo distillery in Jesús María Jalisco, northern Mexico.
Labels play an essential role in general appearance. There is a distinctive one for each of the four types of tequila, digitally printed with metallic inks on textured papers by All American Label & Packaging, with high and low embossing techniques. “I love the combination of high and low relief, because together they provide more texture to the label, creating a tactile sensation of variations in depth. I believe that all this contributes to satisfying the expectations of consumers in terms of quality”, assured Sebastiani.
Before these new labels, their bottles were screen printed and wore a paper band around their necks, which brought about manufacturing challenges, as it was loose and had to be glued: “With the new bottle we transitioned to two printed front labels, where the brand and its image are displayed, including details about the agave base, its place of origin, information about the art of tequila, and other specific data about the product”, stated Sebastiani.
Overcome Challenges and Improved Processes
The renovation project, a step in the constant evolution of the 3 Badge Beverage Corporation brand, has been both an element of improvement of production processes and a means to overcome previous challenges: “Previously, bottles were handcrafted, which resulted in a variety of imperfections on the glass. And, although I found this so attractive, what we heard from the market was that consumers were looking for a cleaner look”, said Sebastiani.
The 3 Badge proprietor also explained how having individually produced glass bottles, there are variations that, although microscopic, cause inefficiencies in the bottling lines: “In our previous packaging we had variation tolerances for the corks that demanded part changes during production. Now they are much more uniform, efficient, and consistent”.
This evolution process for packaging and presentation of their tequila brands —the first carried out by 3 Badge Beverage Corporation— met the company's principle of maintaining direct communications with consumers and responding to their perceptions and recommendations. “I think we did a great job of matching the new bottles with the previous presentations in an integral way, without straying too far from our origins”, said Sebastiani.
|Watch this video on paper bottles.|
This appreciation extends to the entire group that worked on the process and in record time managed to make the renovation ideas a reality. “It is very satisfying to be able to say that we sat down a little over a year ago and decided to make these changes, and about six months ago we could state that they should be ready for Cinco de Mayo. So, we put all the gears in motion and accelerated production, aligned the sales, marketing, and PR teams, so that everything was done on time”, Sebastiani recalled. "Everything has come together to make sure the packaging is where it needs to be, and I'm very proud to see how impressive the new designs rollouts have been".
Sebastiani and the entire renovation team are confident that the public will receive the new presentations enthusiastically: "Social media have shown us there is great expectation due to the announcement of the new bottles". And today, May 5 th , the ready to celebrate public that knows and appreciates the quality of Pasote tequila, will find it with a clearer and more premium look, without changes in its quality.
Aztec Iconography in a Bottle
When asked about the production process for Pasote tequilas, that in their iconography commemorate the brave spirit of Aztec warriors, the Proprietor of 3 Badge Beverage Corporation enthusiastically expressed: “It is a unique process, requiring a broad appreciation of what tequila is, and that, in our case, its process is subject to a series of control points that provide our brand with an exceptional flavor profile”.
This opinion is shared by tequila specialists from around the world who have reviewed the manufacturing techniques of the Pasote brand, pointing out in the Taste Tequila portal that “they are made using traditional production methods! . It is good to see another brand that values processes that have in large part been abandoned by most producers and replaced with overly industrialized shortcuts”.
Under this concept of respecting tradition, Pasote is produced with fully matured agaves, cooked in brick ovens and crushed in a mechanical mill, before distillation in copper tanks. These methods also include using water from various sources, which give it distinctive natural elements: “The combination of spring water with rainwater, filtered through a special system, gives the tequila a characteristic property we add to this aging in neutral oak barrels, which allows our tequila to stand out from other products on the market”, concluded Sebastiani.
4 New Tequilas Are Cause for Celebration - Recipes
In this strange pandemic year asking adults what they did during quarantine has become as common as asking kids what they did during summer vacation.
While most of North America was in peak sourdough bread making, we decided to tackle a different kind of project. Since we live in the Mexican state of Jalisco, have tequila industry friends, and an endless curiosity about tequila production, we thought we’d try to make our own tiny batch of tequila, or “agave spirit”, by hand.
(Disclaimer: Anything we make at home cannot legally be called “tequila” because it is not made under the supervision of the CRT. Although we’re using the same type of agave, producing within the denomination of origin, and following the same process as tequila, we are technically making an “agave spirit.”)
