I was talking with someone from out of town recently, and they asked if Breaking Bad has given Albuquerque a bad name, y’know, since it’s a TV show about drugs, drug dealers, and violence, and since it proudly mentions that Albuquerque is the place that all of this is happening.
I snickered in my response: Breaking Bad has actually brought a strange local pride to Albuquerque, not shame. There are spas that sell “Bathing Bad” bath salts and soaps. A local donut store has their own Breaking Bad donuts. Local confectioner The Candy Lady sells little baggies of blue rock candy, in fact, they’re the company that made the props for the TV show.
It’s about time that we (Albuquerque) came up with our own Breaking Bad Cocktail. This is a simple recipe provided that you can find some candy “blue meth.” While you prepare to make the drink, crush the candy with a big knife butt just like Tuco Salamanca. Then using lemon juice, rim an old fashioned glass with the crushed candy.
In Albuquerque, Tequila is the second-best selling spirit (just behind vodka), so we should certainly use tequila as the base. Here’s the recipe, which is a Tequila Sour with the addition of blue meth candy. That makes it break bad, right?
Breaking Bad Cocktail (by Greg Mays)
fill a “blue meth” rimmed old fashioned glass with ice
Don Julio proudly proclaims itself the “original premium tequila.” Sold in unique but similar bottle shapes each with a wooden stopper, the standard line on Don Julios will run you between $45-60, depending on the age. The Blanco is fruity and beachy. The Reposado (which they claim is the bestselling tequila in Mexico) is mellower, a touch spicy, and very smooth. The Añejo is a little more bold from the extended time in the barrel. You could use the Blanco in a cocktail, but all of these are very tasty and smooth drunk straight.
These are excellent tequilas without a doubt – surely the best tequilas I’ve yet tasted. There’s a world of difference between these and a bargain-basement $20 tequila, even one that’s 100% agave.
Don Julio also has a premium line of tequilas – as if their standard line isn’t premium enough. 70 is an añejo tequila that’s clear and has characteristics of a blanco. It’s crisp and herbal, a bit less like a tequila and more like a premium vodka in some ways. 70 will run you $68 a bottle. 1942 is an older tequila, with a lot of tropical and whiskey-like characteristics. It smells like vanilla and coconut and is ultimately the spiciest of the bunch. 1942 is $125. Lastly, Don Julio Real is a knockout. It’s smooth and quite savory (is that cheese and nuts I smell?). Real is drinkable, wonderfully flavorful, full, and complex. You may have heard: Real is $360 a bottle. The question to ask is are these worth their costs? If I was in the market for a $360 tequila, I’d totally buy this one. I also liked the70 a lot, too. While 1942 is good, but I didn’t find it to be quite as amazing as the others in this range.
With spring just starting to warm up and Cinco de Mayo on the horizon, that means it’s tequila season! I’m working hard to dig up more classic recipes with tequila because I’m pretty limited in what I can make, which is usually Margaritas with the blancos, Old Fashioneds with the reposados or añejos, or drinking the good añejos neat in a snifter.
Casa Noble is a 100% agave tequila (the only kind you should buy) that’s $40 in a sexy, thick hand-blown glass bottle with an shiny pewter stopper. Backed by Carlos Santana, Casa Noble is available in the usual varieties: unaged silver (which Casa Noble calls Crystal), “rested” resposado, and “old” añejo, as well as some high end premium single-barrel varieties.
If you taste it neat, Casa Noble Crystal begins with the initial, familiar blanco tequila smell – a little punchy, a little sour – but as you sip it, it’s very smooth with a fresh, grassy, roasted taste. It goes well in this classic tequila recipe:
SilverCoin is the first tequila available from Santa Fe Tequila Company. Made from 100% blue agave and sold in a hearty hand-blown bottle, this tequila is available in about 6 states right now. SilverCoin Silver (unaged) is a quality tequila with lots of flavor, a very clean taste, and a fresh finish.
I have been a bit stuck lately with tequila. Using it for either Margaritas or shots, I haven’t had much success making other tequila cocktails until I got a copy of the Café Royal Cocktail Book (Amazon link). I found a tequila and gin cocktail that has a surprisingly great flavor combination. Here’s the recipe:
Piedra Azul is another quality entry into the 100% agave tequila market. It has the elements of a great tequila: a classic bottle, a beautiful label design, a wooden stopper, and an authentic tequila flavor.
Tequila is distilled and bottled in central Mexico from the blue agave plant that’s native to the region. 100% blue agave tequilas are often preferred to “mixto” tequilas, though they are more expensive, because their flavor is richer and more true to the agave they are distilled from. I have tasted tequilas with stand-out tropical, citrusy, muggy, swampy, spicy, or whiskey-like flavors. Piedra Azul (“blue stone”) has it’s own unique flavor that sets it apart as well – it’s earthy, herbal, and grassy, which makes it taste just a little bit like a pisco.
Outside of the traditional tequila shot with lime, here’s a simple cocktail recipe:
2 oz Piedra Azul blanco tequila
1 oz coffee liqueur (such as Kahlua or Patron Cafe)
Tequila Avión gets much of its reputation as the “tequila from Entourage,” which was apparently a sweet unpaid buddy deal. As I’ve yet to see Entourage, I just know Avión based on this tasting. Avión is available in Silver, Reposado, and Añejo varieties, with this Añejo clocking in at 2 years old.
