The evolution of tequila from shooter/base Margarita ingredient to fine sipping spirit started a few years ago, but the trend is now really picking up steam with the launch of premium brands and aged products. Tequila producers are experimenting with barrel aging techniques to give the blue agave spirit more nuanced flavors, and the effect is changing the way many people view tequila.
For instance, Casa Herradura in 2012 launched Herradura Colección de la Casa Reserva, a port cask finished reposado tequila that’s rested in two different types of oak casks; last year it came out with a Cognac cask finished reposado.
Beam brand Sauza recently unveiled Hornitos Black Barrel, a 100% blue agave tequila triple aged to impart whiskey notes. The product spends a total of 12 months in traditional American Oak barrels, four months in deeply charred American Oak barrels and two months in specially toasted American Oak barrels.
And Patrón Spirits just launched Gran Patrón Piedra, the brand’s first extra añejo tequila, which is aged for more than three years in new American and French oak barrels.
The effect of some of these new tequilas is two-fold: They can bring Scotch drinkers into the tequila fold and also introduce whiskey to tequila drinkers. Case in point: A colleague who swears by tequila recently tried one of the aged tequilas at a product launch party. She liked the complex, smoky flavors so much that it’s made her rethink her disdain for whiskey.
Meanwhile, most of my relatives are sworn Scotch drinkers who previously had little interest in tequila. But after trying some of the aged and premium expressions at my house, I now find them rooting around my liquor cabinet for the fine tequila at family gatherings. I never thought I’d see that.
You can read more about tequila trends—which also include flavored varieties and tequila on tap—in our cover story, A Toast to Tequila. We also look at mini cocktails, the latest in molecular mixology, and how to craft a dynamic beer menu.
And don’t miss the piece on vermouth. The wine-based aperitif has seen a boost from the current interest in classic cocktails like the Manhattan and the Negroni. Some operators see vermouth reasserting itself as a stand-along drink after too many years gathering dust on the backbar. It’s about time.