Our goal: make something drinkable.
We’ve been through enough distilleries to know that tequila making isn’t easy. One misstep along the way could ruin an entire batch, so we made sure to have several phone-a-friend connections* in place from the very start.
After doing the math, we decided that we would need one cooked blue weber agave piña. (In a traditional production process you can get about 9 liters of 40% abv tequila out of a single 50-kilo agave. ) Being optimistic, we aimed for 4 liters, using what would no doubt be a less efficient method.
But, where to get the cooked agave? This is the one step we could not do ourselves since we couldn’t figure out how to slow cook a 50 kilo agave at our house. We shared our plan with Guillermo Erickson Sauza, Founder of Tequila Fortaleza, and he was amused by our project.
“You can get one from me,” he said. So we were off to the Fortaleza distillery in the town of Tequila to pinch an agave fresh from the oven.
Sourcing the Agave
We set out early in the morning on May 16, 2020. Grover selected a 50.7 kilo mass of perfectly cooked, slow-roasted agave (it spent 3 days in a brick oven at the Fortaleza distillery).
The 6-year old agave came from Mexpan, Ixtlán del Río, which is located 80 kilometers from Tequila in the Mexican state of Nayarit. (A little more than an hour west of the town of Tequila.)
On the way home to Tlaquepaque, the car, full of agave still hot to the touch, smelled amazing. (Idea for new business: cooked agave air fresheners.)
Once back in Tlaquepaque, the extraction began. This is the most labor-intensive part of the process, which involves crushing the agave in order to release the sugars that are clinging to the fibers. Typically a distillery will use a roller mill, or tahona, to do this work. Instead, we used 2 wooden posts to smash the cooked agave in plastic cement mixing trays, and then washed the fibers by hand. This process took 2 full days.
Thankfully, we had some help. Our friends Karla and Andres, who are agave spirit lovers as well as crossfit fanatics, saw their 2 worlds collide. Soon “CrushFit” was underway.
Our target sugar level was 12 brix, which is higher than most distilleries use. Our logic was that we had limited fermentation capacity, so we needed to make the most of what we had. Packing more sugar and less water into the containers seemed to make logical space-saving sense at the time.
We eventually partly filled two 40-liter stainless steel pots, and two 19-liter glass carboys with the sugary water (mosto). We managed to create 83 liters of mosto, and there was still plenty of sugar left on the fibers. (Lesson learned : Rinsing by hand is a very inefficient extraction method!)
In addition to stainless steel tanks, we also fermented a portion in these glass carboys.
Fermentation: Where The Magic Happens
“It’s probably the most important step in the process because that’s where many of the aromas and flavors come from,” Grover said. We did a lot of advanced research on this and eventually came up with a plan.
We chose a champagne yeast (Lalvin EC-1118) because it can handle higher temperatures (this was happening in May, the hottest month of the year in Jalisco). This yeast strain is known for its slow-and-low characteristics. We weren’t in a rush, and feared a bubbling fermentation that might overflow the tanks.
We also decided to ferment without fibers, for two reasons: first, the fiber cap that forms at the top of the tank could cause it to overheat, and secondly, we wanted to keep methanol levels down in the final product (fibers contain more methanol). Also, we didn’t want the fiber to take up too much space in our limited-capacity tanks.
Some of our favorite tequilas ferment without fibers (Fortaleza, G4, Terralta, Don Fulano), so we weren’t worried about missing out on flavor. Generally, when the production process uses a tahona or is crushed by hand, fibers are put into the fermentation tank simply because the extraction process is not as efficient, giving the yeast an extra opportunity to eat the sugar that is still sticking to the fibers.
We pitched the yeast (dry) at 78˚ F, and then allowed it to ferment naturally, outside on our covered rooftop. Within 24 hours, the activity caused the temperature to rise to 83˚ F. However, after checking in with a few of our tequila friends, they were worried that the temperature was too low, and we weren’t doing enough to regulate it.
So we put some heat mats under the tanks, and got the temperature up to 93˚ F, which helped to keep the temperature from dropping during the cool nights. After that, the temperature remained at 90˚ F for the remainder of the fermentation.
