Friday Fact: The Enormous Agave Flower

There’s nowhere better to learn about the miraculous spiky plant that give us Tequila than the agave growing estates of Jalisco, Mexico. There is one thing, however, you wont see anywhere agave is cultivated–the flower that is produced when the plant reaches sexual maturity.

Depending on the the climate, soil, and other factors, Blue Weber agaves can take anywhere from 5 to 50 years (usually 8-12) to mature. In the wild the stalk shoots up, the plant flowers, and bats come in to pollenate. On estates, however, It is precisely at this point, before the flowering occurs, that Jimadors come in to harvest the agave. While it might seem strange to prevent your crop from naturally propagating itself, timing the harvest this way is absolutely essential.

The stalk that is produced when an agave flowers is so large (commonly over 10 ft), and grows so fast (as little as 3 or 4 days) that the effort of flowering actually kills the rest of the plant by siphoning away essential nutrients. Moreover, these nutrients (mostly sugars) are essential to Tequila production. Without them, there is nothing to ferment, distill, bottle and enjoy. Watch this video of a 30ft agave stalk that sprouted in Boston greenhouse and you’ll understand how the process can be so draining on the plant.

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To learn more about how agaves do reproduce when they are being grown on estates, check out this old blog post.

Friday Fact: Etymology of Tequila

Everybody knows Tequila is a (tasty) spirit. Surprisingly few know that it’s also a place.

The town of Tequila (site of Tres Agaves Tequila’s distillery) is nestled comfortably in the valley of Tequila, below the Tequila Volcano.

By my count, that’s four different things, all going by the same name.  Why is everything in sight down there called ‘Tequila’, and what does it mean? The authorities differ on this point.

Most agree that the term comes from an ancient Nahuatl word. It has been variously taken to mean ‘place of tribute’, and ‘place of work’ on one end of the spectrum, and ‘place of taxes’, ‘place of tricks’ on the other.

Other theories of the word’s original meaning center around the Tequila Volcano that looms over over the town. For instance, some believe that Tequila should be translated as ‘the rock that cuts’, a reference to the obsidian that is abundant in the area. At least a few others think Tequila is a corruption of ‘tetilla’, implying that the locals thought the mountain looked like a small breast.

Tequila isn’t Nahuatl’s only contribution to modern parlance. According to Wikipedia all of the following words and more can be traced back to this indigenous Mexican group of languages:

achiote, aguacate, cacahuate, chile, chipotle, chocolate, coyote, guacamole, jícara, jitomate, mezcal, mezquite, mole, nopal, popote, pozole, quetzal, tamal, tomate.

“Frieday” Fact: La Paloma

In the US, margaritas drive us wild, and for good reason–agave and lime go together like peanut butter and jelly.

But what is the most popular cocktail in Mexico? Chances are you may not have run across the refreshing combination of grapefruit soda, Tequila and lime that our southern neighbors call ‘La Paloma’, or ‘The Dove’. Usually made using Squirt, La Paloma is said to have been invented at ‘La Capilla’ (The Chapel), an awesome little bar just down the street from Tres Agaves’ own distillery in the town of Tequila.

It may be small, but La Capilla and its nearly 90 year old proprietor Don Javier Delgado Corona are a prolific bunch–check out the previous Tres Agaves Life post on ‘La Batanga’, another of Don Javier’s creations.

Here’s the Ultimate Cocktail Challenge’s recipe for La Paloma

  • 2 ounces tequila
  • ½ ounce limejuice
  • 2 ounces grapefruit soda
  • lime wedge garnish
  • Preparation: Build in Collins glass with ice and add tequila and lime juice. Top with grapefruit soda. Garnish with half grapefruit wheel.

Winning Cocktails at the Fillmore Holiday Cocktail Crawl

In the past few posts I’ve documented how I purchased, prepped and served all the Tequila cocktails that were featured at last night’s Fillmore Holiday Cocktail Crawl.

After my hosting duties were completed, I got to hang out with the 400 plus folks who attended and compare my creations with the experts. As a reminder here’s the drink list.

