We all know wine comes from the vine, beer is all to do with barley and hops and cider falls from the apple tree… but when it comes to sipping Mexico’s greatest export – the margarita – have you ever taken a moment to wonder where tequila actually comes from? We asked Chris Poole, bars manager at Mexican street-food restaurant Wahaca, to tell all.

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  1. It all starts with a blue plant. The blue agave plant is harvested by a jimador – a word you may recognise from the famous tequila brand, which is actually the Mexican name for the farmer who harvests agave plants – and the pineapple-like heart, the “pina”, is collected. And I bet you didn’t know that the agave plant is from the same family as the Lily?
  2. Tequila, by law, has to come from one of five specific Mexican states. Wahaca’s is actually from Tequila, in the state of Jalisco, nestled in the Los Altos region, or the highlands.
  3. Tequilas are split between highland and lowland agaves. Highland tends to grow slightly larger agaves, giving the tequila a sweeter, more citrus flavour, while lowland tequilas will grow slightly smaller agaves leading to a more herbaceous flavour.
  4. Time for a roasting. Then the pina is roasted in brick ovens for 36 hours to break the starch into sugars.
  5. Just keeping rolling, rolling, rolling. The sugars are extracted; this process traditionally involves a huge wheel, called a “tahona”, to crush the pinas (see above).
  6. From juice to alcohol. The collected juice and fibres are then fermented to turn the sugars into alcohol. The yeast used in this process by Olmeca, Wahaca’s house tequila, was actually cultivated in-house using extractions from the blue agave plant itself.
  7. Age does matter. All tequilas have to be at least twice distilled, ours has two rounds in copper pot stills, not oak barrels. And then, if desired, the tequila is aged. Blanco tequila can be aged for up to three months in oak barrels. At Wahaca we use Olmeca Altos Tequila and for our margaritas we use the blanco. This is completely un-aged and goes from distillation to bottle. We do also stock the reposado which is aged for around six months in ex-bourbon barrels.
  8. Bottle it! Job done.

So you’ve got your tequila, there’s only one thing for it… margarita time! Here’s Wahaca founder Thomasina Miers’ margarita recipe from the Wahaca Mexican Food at Home book.

margarita at wahaca

Tommi’s Classic Margarita Recipe

Makes 2 glasses

Fine sea salt for rims

70ml blanco tequila

50ml fresh lime juice

30ml agave syrup

2 lime wedges, to garnish

Method

  1. First prep your all-important salt-rimmed glasses. Use your leftover squeezed limes to rub a tiny bit of lime juice on the rims, upturn the glass and dip in a plate of salt.
  2. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake or stir.
  3. Serve on the rocks and enjoy!

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Find your local Wahaca at www.wahaca.co.uk

Want to know more about tequila and mezcal? Visit www.tequilafest.co.uk 

Photography: Wahaca

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