No doubt about it, American love their tequila, in fact, according to a report in the Daily Meal, we consume twice as much as they do in Mexico. While this statistic surely doesn’t take into account all the tequila sold in plastic gallon milk containers at the toll crossing at the border of the state of Tequila, Mexico (yes, there is a place named Tequila) it does speak to how widely popular the drink has become here in the U.S.
According to her fascinating article by Chantal Martineau, How Tequila Went from Mexican Farms for American Frats,which appeared May 15, 2105 in the Atlantic, “Tequila is a global industry worth more than a billion dollars; seven out of every 10 liters produced in Mexico are exported abroad. The biggest market is the United States, which swallows some 80 percent of exports”.
And, as with so many facets of other cultures with which we Americans become obsessed, our love affair has been more with what Mexico, and in this case what can only be considered its national alcoholic beverage, can do for us than it is with the people of Mexico. As stated so well by Alberto Ruy Sanchez and Margarita de Orellana, authors of the book of the same title, “Tequila… [which has been called ‘that burning river in a small glass’ is inextricably entwined with the history and culture of Mexico”. Even as we revel in our Margaritas, Cinco de Mayo specials and newly-invented tequila-based cocktails (see below), we continue to embrace stereotypes of Mexicans associated with tequila that are at best condescending and at worst, racist.
Joan Bristol puts it well in her essay, You Are What You Drink, Tequila, Maguey and Mexican Identity. “Tequila is closely associated with Mexican national identity inside and outside of Mexico. Movies and advertisements link tequila with landowning horsemen and a romanticized Spanish colonial past. The names of the more expensive and popular tequilas exported to the United States – including Don Julio, Don Pedro, and Patron – evoke images of high-status Spanish-descent landowning culture. “Don” is an honorific reserved for men of elevated class or achievement. The term “patrón” (patron) also calls up images of wealth, status, and patriarchal largesse. Yet tequila is also associated with less romantic stereotypes of Mexicans as drunken, uncontrolled, and irresponsible. While the cartoon mouse Speedy Gonzales, introduced in the U.S. in the 1950s, was full of energy, his fellow Mexican mice were depicted as drunk and lazy. Although the iconic image of a sleeping Mexican, leaning against a cactus with a wide-brimmed hat dipped over his eyes, does not explicitly reference drunkenness, one can imagine an empty bottle just outside of the frame”. Never thought about it, right? The fact that the very name of some of our most popular brands of Tequila are loaded with innuendo.
No one wants to take the fun out of discovering the next great bottle or brand, or trying a new cocktail. In fact, the recipes below are shared with us from the makers of Milagro (the name means “miracle”, so all positive intentions), who want you to enjoy National Tequila Day, as does this columnist.
But as you enjoy the nectar of the gods (Pulque, Tequila’s predecessor, which is made from the same agave plant and is now enjoying a comeback, is the original Mexican “nectar of the gods”) think about the fact that the craftsmanship of the fermenting process and the labor of the jimador (the person harvesting the agave plants used to make tequila) are part and parcel of the best of what Mexico and its people have to offer, and drink a toast to them as well.
What types of foods pair best with tequila and why?
“I tend to pair food with tequila according to the style of tequila being served. For example, Milagro Silver is bright with hints of black pepper and citrus fruits and generally goes well with fresh fish, sushi, ceviche and other light dishes. This goes for most Blanco/Silver tequilas. Reposados tend to bring a lot more caramel, spice and sweeter flavors to the party and will stand up better to dishes with sauces, chili spice and savory flavors as well. Anejos are far more complex, drier and tend to incorporate notes of chocolate, butterscotch and smoke. They are particularly suited for stronger, heartier flavored dishes like; steaks, mole and rich desserts.”
Original Tequila Cocktails from Milagro
Carpe Dia Punch (Añejo Lime Blackberry Ginger Carpe Dia Punch)
Lime Juice 1 part
Blackberry Syrup 0.75 part
Sage Leaf 1ea
Hibiscus Tea 1 part
Ginger Beer 1 part
Garnish: Blackberries & Sage
Build all ingredients except ginger beer in a punchbowl over a block of ice. Top with ginger beer right before stirring.
Agua Verde or Avocado Margarita
Avocado 0.25 part
Fresh Lime Juice 1 part
Agave Nectar 0.75 part
Cucumber 3 Slices
Garnish: 1 Lime Wheel
Combine ingredients and blend with one cup of ice. Pour into a rocks glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.
Simple Syrup 0.25 part
Fresh Lemon Juice 0.5 part
Watermelon Juice 0.75 part
Rosé Sparkling Wine 2 parts
Garnish: 1 Lemon Twist
Combine all ingredients, except sparkling wine, in a cocktail shaker and add ice. Shake, strain and pour into a champagne flute. Garnish with a lemon twist.