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5 Things You Need to Know About Tequila
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Want to dine like a pro? Each month, we ask local experts to share the inside scoop about a particular food or beverage. Use their tips to eat and drink better, whether you’re indulging at home or in a restaurant.
Jared Sadoian is a fount of knowledge when it comes to the world of distilled spirits. Ever-impeccable in a suit and tie, this MIT-educated professional—who stepped away from a job in the financial sector to devote himself full-time to hospitality—is bar manager of The Hawthorne, Jackson Cannon’s award-winning cocktail lounge in Kenmore Square’s Hotel Commonwealth. The tequila he’s pouring is a world away from the firewater you once pounded down with lime and salt.
1. Tequila is made from agave, a desert-dwelling succulent.
“Tequila is made from the agave plant,” begins Sadoian, referring to the genus of spiky desert cultivars that are succulents, not cacti. Of the 190-plus varietals, he says, only some are distilled into beverages. In order for a bottle to bear the name tequila, the spirit must be made from the Blue Weber variety of Agave tequilana grown in one of five designated states in Mexico.
2. When selecting a tequila, the percentage of agave matters.
“When you’re out looking for a tequila, there are two major categories,” says Sadoian. “The first category is ‘mixto,’” he explains, noting that the descriptor is an informal industry term, not official nomenclature approved by the spirit’s regulatory board. At least 51 percent of its starting material must be agave, but the balance can be cheaper ingredients like potatoes or corn. “The second category,” he continues, “is ‘100-percent agave tequila,’ where fermentable sugars are from 100-percent Blue Weber agave.” He definitely prefers the latter. “I’ve not encountered a mixto that’s as enjoyable to drink as a 100-percent,” he remarks.
3. One hundred-percent agave tequilas offer aromas and flavors that are uniquely complex.
To illustrate how deliciously nuanced a 100-percent agave tequila can be—especially one made by an artisan crafting a pure, unadulterated product—the bar pro talks about Tequila Fortaleza, produced by Guillermo Erickson Sauza, the great-great-grandson of Cenobio Sauza, the founder of one of the most recognizable brand names of tequila. “The blanco smells deeply of roasted agave,” muses Sadoian, referring to a classification that is un-aged and bottled shortly after distillation. “It’s savory, deep, and earthy. I think of olive, citrus peel, and black pepper. And there’s a richness. It’s buttery in texture.”
4. Even if a bottle says “100-percent agave,” beware of additives.
Sadoian observes that many popular brands of tequila—even those labeled 100-percent agave—have additives like sugar and flavorings that producers don’t have to disclose on a label. “There’s no way for an average consumer to know,” he says. So, at The Hawthorne, he deliberately leaves mass-market versions off the list. Trust him to pour only tequilas he calls “honest and true.”
5. One-hundred percent agave tequila is a far cry from the hooch of your worst hangovers.
“Some folks sit at the bar and say, ‘I can’t drink tequila,’ Sadoian recounts. “I say, ‘I just want you to try this one,’” he says, pouring them a 100-percent agave variety that’s nothing like the bottom-shelf booze they remember. “It’s a chance to get a little liquor on their palate that’s different from what they’ve had,” he enthuses. “It’s the key that unlocks a broader experience.”