Many of you can’t help feeling a little queasy, I know, as you remember an early experience with Goldschlager, Doctor McGillicuddy’s peach schnapps, or tequila. I don’t have have any booze that are liquor non grata–for someone who writes almost as often about drink as food, that comes in handy–but my memory of tequila from my undergraduate days was that producers loudly announced that there had been a drought, supplies would be cut, and prices would rise. Coincidentally, this was also when the marketing strategy for Mexico’s spirit of choice changed from frat party to rap-star aspirational.
I had the chance earlier this month to catch up with Toronto’s Eric Brass, co-founder of Tequila Tromba. Over (delicious) snacks at Dupont’s Playa Cabana we chatted about his company and tequila in general. I’d like to pass on some of the knowledge he shared and hopefully dispel some of the myths that swirl around tequila.
First, and this is one we’ve all heard but still manage to disregard, tequila is made to be sipped. Everyone in Mexico drinks it that way. No lemon, no salt, and definitely no shot glass. When you consider that Tromba sells for just under $50 a bottle–a bargain compared to Patron at almost twice the price–it really makes sense to treat it as you would other premium spirits like scotch. Unlike many rums and especially vodka it’s meant to have flavour and that’s worth savouring.
Agave is the first ingredient of tequila. It’s a lily and not actually a cactus though. Unless you’re going to set out to make your own that’s just the answer to a bar bet, trivia question that might win you a sho…er, sipping portion of tequila. The more relevant fact is that the blue agave plant takes more than seven years to ripen and then for good tequila is harvested by hand so some premium is understandable.
If agave comes first on the ingredient list what makes up the rest? The rules state that in order to be called tequila, 51% of the spirit must be derived from agave. As with other distilled liquors there is one class of offerings that barely meet the standard (think Jose Cuervo) and make up the balance with corn-based spirits and the other, like Tromba, that is all-agave. Tromba’s boutique production is overseen by master distiller Marco Cedano who has 17 years of distilling experience at Mexico’s Don Julio under his belt.
Tromba makes a blanco, reposado, and anejo version. The reposado and anejo versions are aged in oak while the blanco is left as is. I was surprised to find that I like the sweeter, clearer taste of the blanco compared to the slightly smoky, denser reposado. They’re different enough that it’s definitely worth trying both.
As well as being widely available at the LCBO, Tromba is behind the bar at a long list of Toronto restaurants including The Drake Hotel, 416 Snackbar, Yours Truly, and Cold Teabar.