Tequila tastes good.
Maybe your stomach just dropped, or your lips even puckered, as the spicy spirit historically makes foes before friends.
Too many a tequila story starts during a long night in college when our desire for senseless intoxication could be satiated only with a bottle of the stuff. Sometimes this enemy standoff lasts for years, even decades, or until your lips bedew with something more subtle, something impressively complex and thoroughly distinctive, because that’s what good tequila is.
What’s in a name?
Tequila is one of the world’s greatest spirits. What kind of tequila it is matters, though, when it comes to its level of aging. We have 100 percent blue agave and mixto, but there are four classifications beyond that. You’ll always see “blanco,” “reposado,” “anejo” or a new level of distinction, “extra anejo.” But what does that mean for the spirit inside the bottle?
Blanco: Clear and unaged, but may be aged for up to 60 days. Citrus, floral and vegetal characteristics.
Reposado: Light caramel color and aged in oak for at least two months. Vanilla, oak, chocolate, coffee and whiskey flavors. This is the best-selling tequila in Mexico.
Anejo: Dark caramel color and aged in oak barrels for at least one year. Strong oak characteristics. More closely resembles cognac or Scotch than blanco tequila.
Extra anejo: Almost like a dark rum in color and aged in oak barrels for at least three years. Often taken for whiskeys or brandies because of the time on the oak.
Good tequilas have pronounced citrus, mineral and floral flavors, or caramel, vanilla and chocolate hints. These are tequilas to sip, such as a bourbon or cognac, not shoot. These are tequilas with names such as Herradura, Partida, Corzo and a newcomer to the super-premium tequila market, Casamigos.
Casamigos tequila has a storied start in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, when tequila-loving friends George Clooney (the actor) and Rande Gerber searched for the perfect tequila.
Clooney and Gerber (Cindy Crawford’s husband and L.A. restaurant impresario) own adjacent homes in Mexico and spend a lot of time downing a lot of tequila there. But each bottle they drank left something to be desired. They wanted something smooth with no burn, so they decided to make their own. With the experience and prowess of a Jalisco distiller, pretty soon their desires were bottled and named Casamigos, or House of Friends. Celebrity tie or not, this tequila is one of the good ones.
Tequilas, most generally, are classified as 100 percent blue agave or mixto, and that’s a quality statement. Tequila is made by distilling the fermented juices of the blue agave plant with water. Unless the label reads 100 percent blue agave, it’s a mixto, blended with sugar and water to maximize production. If you want to sip tequila, you want 100 percent blue agave. Casamigos passes this qualification, and it currently produces “blanco” and “reposado” tequilas.
The good news: More than 50 restaurants and bars in Naples serve Casamigos tequila, so give it a try at some of the locations that pour a lot of it.
I was hesitant at first to drink my tequila neat, but don’t let your stomach roll too soon. For me, the “blanco,” which is aged two months in stainless steel barrels, has a vanilla aroma with a slight cinnamon and mint taste, but what struck me sounds cliché — it was smooth. No-burn, soft-mouthfeel smooth.
I sampled that Casamigos blanco next to the Herradura blanco, which strikes me as having a strong grapefruit essence, and the Don Julio blanco, from which I mostly derived spice notes. When I went to the Casamigos reposado, which is aged for seven months in used American whiskey barrels, the caramel was strong, with a fuller body and slight peppery finish.
But don’t take my word for it: Sip this Cinco de Mayo, don’t shoot.
Where to try Casamigos
More than 50 restaurants and bars in Naples serve Casamigos tequila including:
■ Agave Southwestern Grill: 2380 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples. 239-598-3473 or www.agavenaples.com
■ Chop’s City Grill: 837 Fifth Ave. S., Naples. 239-262-4677 or www.chopscitygrill.com
■ Giovanni’s Italian Ristorante: 5975 Pine Ridge Road, Naples. 239-353-9440 or www.giovanni-naples.com
■ Tavern on the Bay: 489 Bayfront Place, Naples. 239-530-2225
Ashley Stites tends bar at the Avenue Wine Cafe in Naples and enjoys scouting out the best libations available in Southwest Florida.