December 22nd, 2016: a little over a year since my trip to Mexico.
It was the second time I was visiting the country, heading to Guadajara in the state of Jalisco – one of the five areas that makes tequila.
Tequila has protected geographical status of origin, just champagne and cognac. It can only be produced by one plant: blue agave. Any drinks distilled outside of these five states and any drinks not made of blue agave cannot be labeled as tequila, and are instead mescal.
My destination was the Olmeca distillery
where I’d try Olmeca Altos – a tequila made from 100% agave – out of one of their barrels. I don’t know what exactly changes when you’re in a distillery, but you think that the alcohol tastes different: more flavorsome, fresher, more pronounced – compared to what you try when you’re in another country, sipping a drink of tequila at a bar or at home.
I’ve found that in our job, a person’s state of mind helps them see things differently. So when we’re in a better mood, everything feels better. When you’re at the very heart of the creation of all the drinks we find in liquor stores, you can’t have but be ecstatic (provided you love what you do, of course).
So that’s how my journey into the world of tequila started. I’m at the distillery, taking part in a guided tour.
I watch the agave piñas, freshly havested by los jimadores
being put in the ovens to bake. Once roasted, they will be cut into small pieces and pressed by an enormous stone to extract their juice. Fermentation and distillation will follow, resulting in tequila which will have to rest in barrels for at least two months – which will also give it its characteristic aromas of spices, caramel and vanilla. Then it’s time to pour into bottles and reach consumers’ and bars’ shelves.
When you sip some tequila right after it’s distilled, you realize that it has nothing to do with what you’d find in a bottle later. It’s stronger, because there’s more alcohol content. It’s fresher, cause it’s been freshly distilled. It’s crisper, because you’re in the distillery, because you’re smelling and seeing everything involved in the process. You’re miles away from home and your responsibilities, miles away from the daily grind and your troubles. This means you have a clearer head, you can find and discern more aromas and attributes in what you’re tasting.
It may be almost Christmas, but it’s 27 degrees outside
and sweat slowly starts dripping from our foreheads. We’ve met at the distillery parking lot and are about to embark on a long tour of the fields where the agave plant grows and matures.
We’re going to ride on quad bikes, and each one of us has already started putting on their equipment: scarves, boots, helmets. It was as if we’re part of the Mad Max crew.
Our leader rides ahead and we follow.
A long drive through a landscape of blue agaves.
There’s nothing else apart from these blue, spiky-leafed plants that could easy pierce your tires and scratch your legs if you diverted from the path. So many that your eyes wouldn’t stop registering blue agaves – a sea of blue agaves that you’d easily mistake for a seascape from afar. They are laid out symetrically, in line, and each field was planted in a different year.
My adrenaline was running high,
the bike was running high, dust was everywhere and the further back you were in this cavalcade, the whiter you’d turned.
We reach our destination, a village of very few residents built around a small church. It was decorated for the upcoming holidays. I thought I was in a movie, I felt like I’d entered a different dimension and stepped from today to the past.
We are in front of what looks like a convenience store, where your mom would once send you to buy milk for the family and cigarettes for dad –
and let you spend the change on gum.
Once inside, we watched a man behind the counter rub lime onto the brim of short clay cups and dip them into salt. He then poured tequila, ice and a soft drink that looked like lemonade but was cloudier into each cup.
That was the Paloma, a traditional Mexican cocktail,
which is much more widely drank in Mexico than Margarita. We’d never tried Palomas in Greece because we didn’t have grapefruit soda. If needed, we’d have to make do with grapefruit juice, or the closest beverage we could find to what they use in Mexico.
The temperature is now a little over 30C, and dust is all around us. On our faces you can see the mark of our masks surrounded by a mix of sweat and dust. But the Paloma – this combination of salt, sweet and sour soft drink and tequila
was the most refreshing and rejuvenating drink I’ve ever had.
I’d quenched my thirst and I’ve recharged. The cocktail was so smooth that it didn’t make me dizzy, it made me want more. We got to the front of the church with the Christmas decorations, we crossed ourselves and got on our way.
The drive back to the distillery was quiet – relaxed, as we like to say in Thessaloniki, beautiful and a tiny bit alcoholic. The right amount to allow for a pleasant but still safe ride.
I was absolutely carefree.
Salt on the brim of the glass
50ml tequila Olmeca Altos Reposado Vogatsikou 3 Limited Edition
Top up with 3cents grapefruit soda
A slice of lime
The Cocktail of the Month feature on View Thessaloniki
is sponsored by Vogatsikou 3 bar
3 Vogatsikou Street
546 25 Thessaloniki
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