Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pass the Salt, Skip the Lime

By T. Lynn Ocean

Mention tequila in a crowd and somebody is sure to relay an old tale from their college days that involves shots, body parts, and a massive hangover. What, you may be asking yourself, does any of this have to do with the writing process?

Nothing, really, other than you might can round up some excellent plot ideas if you're at a party while sober and observant. Parties aside, however, I recently did some research after a five dollar bet with a friend. Since holiday shopping season is approaching and you may have a tequila-lover on your gift list, thought I'd share…

According to some local Myrtle Beach eateries, (and remember that Myrtle Beach, SC is a tourist destination with some 1500 restaurants) tequila is no longer the slam-it-down-in shots that young drinkers used to party with. Upscale customers are now sipping the stuff, and taking the time to enjoy it. The tequila industry has done a better job of education, for starters. It's how they can sell a bottle of fermented cactus juice for upwards of $100, right next to the single malt scotches.

I spoke to a self pronounced tequila aficionado, and he tossed around adjectives that I'd previously only heard at wine tastings. He also said that the road to discovery

involves a lot of sampling. If you're game, first and foremost, MAKE SURE you have a designated driver! Start by selecting only those brands made with the 100% blue agave plant because they're the best and have absolutely zero added flavors, chemicals, or colorings. Next, you'll need to know the three basic categories of agave tequila:

 Blanco or silver - bottled immediately after the distillation process; clear in color with a strong flavor

 Reposado or rested - stored in white oak vats for a few months up to a year; pale in color with a mellow taste

 Anejo or aged - soaked in white oak vats for more than a year; varies in color with a woody, warm, unique flavor

I'm told that people who are knowledgeable about tequila will drink it like a wine snob does wine, and they've identified fifty unique flavors and aromas in tequila that include chocolate and cherry. Apparently, it all depends on the growing region and soil (just like grapes) and the barrels and aging process (just like wines).

Gabriel Hernandez, a local restaurant owner I spoke with grew up in Jalisco, Mexico, one of the country's main tequila-producing regions. He explained how 'estate' or 'micro' batches are made -- crafted by hand using old-style methods. They'll cook their agave in a wood oven, for example, and use a big well with a donkey going around to stone grind it.

Me? I won the $5 dollar bet. You? I've given you something to think about next time you've just finished that final manuscript edit and want to celebrate with a shot of something different. Just remember to sip it. Then try not to shake your head around like my Labrador does when he gobbles up a dropped lemon peel from the kitchen floor.

T. Lynn Ocean

1 comment:

laina said...

I really enjoyed this post. Not just because I like tequila a little too much but becausetr it was a fun way to talk about writing. It shows that as writers we can find something to write about anywhere.