Tasted alone, all three of these tequilas are world-class. There is a soapy note particularly in the Silver and Añejo varieties, as well as a bit of fruitiness in the Silver as well, and I’m sure it’s an outstanding mixer as a result. For a sipping tequila, the Reposado and Añejo are both great, but are significantly different from each other. The Reposado has a spicy woodyness that puts it more in line with whiskeys, and the Añejo is a smooth, mellow, subtler version of the the Silver.
Avión has a really good collection of recipes on their site, and I found one that looked the best for a Fall drink: The Avión Autumn Apple. I modified it just a bit for my own palate, so here’s my take on their recipe, which is high on the juice and pretty low on alcohol, so this would be a great party punch too:
Proximo Spirits, responsible for importing Three Olives, Maestro Dobel, and Kraken Rum, imports Gran Centenario Añejo tequila as well.
Tequila must be distilled in Mexico generally comes in these varieties:
Blanco: White/silver, unaged.
Resposado: “Rested,” aged 6 months.
Añejo: aged more than 6 months, usually about a year.
Extra Añejo: aged more than a year.
Añejos are usually aged in American whiskey barrels, so they can take on some whiskey-like qualities. They are usually smoother than unaged tequilas, so they’re great for sipping straight. Gran Centenario surprised me with an apple flavor that’s joined by the whiskey barrel/woody taste. It retails for $20-30, and particularly if you like the traces of apple it has, this tequila is a good buy. Because Fall is in the air, if you’re not drinking Gran Centenario straight, add a shot to a pumpkin ale or try it in a T.A.P.:
Tanteo Tequila is a mid-range ($40-50) flavored tequila that comes in tropical, chocolate, or jalapeño-infused flavors. The jalapeño variety is a faint green and has a very natural taste, but can be a bit off-putting in the wrong drink. I found Tanteo Jalapeño in a regular margarita to be interesting, but a bit too pungent because the jalapeño on your breath will likely stick around longer than the tequila in your blood.
I developed a drink based on an idea my wife had. She makes these killer bacon jalapeño poppers and said “why don’t you try to make a drink like that?” I created something that worked really well.
The Jalapeño Bacon Margarita (by Greg Mays)
2 oz Tanteo Jalapeño tequila
1 oz lime juice
1/2 oz triple sec
1/2 oz Torani bacon syrup
serve in a salt-rimmed glass, up or on the rocks
lime wedge and/or jalapeño garnish
For the vegetarians out there, Torani Bacon is both vegan-safe and Kosher, so this may be one of the few meat-based cocktails that’s safe for all consciences. On a safety note, however, don’t get this in your eyes. As I was dropping ice in my shaker, I got a splash of the lime/jalapeño in my eye. Ouch.
So I have had a bottle of Maestro Dobel Diamond Tequila in my liquor cabinet for a month. It’s a high-end tequila that is endorsed by Perry Farrell and sells for about $55 a bottle. It’s a combination of reposado (6+ month aged) añejo (1+ year aged), and extra añejo (really aged, ok?) tequila, but it’s still diamond-clear.
Unfortunately, I don’t like the taste of the stuff. It doesn’t mix well in drinks – I tried several margaritas and a Brave Bull, and I really disliked it. The bottle itself is absolutely classy, though: hand numbered with a steel base and crystalline glass – plus the stopper is heavy enough to kill a man when launched at a high velocity.
Unfortunately, as much as I’m a sucker for a snazzy package, the taste fell short.
I hope this isn’t the last time I need to write this phrase in my lifetime: “I’m sorry, Perry Farrell.“
A new brand of tequila has made an appearance in Albuquerque liquor stores: JLP Tequila. Named for the former governor of the Villa of Tequila, Jesus Lopez Portillo Y Galindo, JLP is a mid-range tequila will run you about $20-30, and it’s made from 100% agave. I tried all 3 of the varieties: Blanco (unaged), Reposado (aged 6 months), and Añejo (aged 12 months), and I’m pretty impressed. While it has been widely available in California, JLP is new to New Mexico.
First, an explanation about the two types of tequila manufacture. Tequila is distilled from agave, just like some whiskey is distilled from corn, but there are 2 different ways of processing it from there: 100% agave or mixto. 100% agave is the most pure type, with no added ingredients. A mixto uses at least 51% agave, then sugars are used to make up the remainder of the mixture. This would expain why 100% agave tequilas start at $20, but a bottle of Jose Cuervo is $13. It’s a mixto.
The older a tequila is, the less appropriate it is for cocktails, so I made a margarita with the JLP Blanco and found that it made an outstanding margarita, one of the best I’ve ever had. It’s a very smooth tequila and the muggyness that tequila is famous for is a bit more subtle.
Tasting it in a glass by itself, the JLP Añejo is very smooth, highlighted by an outstanding peppery/chili finish. The middle child, JLP Reposado, is a fine tequila for a Tequila Old Fashioned: