It's time to elevate your drinking style from a six pack of cans to a collection of bottles you're proud to pour. Don't have at-home mixology down to a science? We'll get you there.
The spirit: Tequila
For far too long, tequila has been relegated to the lowly realm of party shooter, better known for headaches and poor life choices than its rich history and flavor. But it's an old and celebrated spirit dating back to the 16th century when Spanish conquistadors fermented agave after their brandy stores "dried" up.
Like whiskey and champagne, there are strict rules for where and how you can make it (only in Mexico, in regions in and around the state of Jalisco). The fruit of agave plants is roasted then mashed, and the resulting juice is fermented. What happens next determines what kind of tequila it will be. Blanco or silver tequila is bottled immediately after fermentation, whereas reposados are aged in barrels for two to nine months (this gives them their amber color). Añejos (the Scotch of tequilas) are aged between 18 months and three years. When looking for the good stuff, make sure that it's made from 100% agave, otherwise you'll end up with harsh and overly sweet mixto (essentially watered down tequila).
The margarita is a classic that any novice bartender should have in his repertoire. You'll have to make the additional purchase of some triple sec, but having this one ready to go is a must. Enjoy it on the rocks or neat, with or without a salted rim.
- 2 oz tequila
- 1 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 oz triple sec
1. Combine ingredients into mixing tin. Add ice and shake vigorously for eight seconds.
2. Strain into a rocks glass with salted rim.
If you've been following along, building your bar one bottle at a time, then this recipe should be ready to go with the liquor you've already got stocked. It packs more of a punch then a margarita, but nixes the juice—making it far less labor-intensive. You can omit the dry vermouth if you don't have it on hand, and you'll still end up with a delicious cocktail.
- 1 1/2 oz tequila
- 1/2 oz sweet vermouth
- 1/2 oz dry vermouth
- 1/2 oz Campari
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- 1 lemon (or grapefruit) peel
1. Combine all ingredients except the twist into a mixing glass. Add ice and stir for 12 seconds or until chilled.
2. Strain in an ice-filled rocks glass and garnish with a twist.
The bottle: Espolón
For price and quality, Espolón is really hard to beat. At $20-$30 a bottle, it's way cheaper than some of its competitors, but exceptionally tasty despite the price. Espolón is made from 100% agave, is slightly sweet and peppery with a hint of lime on the finish, and is by far one of the easiest blancos to sip on its own.