So, it has never really been a love affair for me and tequila. In fact, I would go as far as to say I actively avoid it.
However, Mexico – the country of said drink’s origin – is entirely another matter. Firmly on my bucket list of dream destinations – I’ve never travelled around South America and yet everything about it says I should. The colours, the food, the embroidered peasant tops – all of these reasons strongly indicate to me that I need to up sticks to Cabo, pronto. But tequila: No. It doesn’t make me happy.
But this year marks the Year of Mexico in the UK, educating us about the fact their food goes way beyond guacamole and tacos (although, hello!).
And to celebrate this, the Mexican tourist board partnered up – gastronomically speaking – with Selfridges, to offer a wide range of incredible food and drink. It’s set to roll out around the country for the rest of the year too, you can find out more about it here.
Last week I was invited down to Harry Gordon’s Bar in Selfridges for a mezcal masterclass with Carlos Leal – a man for whom mezcal and tequila is literally a way of life. He produces his own brand of mezcal, called Sabios de Lua and was even named distiller of the year in 2014.
Carlos understood that many of us there had experienced really, really bad tequila and he was keen to showcase that by picking a prestige brew, it was actually a drink you could enjoy all night rather than as shots. Hmmm.
So here are six things I took away from my mezcal masterclass – a huge thanks to Carlos, who flew over from Mexico for the event, the Mexican tourist board and Selfridges for inviting me along.
- Mezcal and tequila are produced in different states in Mexico, although there is a little bit of overlap.
- Mezcal IS technically a tequila. Legally though, tequila is only made with one variety of agave (the blue agave), whereas mezcal can be produced with up to 30.
- The agave plant has a pinã (heart) which is cooked for about 3 days in a pit oven, then crushed, mashed and left to ferment. Like tequila, mezcal is distilled twice. Only mezcal has extra herbs and spices added during fermentation.
- Not every bottle of mezcal contains a worm. Did you know that some people say it was originally a mistake because it was the larvae of a moth that used to infest the marguey agave plant. Now, if it’s added, it’s during the bottling process, although many think it’s just a marketing ploy.
- By God it’s strong. By tester glass number five I could only sniff rather than taste. Many people there were very much enjoying the process however.
- I think I still prefer red wine – but all experiences are good experiences, right?! **
** Please note I am not an expert in this, so do not take any of these facts as gospel. Also, there is a LOT more to mezcal than this very, very simplistic overview.
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