The Handbook
The Handbook

You may be thinking that tequila is the stuff that gives you bad headaches, reminds you of dirty nightclubs and must always come with a line of salt and a squeeze of lime. Well you’re wrong. Tequila has had a makeover, and it’s time we all took notice. While most of us naturally reach for the gin in the drinks cupboard, our new firm favourite is the sweet nectar made from agave.

What’s agave? Let us tell you. It’s a plant found in Mexico that produces ample fructose that’s perfect for distilling into alcohol form. And weber blue agave makes the best kind of tequila. Apparently it’s the healthier choice in your booze selection, too. Where you would normally have 160 calories in a glass of wine, one serving of tequila is just 60 cals. Top it up with a fancy tonic, and your time doing squats in the living room won’t be wasted. Some say it also gives you less of hangover than other spirits. Reach for a 100% agave, blanco tequila, and you’ll find it’s better for your head because it has no additives, unlike harsher relatives such as whisky or brandy. Plus, if you learn to sip it slowly (put the shot glass down) and pour yourself a long, cool drink, that’ll always help.

So now you know the benefits, which one should you buy? (Hint: definitely not the bottle with the plastic sombrero as a lid)

1. Vivir

The tequila industry has had a sudden boom thanks to lockdown. People are making more cocktails at home and are more willing to experiment on their weekly shop. Which is great news for the young British brand Vivir, which has seen a healthy growth in business. Plus their premium tequila just looks super fancy. The brand was set up by two friends Paul and Nav, and they’re on a mission to wake people up to the sophisticated flavours of tequila and the proper way to drink it.

Start with the Blanco. It’s made from 9-year-old estate-grown highland weber blue agave in Jalisco (the Mexican county of tequila). They’re all about quality at Vivir and use traditional methods to cook the plant so it produces a smooth, clean and floral spirit. Fresh, light and sophisticated, it’s fab with a simple tonic and lime or you can mix it up into a margarita if that’s more your style. 

Then there are its more complex friends. There’s the Reposado, which is the blanco but aged in American Oak bourbon casks for 6 months. This is so they can get richer flavours of vanilla and caramel. Try this one with ginger ale, or whip it up in an old fashioned or negroni.

Finally, make your way towards the Añejo, which has aged for 18 months. Think chocolate and coffee in a glass. In fact, it goes perfectly in an Espresso Martini.

The lovely thing about this company is that they’re invested in sustainable practices, and they also have some great art collaborations coming your way… so stay tuned.

Price: From £35.99

2. El Rayo

It’s a similar story over at El Rayo – with friends Tom and Jack. Only this time, there’s even more creativity. Firstly, their bottles are simply stunning. The trendy artwork on the label is inspired by Mexican folkore around the discovery of the fresh agave syrup inside.

You can really see the passion these two have around bringing tequila its rightful name as a cool, classy drink. And no, they don’t drink it with salt and lime either.

First up is the Plata, which is 100% agave, citrussy and herbal – basically a bit like gin but with a peppery punch. Top a serving of this with Indian tonic water and a slice of grapefruit and you’re onto a winner. Trust us.

Next is the Reposado, which has been aged in whisky casks for 7 months. Sweeter and like honey to taste, try the same style of serve (tonic and grapefruit) to really get the hits of bitter orange and cinnamon.

Go a step further and fully embrace the wonderful vibrancy, passion and flavour of Mexico, in their print store. You’ll find some fab framed artworks by Mexican artist Hola Lou (the splash of optimistic colour we all need right now).

Price: From £34.95
Website: www.elrayotequila.com

3. Cazcabel

Forget G&T. As you might have gathered by now, we’re all about the T&T these days. And Cazcabel is another brand bringing you tequila with finesse and a whole lot of fun. Just visit the website if you don’t believe us. You’ll be transported to the sandy and windswept landscapes of Jalisco through a range of different flavours.

Cazcabel very much digs the traditions of Mexico, with old-school style labelling that’ll have you thinking of Westerns and tequila-drenched card games. They’ve mixed things up a bit with novelty options including honey, coffee and coconut as well as the more traditional Blanco and Reposado bottles.

Sustainability is high on their agenda too. They plant new agave every year and use the leftover harvest to heat their autoclaves. They also use natural occurring yeast to accelerate and control the fermentation process.

And you’ll never guess, but they want you to try sipping it from a glass.

Price: From £26.99
Website: www.cazcabel.com

4. Storywood

This one’s a darker option for those willing to test their tastebuds. Storywood tequila is fully matured in whisky or sherry casks, which gives it a much deeper profile – it’s labelled as a single malt, so you get where we’re coming from. Made from (guess what?) 100% blue weber agave, the plant is grown slowly for between 10 and 12 years and harvested in the lowland region of Jalisco.

The brand was set up by Michael Ballantyne, who was born in Scotland but had a deep yearning to reconnect with his mother’s hometown of San Miguel De Allende, Mexico. And you can really see it in the bottles.

The spirit is mixed with spring water and twice-distilled in copper pot stills, and then matured in handpicked ex-Speyside whisky casks shipped over from Dufftown, Scotland, and Oloroso Sherry casks from Jerez, Spain.

Its whisky-like characteristics mean that you can enjoy it, neat, on the rocks, or as a sweet and smooth cocktail.

Price: From £39.99
Website: www.storywoodtequila.com

5. Enemigo

This one’s a bit like the privately educated, chino-wearing, snooty friend of a friend that hangs around at the dinner table. Set up by friends Max Davies-Gilbert and Robin Clough, Enemigo tequila places itself as the most premium of tequilas. They even have a private tequila club… which we haven’t been invited to yet.

They’ve designed the alcohol to be sipped from long-stemmed Champagne flutes and not shot (this is also how a few other tequila houses do their tasting sessions in Mexico).

The Enemigo 00 is the one that has the richest taste for those with sophisticated palates or a penchant for cigars. It is rested for three years in custom-made American Oak barrels, allowing it to take in the rich flavours and deep colours. It’s produced in limited qualities, in case you were worrying about how exclusive you might feel. But relax, you’ll feel exclusive. They’ve made sure of that.

Price: From £56.95 
Website: www.tequilaenemigo.com


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