Mar 15 2017

Pure Agave: Skip The Salt and Lime

While some people are well versed in the taste and experience of top shelf tequila, many others aren’t as lucky. It’s common practice in America to mask the sting of inexpensive tequila with salt and lime, but high quality tequila is meant to be sipped neat. If you’re getting your tequila from the discount store or $1 Well Drink Wednesday, keep the salt and lime, but skip it if you’re drinking the quality stuff. So how did these additions became a staple among many tequila drinkers? From supply and demand in the 1800’s to “mixto” tequilas today, here’s why you often find salt and lime accompanying your tequila.

When did drinking tequila with salt and lime start?

Though the exact origin of this practice is difficult to pinpoint, many attribute it to the rise in tequila’s popularity towards the end of the 19th century. Tequila made its debut in the U.S. in 1893 at the Chicago World’s Fair, marking the first export of the beverage beyond Mexico. The drink rapidly gained popularity and because of it, many producers used lower quality ingredients. A classic result of supply and demand, as more people wanted tequila it needed to be produced faster. Agave plants take time to harvest, so instead of using 100 percent agave in tequila, many brands started diluting the agave content and substituting other sugars in its place. As the quality of ingredients decline, so did the taste, creating the need to cover the flavor with salt and lime.

How do I know if I’m drinking a mixto tequila or one made from pure agave?

The dilution of agave content in tequila did not stop at the turn of the century. Many common brands today use about 50 percent agave content.  Known as “mixto tequilas,” these spirits are made with up to 51 percent agave sugars, but their contents can be 49 percent alcohol fermented from other sugars (must often cane sugar). As the name suggests, pure agave tequilas are made 100 percent from agave. Bottles will be labelled, and all tequilas by Baston Del Ray are 100 percent agave. If you’re drinking 100 percent agave tequila, leave the salt and lime at home.  

Where do quality ingredients come from?

The beverage originated in Tequila, Mexico, in Jalisco about 40 miles from Guadalajara. At Baston Del Ray, our ingredients come from Jalisco’s agave fields and hand select the plants that end up in our bottles. We harness the plant’s natural sweetness, letting it mature for about seven to eight years before harvesting. Then, our process includes steaming the harvest over our fire pit, loading in into the tahona, fermenting, and distilling the beverage before going into barrels.  

If not with salt and lime, how do I drink tequila?

When many Americans think of tequila, they think of Margarita Mondays or Spring Break debauchery. Top notch tequila, however, is not meant to be consumed as a shot, but rather sipped to take in the flavor. Tequila tasting is a detailed process, and to taste good tequila, you should observe the cover, take in the smell, and finally sip. Good tequilas are often consumed from thin glasses that resemble champagne flutes (or champagne flutes will do if you don’t have actual sipping glasses), and other people prefer to sip it out of short stemmed cognac glasses.   
Though many people think salt and lime when they think tequila, you won’t see salted rims and lime wedges at the source in Mexico. Whether you’re a long time tequila connoisseur or are tempted to try the top shelf variety, 100 percent agave tequilas are meant to be sipped neat, no extra flavors necessary. To learn more about pure agave tequila or to try one of our many flavors and varieties, visit our website today!

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