Tequila tasting has become more sophisticated in recent years. // © 2012 Capella Pedregal
Over the years, tequila has transitioned from being a gimmicky drink served in a shot glass to a libation enjoyed in the manner that one might savor a single malt whiskey or a fine wine. In light of this, many hotels and resorts in Los Cabos have started offering tequila tastings where participants can learn about various varieties, the proper drinking method and popular tequila pairings.
“The American guest is always looking for new things,” said Isaac Novoa, Capella Pedregal’s banquet and bar manager. “Most Americans drink Scotch, and many of them think of tequila as a shooting drink — not a sipping drink. It shouldn’t be taken as a shot — it should be sipped like a fine cognac. After a tequila class, they gain a new appreciation of tequila.”
Novoa conducts three different classes on tequila at Capella Pedregal. The Beginners Course introduces the history and tradition of tequila and familiarizes guests with the basic types: blanco, reposado and anejo tequila along with mezcal. The Advanced Course teaches the unique properties of the various tequilas produced from agave. The Once in a Lifetime course presents some of the best extra aged tequilas Mexico has to offer.
“Almost every one of our guests chooses level three — the Once in a Lifetime course,” said Novoa. “I usually ask them if they have taken the introductory level and, if they haven’t, I give them some of the basic information they missed. Our tequila classes are not strict, and we customize the classes to suit the guests.”
There are five basic types of tequila: tequila silver (blanco), tequila gold (joven), tequila reposado, Tequila anejo (extra aged) and premium tequila (ultra-aged). Premium tequila is a new classification that was added in 2006, labeling tequila aged more than three years as extra anejo. With the extended amount of aging, the premium tequila becomes a dark mahogany color and is so rich it resembles other quality aged spirits such as Scotch or bourbon. Extra aged tequilas are extremely smooth and complex.
Tequila is not made from cactus as commonly thought, but from sap from the hearts of the agave plant. The best tequilas use 100 percent agave. Even though there is a brand named Cabo Unico, it’s not made in Cabo. No tequila is made in Los Cabos. Tequila can only be made in five states in Mexico: Jalisco, Nayarit, Michoacan, Guanajuato and Tamaulipas.
While most Americans are familiar with the process of licking the salt from your hand, shooting the tequila and then biting a lime, Elmo Quintero, the tequila sommelier at Grand Solmar Land’s End Resort & Spa, related how tequila is taken in the Mexican manner.
“In Mexico, the locals do it slightly differently,” said Quintero. “Tequila is rarely had in shots here. First, they pour the tequila in a caballito. This is very similar to our shot glasses, only slighter slimmer and taller. The main difference however is the sipping of a sangrita by the side, which is a blend of tomato and orange juice, spiced with salt and chilies.”
Tequila classes are led by Quintero each Thursday evening at Grand Solmar’s Don Luis restaurant. During the tequila tasting classes, Isidoro educates participants on how to distinguish between the different varieties of tequila; how to sip tequila in the Mexican fashion with sangrita; and gives pairing suggestions that include hot and spicy foods, sweets and coffee.
Quintero also offered some insights on the different spices used during a tequila class that bring out the various flavors of the five types of tequila.
“You can use spices such as pepper, bay leaf and cloves with vintage tequila and aged tequilas,” said Quintero. “For aged tequila, consider using more intense flavors such as chocolate or pepper. And for white tequilas, use citrus fruits or even flowers, such as a daisy.”
There are a number of additional resorts in Los Cabos offering tequila classes. Most resorts charge a fee for the classes, ranging from $30 to $95. Classes tend to fill up quickly, so advance reservations are recommended. Esperanza, An Auberge Resort; Las Ventanas al Paraiso; and Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach offer tequila classes for a fee, while Secrets Marquis Los Cabos has a weekly tequila class that is included in the resort’s Unlimited-Luxury program.