  • The Redevelopment
  • Fillmo’better
  • Jalisco Blossom
  • Joplin’s Juice
  • The Zapata
  • I sampled everything but The Zapata, which was “out” by the time I got there. So I’m trusting the law of supply and demand and that it must have been pretty tasty. All the drinks were high on the yum scale. In my own biased opinion my versions stacked up well against the Fillmo’better, the Jalisco Blossom and Joplin’s Juice. This is not to say I prepared better drinks than these Bartenders – only to say that they weren’t signifcantly worse.

    Sean McNeal’s 99 proof banana “frothing” on “Fillmo” was clearly on the money and on my lips. Mine was a little heavier in the glass – but still not bad. I preferred my version served up neat in a Martini glass. As you can see, though, I had no problem getting to the bottom of the glass. And apparently neither did anyone else as it was chosen the audience favorite. Congrats Sean!

    Finishing the Fillmo'better.

    The Redevelopment was clearly better and deLISH. It WAS the muddling of the Jalapeno. It made all the difference. It was spicier, better balanced. It was all at once sweet and sour with a pepper finish that made it come alive.

    I was too focused on enjoyed this and not focused enough on getting a shot. Wish I had a picture to share but, alas, I do not. I did snap this clinking of glasses though. A perfect way to finish off a great evening.

    One final toast.

    Bay Area folks: If you want to know which pubs are featuring these drinks, click here or pop me a comment. Happy to provide!

    Tequila Talk: Mixto

    In just a few months I’ve gotten immersed in the Tequila culture here at Tres Agaves and things I hadn’t even thought about are part of my everyday “lingo”. Yeah. I’ve now acquired Tequila “lingo”.

    One such term that is now part of my daily parlance is “Mixto”. “Mixto” now trips off the tongue quite easily. As if I’ve always known that Mixto was a term indicating a class of Tequilas that are blended with at least 51% Blue Weber Agave and at most 49% of other products (which typically are high fructose corn syrup and/or other sugars). 100% agave Tequilas, like Tres Agaves, are just that- 100% agave. No sugar, or anything else, added. One taste will tell ya. Not all Tequilas are the same.

    And now I know why.

    “Frieday” Fact: The Birth of the Frozen Margarita

    According the HoustonPress the frozen margarita was invented by Mariano Martinez of Mariano’s Mexican Cuisine, in where else? The “Big D”.

    The Frozen Margarita debuted at Mariano's Mexican Cuisine in Dallas.

    Mariano got the recipe from his Dad who used to mix up virgin versions for customers who then would add their own Tequila to get around Dallas’ dry liquor laws. When the laws changed in the early 70’s Mariano adapted it to make it “production ready.” Key to his success was modifying a slushy machine. Even back then technology was king. The drink was enjoyed by everyone from Trini Lopez to Lee Trevino but it was Southern Methodist co-eds, who were looking for a frothy sweet drink to “function” with, that popularized it. Chi-Chi’s, Chili’s, Azteca’s and Applebee’s all thank you.

    “Frieday” Fact: The State of Control

    At latest count there are at least 18 “control states” in the United States.

    First, what is a “control state”? No, it’s not an over the top description of Miss Jackson (if you’re nasty) but a short-form name for a state government that controls the wholesale distribution and/or retail sale of alcohol – whether wine or spirits – to the general public.

    In some states they control of distribution spirits but allow for the general retail distribution of beer and wine. In the U.S. of the states that control liquor sales only 9 actually run retail stores: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Alabama, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Others either permit licensed retail sales or contract out retail operations.

    The entire list of control states includes: Alabama, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming. (Plus a county in Maryland and a town in Minnesota.)

    Everyone- from M.A.D.D., to distributors, to consumers, to importers- pretty much has an opinion about whether this set up is a good or bad thing. The State of Washington (where I am from) is opening up this question to the voters this Tuesday. The general argument pits potentially less tax revenue and decreased monitoring versus greater product selection at more locations at potentially cheaper prices. All things for us all to consider. On Wednesday, we’ll see what Washingtonian’s decide and learn what’s the “will of the people”.

    Want to know more about liquor control in the United States?

    A good review from Wikipedia can be found here and here.

    You can also check out this from legalbeer.com.