About 10 years or so ago, my brother and I found ourselves a bit outside Philadelphia, at a celebration honoring my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary. Flying with young families is a tiring thing and our wives and children had taken to bed at an early hour, leaving us at about 9:30pm in strange city with no car and very few ideas of what to do– the rest of the family was not due until the next day. So we retired to the bar at the hotel, which happened to be a Bennigan’s (or something very much like that).
I asked him what he was drinking. He is a spirit enthusiast, and is always furthering his own knowledge of different ones, though I believe Scotch and Rum are favorites. On this evening he said “Tequila.” As nearly everyone would have done at the time, I recoiled in horror at the memory of the paint-thinner like gold substance that had left me and my college roommates flattened of affect, dizzy and ill of constitution after a night spent with the drink. The whole idea of the lime and salt seemed like lipstick on a pig (and in actuality, better, because at least pigs are made of bacon). Seeing this look he sought to reassure me. “No, it’s better now. They have high end Tequila. He ordered two neat glasses of Patron silver, whose brand was unknown to me (and I suppose, hundreds of rap stars) at the time.
On tasting it I did not spit as in a double take. The flavor was smooth, cool, and refreshing. Based on what I thought it would be, I was surprised at the mild and restrained quality of its agave flavors. It was like discovering you like Jazz– a creaky door opens in your mind where you realize you might have judged a thing too harshly, too quickly, or based on a poor candidate for its entire cannon.
Since then I have discovered not just that I like Tequila— and certainly it seems my timing makes me part of the tequila revolution—but that it might be my favorite spirit of all. Previously I had been consigned to some version of a blended scotch, or vodka with some juice but tequila had a flavor that I actually liked—a bit of lime and ice were enough, and eventually no lime at all was necessary, and the salt stayed where it belongs- in the shaker.
I suppose the epilogue is that I feel strongly enough about the spirit to actually write about it, during a time when there is very little in any day to do so. So it may not be often, but it will be passionately felt. So today, on what is apparently National Tequila Today, I wish you a responsible and happy celebration. I am likely to have a glass of Arte Nom 1580.