LOS CABOS, Mexico – After spending a recent morning here playing very bad golf on a very good golf course, I wasn’t averse to the idea of submerging my head in a bottle of some of Mexico’s finest tequila.
Fortunately, Carlos Novelo intervened and provided a more sober introduction to this country’s favorite spirit. Novelo was waiting for me when I arrived at the Sheraton Hacienda del Mar, which is only about a 3-wood away from the entrance to Cabo del Sol, home to 36 holes of Nicklaus and Weiskopf goodness.
Novelo was there to give me a CliffsNotes tutelage on the proper way to drink tequila. First lesson: Get a good glass. There’s a time and a place for shot glasses, and this wasn’t it. Novelo brought out fine cognac glasses for our tasting of four tequilas.
“If I want to get drunk, I get tequila and drink shots,” Novelo said. “But if I want to enjoy all of the flavors of tequila, I’ll drink it like this. It’s all about, how do you feel and what are you trying to achieve.”
Second point: Aroma is an important part of the tasting process, but don’t bury your nose in the glass. Novelo recommended keeping the width of two fingers between nose and glass.
“If you (put your nose) right inside the glass, you are going to (smell) only the alcohol,” he said.
Novelo started us off with one of his personal favorites: Corazón de Agave Blanco, a silky young spirit that he likes to mix in margaritas. Sampling it straight up, he advised me to let a sip linger on my tongue for three seconds before tasting it.
Next up was the Herradura Reposado, a slightly more mature drink. While the blanco had been in the barrel less than two months, reposados are aged anywhere from two to 12 months. Novelo made the unflattering comparison of the resposado’s aroma to a cologne, which seemed a bit harsh. I actually found it rather pleasing. And certainly it went down smoothly, the finish coating my tongue like butter.
“That’s what gives it the sweetness,” Novelo said.
From there, we swirled a Herradura Anejo, which had been aged one to two years, and savored the aroma of bananas.
We closed by sampling Clase Azul, which is easily identified by its fabulous, ornate ceramic bottle. Novelo made it clear this is not his sort of fare; he views Clase Azul as being a little too smooth for a serious tequila man. “I like a strong tequila, not something sweet,” he said.
But I, his acolyte, found it quite pleasing. It’s the sort of creamy nectar that could get a guy in trouble if he doesn’t exercise some discipline.
“It doesn’t have an end,” Novelo said. “It’s easy to drink, so you can drink it and drink it.”