Reporting Luke McKinney
Happy National Tequila Day! Tequila is the Incredible Hulk of alcohol: intelligent and powerful, it’s traveled all over the world, but everywhere it goes a bunch of idiots make everyone think it’s a violent monster. But the agave, like the gamma rays, only releases things that were truly inside people all along. The result is often worse than painting yourself green and wearing bright purple shorts. Because at least those still restrain your genitals, and many tequila slammers can’t claim the same sense of restraint.
A drink hasn’t had such a bad reputation with intelligent people since hemlock. The idiocy surrounding tequila is embodied by the tequila worm. Finding insect larvae in a non-insect-larvae product has always been and will always be a bad sign. When eating a salad, you wouldn’t think a slug had somehow ingested and improved upon the flavor. It’s a Freudian nightmare – the drinker is pretending to be happy to see a horribly shriveled little worm because that’s all they have to offer.
The exemplar of idiocy is the idea that eating the worm gets you drunker. These are people so stupid that, when given a bottle of tequila, they think the one thing in the bottle that isn’t 40% alcohol is what will get them drunkest. We should count ourselves lucky they don’t try to eat the glass. Actually, unlucky, because if they tried that at least they’d shut up.
The legions of fratboys using tequila as an off-switch for even pretending to give a s**t has created a market where mega-corporations cut open batteries, transfer the result into bottles, and call it tequila. Which is why people lick up salt, knock it back, then suck on a slice of lemon or lime. If I knew people were going to cover my creations with salt and citrus and just throw them down their necks, I wouldn’t bother to make anything nice either. God agrees. That’s why oysters look like the sea sneezed.
Coating something in salt and disinfecting it with acid: that’s how you clean a biohazard site, not how you enjoy a drink. Licking and sucking is always a good thing on a night out, but if you’re doing it so that you can get something horrible out of your mouth as quickly as possible, you’d be better off finding something you enjoy putting in there in the first place.
The other instant alcohol ingestion method is the Tequila Slammer: mixing tequila and a fizzy drink, slamming the covered glass, and pouring the gassy foam down your throat. When you hate the liquid so much you’re trying to change its phase of matter before putting it in your body, maybe you should try something else. Even more blatant than salt poisoning and gas explosions, some distillers use the “ice-cold” trick to shift terrible product. Chilling destroys the senses by replacing taste with a temperature. That’s bad enough with beer, but good tequila is lighting a devotional fire in the temple of your body: it lets you see what’s truly important while warm and divinely protected from harm.
True tequila is turbocharged whiskey: the same depth and range of flavor, but in a hurry to get to the good part. Whiskey needs to be old enough to drink itself before it can be called truly aged, while the oldest variety of tequila, extra anejo, needs only three years. Meaning Tequila has already spawned sextuplets by the time whiskey is ready, and involving the word “sex” is not an accident.
Tequila is a type of mezcal, drink distilled from fermented agave plants. Tequila must legally be produced in the state of Jalisco from the blue agave, also known as Agave tequilana. So even latin speaking taxonomists understand its importance. This plant prefers to live up mountains and is pollinated by bats. No wonder tequila is such a powerful drink – even before it becomes alcoholic, it clearly does not screw around. That plant has sex the way most people go on vision quests. It dies after spawning seeds, so its flowers are regularly pruned, preventing it from making love so that its sweet sugary heart can grow larger. Tequila is ten broken romances before it’s even been picked.
Much commercial agave is now produced from cuttings of earlier plants, instead of by sexual reproduction, so they lose genetic diversity. Instead of banging each other by bat to produce all kinds of interesting variations, tequila now comes from a clone army living in the Mexican mountains, export bottles of mind altering chemicals to the rest of the world. Hell yes. It’s like drinking a Bond villain.
The drink is only distilled for a few years at most, but the plant can grow for over a decade before being harvested. That’s why it leads to so much fun: it was alive far longer than it was dead, and it’s eager to keep going. That’s why it ages so fast. It’s in a hurry to get on with the good things in life. A psychic state you ingest with the good stuff.
Hammering down bad tequila with salt and lime is an analogy for what you’re doing, trying to cover over deep flaws with horribly intense distractions.
Drinking good tequila is embracing life and skill. And enjoying the hell out of both.