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|Cozumel's "Tequila Tour" offers samples to tourists. (Tim McDonald/WorldGolf.com)|
A Cozumel golf trip would not be complete without tequila - that liquor from the agave, sacred to the Aztecs, has a rich history in Mexico. The blue agave's tequila is still sacred to Mexicans and tourists alike - and should not be missed.
COZUMEL, Mexico - Jose Cuervo, you are a friend of mine,
I like to drink you with a little salt and lime.
Did I kiss all the cowboys?
Did I shoot out the lights?
Did I dance on the bar?
Did I start any fights?
Admit it, hombre, when you drink tequila, you have an image of yourself as a bandito with a long-handled moustache, probably astride a horse with a bandoleer slung across your chest.
Then again, chica, if you're female, you probably have an image of yourself sitting on a Caribbean beach after a round of golf, under a palm tree with your girlfriends, sipping some wild-colored margarita.
Tequila is many different things to many different people. When you look back through the mists of time, you may remember some of the wildest episodes in your history were kick-started by tequila.
A friend of mine remembers his first tequila experience as being "overcome by the color yellow." I myself have some tequila moments I could share with you, if only I could remember them and only if there weren't that restraining order.
Just as Scotland has its whiskey trail Mexico has its tequila trail, in Jalisco.
But, since I'm on the tourist island of Cozumel, I'll have to settle for the "Tequila Tour." Besides, if you want the trail, go to any of the beach bars that pop up intermittently along the main highway that loops around half the island's coast, or any of the bars and restaurants in San Miguel, the island's only town.
The Tequila Tour is on the relatively remote western side of the island, away from the tourist hubbub, almost out in the middle of nowhere, by Cozumel standards.
You pull into the large parking lot at the Hacienda Antigua, pay your $10 through a hole in the surrounding wall, and then belly up to the outdoor bar, where you get your free drink in a tall shot glass or any of the other ways people drink tequila (Hint: Do the shot, be tough).
Alberto Nahvat is the guide for our small group, mainly older tourists and one bored teenager, and he admits to being a man who knows his way around a tequila shot. In fact, he looks like a man who has recently enjoyed this glorious association with the Mexican national drink.
Nahvat cheerfully guides us through an acre of blue agave, from which tequila is extracted. Agave is a hardy plant, with 162 different species, a cactus, prickly to the touch.
The plant reaches 7 feet when mature, the age at which tequila can be produced from it. A cactus can be used only once, to produce 6 liters of tequila.
"That's why the good stuff is expensive," Nahvat says.
True enough, most of the tequila that's shipped to the United States is of low-grade quality, what you get in frozen margaritas. In fact, frozen margaritas may even contain the lowest-grade tequila, called "mixto," blended with cane sugar and caramel coloring. The good stuff, double-distilled, is smooth as Tennessee whiskey and mainly free of the toxins that leave you with those infamous tequila hangovers.
Tequila is only made in the Jalisco town of Tequila.
"If it's not from there, we don't can call it tequila," Nahvat says.
The tequila in Cozumel is called Cava Antigua, the modern result of a long history of making tequila.
The drink was sacred to the Aztecs, and natives were making it long before the Spanish arrived, fermenting sap from the maguey plant into a drink called pulque. The tour takes you through the history of tequila, how the Spanish refined it and how, finally, it is made today.
In an open-air building sit rows and rows of tequila bottles. The tour is interesting, but this is pretty much what the group came for. The tastings.
Nahvat sprays a small amount of tequila into small paper cups. The "good stuff" is indeed silky smooth, but you may have to suffer through "cherry," and "orange" tequila, though the almond tequila has a smoky flavor and the coffee tequila has a strong, good taste, as well. The cream tequila tastes a little like amaretto. The shots are small, but numerous.
The mezcal, as expected, is like drinking jet fire. No one eats the worm.
At the end, Nahvat, free of charge, plays the guitar and sings. In my tequila state, I have to admit it sounds pretty darn good.
June 25, 2007
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