Dec 032011

Entering into our second month in Mexico we made our way inland from the Pacific coast towards Guadalajara.  The next phase of our trip brings us through the most densely populated section of Mexico, thus becoming increasingly cultural with more cities, more museums, and more history.  Having already sensed that my brain may have shriveled a bit from the weeks spent on the coast, I had a growing thirst to fill the days with a larger number of inputs.  Coincidentally, the opportunity to begin to quench that thirst came in both the literal and figurative sense in the city of Tequila.   

Driving into the city there’s no mistaking the fact that you’re in the heart of tequila country.  It’s guarded by fields of blue agave with small towns serving as outposts hoping to catch some of the tourists passing by.  The surrounding towns play host to dozens of small distilleries which, we were told, are the best places to get great deals on tequila.  The town itself is a bit touristy, but we found it easy to ignore this fact.  Located right in the center of town are two of the largest and most well know distilleries, Jose Cuervo and Sauza.  While wandering throughout the small city’s downtown, we were hit by waves of organic scents leftover from the fermentation process.

We spent the day educating ourselves about how tequila is made by visiting a tequila manufacturing plant and the tequila museum, all located within a block of the central square.  At night we continued our education by means of taste testing.  While eating dinner at a bustling restaurant we were treated to a flight of liqueurs.  We had seen 5 liter (that’s not a typo) plastic containers sold throughout the tourist shops in town all day of these creamy liqueurs.  We’re not sure if they’re consumed by the locals, but in any case they’re similar to Baily’s with distinct amaretto, vanilla, and coconut flavors.  As we were finishing up our meal we noticed a growing crowd on the street outside the restaurant.  Before too long, we could see and hear a parade marching along.  The participants of the parade were all about high school age and were dressed up in one of two ways: in what appeared to be traditional pre-hispanic attire or as part of a Catholic themed tableau.  At first I was caught by the contradiction of the two, as one could argue that the death of the former is directly attributed to the latter, but the more we travel through Mexico the more we realize that both play an important role in the culture here.  The parade led through the center of town and ended as each participant entered into the city’s main cathedral off the central square.  Once the parade was over the crowd remained as we were treated to a huge fireworks display.  The highlight was at the beginning when a teenager would grab a paper mâché bull strapped with fireworks.  He would then run into a crowd of other teenage boys, chasing them as waves of fireworks exploded in every direction.  It was mere luck that we were able to have such a full 24 hours in the city of Tequila, however it was the perfect start to increasingly cultural journey through central Mexico. 

Being a whiskey drinker, the extent of my Tequila knowledge prior to entering Mexico was limited to say the least.  I was aware that it came in two different colors, that’s about it.   However, having experimented in the world of bourbons and single malts it didn’t surprise me that tequila also had a broad family tree, one filled with categories, terminology, marketing jargon, and of course, snobbery.  During our stay in the city of Tequila we were given a crash course in its history and manufacturing process.  Not to mention extensive research into the method of consumption.  At the risk of only being of interest to a very few, I decided to collect and document the things that I learned and put it together in a post, so if you’re curious click here.