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The Myths About Tequila
#1. The worm in tequila.
Mexican-bottled tequila contains no worm. Some American-bottled brands put one in their bottle to boost sales, but this is only a marketing ploy and not a Mexican tradition. There is a worm - called a gusano, or a butterfly caterpillar - in some types of mescal. You may also get a small bag of 'worm salt' - dried gusano, salt and chile powder tied to a bottle of mescal tequila.
The worm-in-the-bottle myth is old and very tired. The truth has been broadcast and explained for many years by the makers of tequila. The worm in not a customary element in mezcal production. It is a recent development and marketing ploy that appeared only in the 1940s to try to get more attention to sell tequila. There is no need to defend tequila and this myth should not be dispelled any further. It is simply an urban legend.
Another myth about the worm is that you are supposed to eat it. Not to worry if you swallowed a worm, it is quite well pickled and free of pesticides. But dismiss any ideas that it might have magical powers or that it is an aphrodisiac. The worm is merely a protein in alcohol.
#2.Tequila is made from cactus.
Tequila is made from distilled juice of the agave plant. It is known as a succulent and it is not a cactus as it has a different life cycle. The mature agave leaves stand about 5-8 feet tall and is 7-12 feet in diameter. The lifespan of the agave plant depends on growing conditions, species and climate, but generally it is 8 to 15 years.
In Mexico, there are 136 species of agave. Agave has been cultivated for at least 9,000 years. The blue agave is the only one allowed for use in tequila production. No Mexican alcoholic drinks are made from cactus. However, the cactus is used in some fruit drinks, salads and other food items.
#3.Tequila and mezcal are the same.
Technically, tequila is a type of mezcal, but mezcal is not tequila. Both are made from varieties of the plant called ‘mexcalmetl’. Although there are many similarities tequila and mezcal are as different today as scotch and whiskey. Tequila is made from only blue agave. Mezcal can be made from five different varieties of agave in the region. Tequila is double distilled. Mezcal is often only distilled once. Mezcal piñas (the sugar-rich heart of the agave) are baked in the ground giving it a strong, smoky flavour. Tequila piñas are baked or steamed in above-ground ovens.
Tequila and mezcal are similar in one respect and that is in the amount of alcohol in the bottle which tends to be around 38-40%. Mezcals however tend to be a little stronger.
#4:Tequila is only bottled home-brew.
The manufacturing of tequila is very tightly controlled by the Mexican government and the Tequila Regulatory Council. The bottle must have statements about age, style, and content to meet the legal requirements. There is also a non-profit council called the Chamber of Tequila Producers which regulates the industry.
Tequila is not home-brew moonshine. It is carefully distilled and aged, although each company has its own process and quality control. Most manufacturers take considerable pride in their production.
Tequila is not stronger than other liquors. Most tequilas have the same liquor content about 38-40%, as other liquors. The official norm allows a range from 38-55%.
#5:The best tequilas cost the most.
Price is not a good way to judge the taste of tequila. Fancy packaging, designer bottles large advertising campaigns and simply to status makes up a lot of the pricing of a bottle of tequila. A well-advertised, bottled, and well promoted blanco at 0 is not necessarily a better buy than a reposado at . It depends on your taste and what you expect in a tequila.
In Mexico, there is a large market of excellent tequilas available from to . In the under range most of the tequilas are mass produced for the local market, and usually not 100% agave. Tequila priced above that is aiming mostly for the premium markets using collector bottles and speciality bottles.
The taste is the ultimate deciding factor. People have different tastes when it comes to tequilas. Some prefer the rough edged, more distinct flavor of young blanco tequila. Others like the more sharper, peppery flavour of a reposado. And then there are some that prefer the smooth, woody aroma in an añejo. What every you taste, there is a tequila made just for you.
#6: All tequilas are the same, only the bottles are different.
Tequilas vary according to the company making them, the process and the growing environment. It is affected by the temperature, soil, types of equipment, the age of the plants and the way the plants were prepared. All of these things will affect the body and flavor of the tequila. Traditional methods produce much stronger agave flavour than modern, mass production. Aging in barrels also affects the taste of tequila but not always for the better. The woody flavor imparted by the oak can overpower the natural agave. And some manufacturers are now adding wood essence to darken the tequila so it looks more aged. There is a very wide variation in tequila flavours between styles like blanco, reposado and añejo. This makes it difficult for any new partakers to make a distinction between each type of tequila.
Fancy packaging, wooden boxes and elegant bottles and are now common with premium tequilas. These fancy bottles have become collector's items. While they do not add to the basic quality of the drink in the bottle, they do add to its charm and certainly has visual appeal.
About the Author: Don Tekela has been in the search of the perfect Tequila for the past 20 years. He currently resides in Mexico, the tequila capital of the world.