Tequila, the agave-derived spirit born in the Mexican city of the same name, has long been associated with substandard shots in the UK. But this is old news. After years of marginalization and misunderstanding, tequila is now one of the UK’s fastest growing categories of spirits, with more and more consumers recognizing it is a versatile and delicious artisan spirit – one to savor and enjoy.
Consejo Regulador del Tequila – the organization responsible for protecting the drink’s appellation of origin – reports that 1.7 million liters of tequila were shipped to the UK in 2020. John Fine, a buyer of spirits at Waitrose, says the company grew tequila sales by more than 127% from last year. 2019 to 2021, bringing the category and new audiences.” “People are increasingly realizing that it’s versatile and refreshing in cocktails and not just for shots.”
It’s a trend he’s seen firsthand, says Carlos Fonteira, bar manager at Mexican boutique restaurant chain El Pastor. “Over the years at El Pastor, I’ve seen our guests become more interested in tequila,” he says. “They are moving away from just looking at him for shots and are starting to see his potential as a premium shot spirit. They are also more willing to try different types of tequila cocktails.”
But why did British drinkers take so long to embrace the distinctly Mexican spirit? “I think tequila has always been something special for UK consumers,” says Daniel Omwitt, El Jimador’s 100% blue agave tequila ambassador. “UK consumers are more familiar with Scotch, gin and rum because of the historical ties this nation has to this spirit.”
However, tequila, particularly El Jimador, deserves a mention, says Umoette. “El Jimador is manufactured at Casa Herradura, our distillery in Amatitán, Mexico. Although it is relatively small as a brand [launched in 1994]We have 152 years of distilling knowledge from our sister brand Herradura. El Jimador is a 100% dry tequila that speaks volumes for its quality. Wild fermentation also contributes to its sweet flavour.
Ruben Aceves, global brand ambassador for Casa Herradura, explains that the percentage of agave—a succulent plant often mistaken for a cactus because of its prickly leaves—makes the difference between bad and good tequila. “When tequila is made from 100% agave, it means that there are no other sources of sugar in it. So if tequila is only 51% agave juice, the other 49% can come from any neutral spirit, from any acceptable source.” for fermentation, such as corn, wheat, cane sugar, or a mixture thereof, without the need to explain it to the consumer.”
Likewise, the process and quality control of a single distillery is critical to the end result. At the legendary distillery in El Jimador, for example, the production process begins with seven-year-old agave plants that are harvested by hand. Gumador (Farmers). Then we pass the cactus through the blades to cut it into very small pieces and then pass it through the diffuser; This is a very efficient mill that extracts all the aloe juice possible,” says Acevis. “After the diffusion process, the agave juice is collected and cooked in stainless steel pressure cookers. This loads the sweet aloe vera juice with sugar.”
The next step is fermentation, which at El Jimador is a completely natural process using only airborne wild yeast from the agave groves and fruit trees surrounding the distillery. “After fermentation in our open tanks we get 6% ABV [alcohol by volume] Aloe vera juice. Now the sugar is gone and the alcohol shows up with lots of beautiful, delicious flavors and a unique aroma that’s easy to enjoy.”
From here the liquid is distilled twice, the minimum required for tequila, resulting in 55% ABV Blanco Tequila that is pure, delicious and smooth. It is then processed into a number of different ABVs depending on each country’s rules.
“Once the ABV is set with clean, nice water, it is infused for a few hours and then bottled in the shape of a blanco or sent to age if it is going to be a reposado or anejo. El Jimador is aging in white American oak casks made especially for us,” Aceves adds. “The barrels are made in Kentucky, USA; they are roasted and roasted and have a capacity of 200 liters.” Aceves is excited about the fact that it is this series of small details and quality control that makes El Jimador so special with such a distinctive and delicious appearance.
So what do experts say is the most modern way to enjoy tequila? Of course, a refreshing margarita with fresh lemon juice is always popular – in fact, research found it was the second most Googled cocktail recipe in the first few months of the first UK shutdown. However, for a more authentic experience, Umoette recommends the Paloma, Mexico’s favorite tequila cocktail. “This drink is a mixture of tequila, pink grapefruit juice, agave syrup, lime juice, and a drizzle of soda water, served in a large, salt-covered glass,” he explains. “The citrus flavors and bright notes of our wild fermentation beautifully complement the peppery and spicy flavors of Mexican cuisine, making it the perfect cocktail to share with food.”
However you choose to drink it, Vine recommends that you start with an authentic, high-quality tequila. “If you’re thinking of it to make a cocktail, go to a blanco or reposado. You’re looking at añejo while you’re drinking,” he says. “And always, 100% blue agave should be the starting point.”
Discover for yourself the vibrant taste of modern Mexico with the 100% Blue Weber Agave Tequila from El Jimador. Shop everything you need to start your authentic tequila journey here
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