The yeast performed exactly as expected, and 7 days later we started distillation, even though we could see there was still some fermentation activity going on. The brix level dropped from 12 to 6, which means the yeast had already consumed half of the available sugars.
Some distilleries will start their fermentation at 8 brix, and then wait until the mosto reaches 1 brix — a change of 7 — before distillation. We thought that a change of 6 was good enough. There was also a concern that we would allow the fermentation to go on too long. Since we’d never done this before, we didn’t know at which point the fermentation would be finished. The risk of letting fermentation go too long is that it can start to smell like vinegar and then the finished product can be overly lactic, like spoiled milk. We definitely wanted to avoid that.
It turned out that we were nowhere close to that point, but now we know!
This is the full setup. Fermentation tanks on the left, and copper pot still and water cooling tank on the right.
That was the first bit of advice we got from Guillermo. He was seriously concerned that we were going to injure ourselves once we got to the distillation step. So we approached this part of the process carefully.
We bought a tiny 5 gallon copper pot still online, and used a propane gas heater to bring it up to temperature. There’s definitely something that feels like a bit of magic when you experience distillation for the first time. This was the most exciting part of the process.
The first question we faced: when to cut heads and tails? There is a certain art to this, and master distillers know exactly when to start and stop collecting the distillate.
During the first distillation, we decided to start collecting at 37% abv, and to stop collecting when the tank reached 23% abv.
During the second distillation, we started collecting at 73% abv, and stopped collecting when the tank reached 47% abv (or 12% abv direct from the still.)
We originally wanted to distill to 46% abv, but when what was coming from the still was 12% abv we decided to stop early, since taking too much from the still below 15% alcohol could lead to elevated amounts of methanol in the final product.
Every few minutes we took samples from the still and kept notes on which aromas were coming off. This is a fascinating experience that every tequila lover should have. It’s a great way to learn which types of aromas and flavors are natural to tequila. (Hint, tutti-fruity and cake batter icing are not natural!)
In order of appearance, this is what we detected:
START @74.8% abv
END @12.8% abv
We ended up with 4.9 liters at 47.1 abv. Success!!
After it rested in glass bottles for 80 days, we added water and brought it down to 44.4% abv, which is the exact point where we felt it opened up to showcase its unique characteristics. We ended up with 6 bottles (700ml). Since we had been calling it our “Lotecito”, which means “tiny lot” in Spanish, we thought it would be fun to have real labels made, disclosing all the production details.
Is it safe to drink? We had it tested, and all of the lab results show that it’s safe nothing fell outside of industry-standard legal limits. In other words, you won’t go blind drinking our agave moonshine.
Here are the test results, showing the upper and lower limits a product must fall into in various categories to be legally sold and safely consumed.
1) 12 brix is probably too high. There was just too much sugar there and the yeast couldn’t get around to eating it all in the time we allowed for fermentation. Next time we’ll try it at 10.
2) Keeping the temperature more consistent seems to be something our tequila-making friends feel is critical. We weren’t worried about it enough, so next time we will make sure that it doesn’t have much variation. It will be interesting to compare the difference in the final product.
3) We should measure the alcohol level in the finished mosto in addition to the change in brix. We will need to purchase some alcohol measurement tools capable of detecting lower levels of alcohol.
4) We cut too many heads this time, and we shouldn’t be so worried. Next time we should collect the heads into smaller vessels and then mix them back in as needed to bring more aromas and flavors.
5) Deep clean the still between first and second distillations. Next time we will run some steam through the still before starting the 2nd distillation. We didn’t clean it thoroughly enough and some strange, thick, yellow stuff came out at the start of the distillation. It eventually went away, but caused us to panic a bit (okay, a lot) when we saw it.
This whole process was immensely fun and interesting. The result was a drinkable product, so we achieved our quarantine mission.
It’s also not for sale. So, if you want to try it for yourself, any Tequila Matchmaker user can come to Guadalajara and sample it at our office while it lasts!
We’ve already got plans for the next batch. :-)
*Thanks to Guillermo Erickson Sauza, Ana Maria Romero Mena, Antonio Rodriguez, Jaime Villalobos Sauza, and Sergio Mendoza for being supportive of our project, and for taking our calls and messages (sometimes in the middle of the night.)