Welcome to Pick Your Poison, wherein the world’s best bartenders help stock your bar, one spirit at a time.
Happy Tequila Day, which is a thing.
While you’re celebrating, either today or in the near future (say, Tuesday), remember that behind every sip of a blanco or reposado is an agave plant and farmers who spent a good portion of their lives putting your drink together.
“The popularity of tequila puts strains on [the production process],” says Ryan Wainwright, the Director of Bar Programs at The Ponte in Los Angeles. “Producers keep searching for ways to get more out of a plant that takes 7 to sometimes 10 years to reach maturity. Think about that! The tequila you are sipping on was lovingly cared for by a farmer for longer than any other raw material for spirits.”
As the son of a farmer, Wainwright says he finds respecting the agave and the growth of the plants to be inextricably linked to the end product. “My five favorite tequilas are all ones that don’t cut corners — they use traditional methods, grow all or almost all of the agave they cook and all of them have zero additives. All of these things are beyond important to me.”
Herein, Wainwright’s five favorite tequilas, all with links to the spirits from Drizly — so you can get 'em before the day ends (note: not all tequilas will be available in all markets).
"My go-to tequila. The flavors that come out of this tequila are the most interesting and 'dirty.' It could be the tahona ground agave, but it’s most likely that the distillers ferment the agave in wood tanks, lending it to flavors like olive brine, citrus peel and fresh herbs. And I love the batch handwritten batch numbers on the back of every bottle. I suggest you taste different batches and find differences in each one. To this day, my favorite is still batch number 17." BUY IT HERE
Siembra Azul / Siembra Valles Tequila
"David Suro has been pushing to save the tequila industry — he’s working on the behalf of the farmers to get them a living wage from their hard work, and also working on the Tequila Interchange Project (which is pushing for sustainability in the agave production) and the Bat Project (non-clone solutions to the eminent struggles of pests and lack of genetic diversity). He’s brought the same passion to his tequila. He has both a lowland and a highland expression that are both rich and complex. It is fun to try them and see just how different terroir is on the agave grown in the highlands of Jalisco and in the lowlands." BUY IT HERE AND HERE
"What exactly does terroir do to the agave plant, and how does it affect the flavors that come out of it? One year [producer Carlos Camarena] will try tequila made from agave that spent its life in the shade of cedar trees in the highlands facing east. The next year he’ll make tequila from another place that gets more coastal winds and full sun. The differences are shocking and wonderful; each bottle unveils the beauty of a truly unadulterated spirit. All the agaves come from his and his families’ farms, and he’s also pushing for a fair and living wage for his workers. If you really want to see what pure, unblended tequila tastes like, there’s no better choice." BUY IT HERE
"This tequila is made in a truly amazing way; it’s all stone ground and pulled by horse. The taste is clean and bright, with lots of fresh agave and citrus notes. It’s my favorite margarita tequila." BUY IT HERE
"It's also made by Carlos Camarena, the man behind Tequila Ocho. He starts by using agaves from his own farms, cooks them for 36 hours in stone ovens, and then takes those sugars from that cooking process and allows them to ferment for 7-10 days. He then distills it twice to 80 proof (most tequila companies distill to a higher proof and add water; to my knowledge, this is the only brand to be doing it this way). You end up with is a tequila loaded with flavors of lime leaves, spice and a wonderful minerality." BUY IT HERE