Most people's experiences of tequila involve a questionable choice towards the latter part of the night, a wedge of lime and salt. It's not often anybody's first choice for a civilised drink when faced with an entire back bar of bottles.
This is something that Herradura is trying to change. Established in 1869, the Herradura hacienda sits within one of the four regions in Mexico that can distil tequila. It's a family business with the jimadors passing on their knowledge from father to son which can take a while as the particular type of agave (there are 150 different kinds) takes 8 years to grow.
We tried three different types of tequila last night - plata, reposado and anejo. All made from Blue Weber agave and aged in virgin American oak, it's the distillation and resting times that effects the taste, colour and alcoholic volume of the tequila.
Plata's a blanco and most commonly used in cocktails given its slightly sugary nature. Once picked, it's cooked for 24 hours, crushed and then fermented with airborne yeast for 5 days before being heated and distilled twice. Unlike other blancos, it's not mixed with sugar cane products so you get the clearer taste and a proof of around 40 to 50%. It's vanillay and doesn't pack that reeling punch that quick line tequilas so often do.
Next up was the reposado. There's no difference in the ageing process, it's just rested for longer and is the number one bestselling tequila in Mexico. It's more of a sipping than a shotting drink and is woody and peppery like a whisky.
Finally there was the anejo. It's aged for between 1 and 3 years to create a mellow, warm drink that's perfect in Old Fashioneds or on its own. Serving it with ice helps bring the flavours out and takes the edge off the ethanol hit. This is your premium tequila that's about £15-£20 a pop at a bar so probably not one you're going to rack up at the bar with your mates.
It was really interesting how the ageing process produced such a woody, whiskey type drink despite being in virgin barrels. As someone that's going through a huge whiskey phase, I'll definitely reconsider my options when faced with an anejo or two. And I'll definitely reorder a sangrita - a shot followed by a hugely spicy tomato based chaser. Perfect.
For the slightly more affordable end of the market, there's the El Jimador brand which is great when mixed in espresso martinis, Tommy's margaritas or Bloody Marys, if that's your kinda thing too.
Herradura is available in good bars and Selfridges but you should totally snap it up this week at Bourne & Hollingsworth Building's Last Libations Cinqo de Mayo event and make the most of their gorgeous outside in room.