- - Sunday, July 23, 2017

National Tequila Day, celebrated on July 24th, is not just a reason to have a margarita but it’s also an opportunity to learn about the distilled spirit and the benefits of agave.

Agave is best known as the plant from which the tequila spirit is distilled, and tequila’s nose (smell) and flavor comes from the Blue Weber agave plant from the western Mexican state of Jalisco.

However, not all tequilas are the same. The quality and taste depends on the distilling and aging process, as well as the water and the agave plants used in the process.

For example, Tres Agaves Tequila is 100 percent agave tequila distilled at El Liano, a 117-year-old distillery.

Tres Agaves is distilled by a fifth-generation master distiller from estate-grown heritage Blue Weber agave plants that have matured a minimum of eight years.

In the distilling process, yeast from the agave plants is used in fermentation, before the spirits are double distilled in copper pot stills. Those spirits are then diluted to proof using natural spring water from the Volcán de Tequila, a Stratovolcano located near Tequila, Jalisco.

Tres Agaves Tequila is available in three types — similar to other popular brands — as a blanco (or silver), reposado and añejo tequila.

Obviously, marked differences exist for each.

Silver or blanco tequila is the choice for those seeking the full flavor of the agave plant. It is not aged in oak barrels, the color is clear, and it has a stronger “tequila” or agave taste and nose.

Blanco is usually a great choice for mixing as a cocktail.

In Spanish, reposado means rested and tequila rated as reposado means that it has been barrel-aged in white oak barrels, which gives it a slight yellow-grass hue. Like good wine, good tequilas are often aged in barrels during which they take on increasingly complex flavors and colors.

Barrels previously used to age bourbon are often used to age tequila and can often help to impart smoky and caramel flavors.

Distillers can change the flavor of the barrel-aged tequila by bringing out flavor and nose notes from the type of barrel that is used, and the length.

Añejo, which means vintage, are the tequilas with the longest barrel-aged for periods from one to three years, and are considered the best type of tequila for sipping because of their smoother flavor.

It worth noting that often popular purchase are the lower-priced gold tequilas, however they are often less than 50 percent agave tequila, and they have been enhanced with caramel coloring and sugar before fermentation. It is that sugar that gives drinkers the tequila hangover.

When checking the label, look for the indication that the bottle contains 100 percent agave tequila and that there are no other ingredients than tequila and spring water.

In addition to tasting good either neat or as a cocktail, tequila also has significant health benefits. A team led by Jorge Segura of the University of Guadalajara, close to the town of Tequila, has been studying the health effects of the spiky agave plants grown on Mexico’s arid central highlands.

Mr. Segura and his team say the plant’s powers go beyond inducing euphoric highs.

“The structure of agave contains, among other things, substances known as fructans,” Mr. Segura told Reuters. “Fructans reduce cholesterol [and] alter the absorption of fat in the intestine, at least in animals.”

Agavins, a natural form of sugar found in the agave plant, is nondigestible and can act as a dietary fiber. They do not raise blood glucose, meaning that for someone with blood-sugar sensitivity, tequila could be beneficial, or at least better for the body than other alcohols because those simple frutan sugars are simple sugars that break down more easily.

Experiments conducted at Mexico’s Polytechnic Institute of Guanajuato (2010) revealed that the agave plant could stimulate the GLP-1 hormone, aiding in increased insulin production.

Agavins may help dieters lose weight. Mice that drank agavins ate less, lost weight and their blood glucose levels decreased when compared to other sweeteners such as glucose, fructose, sucrose, agave syrup and aspartame.

Agavins may also help reduce high cholesterol and facilitate the delivery of some medications to the colon, aiding in their absorption in the treating illnesses such as Crohn’s disease, colitis, IBS and even cancer.

Tequila also helps ward off colds with this simple recipe first promoted by doctors in the 1930s:

½ ounce of tequila blanco
½ ounce of agave nectar (to eliminate bacteria and soothe sore throats)
½ ounce of fresh lime juice (for vitamin C)

The vitamin C and agave nectar may have as much to do with the cure as the tequila has with helping you not care that you feel bad.

However, always consult your doctor before drinking spirits if you have any medical concerns. And, always, drink responsibly. Do not drink and drive.

Happy National Tequila Day.

• • •

Celebrate the day with these mixed cocktail recipes:

Jessie’s Black Widow

Blackberries and basil combine with agave nectar and fresh lime juice shaken with Tres Agaves blanco tequila and served over ice.

For each serving:

2 blackberries
2 large basil leaves
1-½ ounces of tequila
1 ounce of fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon of agave nectar

Directions: Muddle the blackberries and basil in the shaker, and add crushed ice. Add tequila, lime juice and agave nectar; shake very well. Strain drink over ice and garnish with lime slice, blackberry and basil.

Watermelon Crush

2 parts Tres Agaves Blanco
3-4 pieces Watermelon
½ part Hibiscus Syrup (Boil hibiscus tea; once hot, add in equal parts white sugar to the tea and let dissolve)
¾ part Lime Juice
½ part Coconut Water

Directions: Muddle watermelon and combine all ingredients. Shake and strain into a highball. Garnish with a thin watermelon slice.

Twisted Bocktail

1-¼ parts Tres Agaves Reposado
¾ part Lemon
½ part Cointreau
½ part Simple Syrup
Splash of Hefeweisen wheat beer

Directions: Combine all ingredients minus the beer; shake and strain into a highball. Top with beer and garnish with lemon.

Tepache Kid

2 parts Tres Agaves Añejo
1 part pineapple puree
1 part tamarind syrup (tamarind paste mixed with equal parts refined sugar and water)
2 dash angostura bitters

Directions: Pour all ingredients into the shaker with ice; shake and strain on the rocks and garnish with pineapple wedge.

Jacquie Kubin is an award-winning travel and food writer and travel editor at Communities Digital News.

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