BIT Blog

An Iguana's Recipe: Brave Bull

As temperatures drop (even in Mexico,) we want to curl up under a thick blanket, flip on a good flick and drink some tequila. We thought it would be fun to give our dedicated readers out there a great recipe to do just this. Warm up with the Mexican version of a Black Russian: smoky, coffee flavored Kahlúa and the heat of a smooth, 100% Blue Agave tequila. Indulge in two of Mexico’s finest spirits.

Most people don’t realize that Kahlúa comes from Mexico. The rum based coffee liquor comes from Veracruz, a state of Mexico famous for its coffee production. Kahlúa also includes a scrumptious dash of vanilla bean. Its name comes from Nauhatl, the language spoken by the indigenous people of Veracruz before the Spanish rolled in.

Most people also think both the Black Russian and the White Russian are of Russian origin.  That’s also not true, although we can imagine why one might think that. The reason Russian appears in the name is the use of Vodka as the main ingredient in the cocktail. It actually comes from a Belgian bartender in the 40’s who slapped out the cocktail for the US ambassador to Luxembourg.

The Brave Bull is the Mexican version of what should have been a Mexican cocktail all along …they just put vodka in place of tequila. And while I’m not trying to be a hater, tequila is just better. Whammy. So, try it out: 2 oz of blanco tequila (called white or silver) and 1 oz. of Kahlúa. Pour the tequila over ice in an old-fashioned glass. Add Kahlúa and swirl to perfection.

Why Tequila is Better Than Irish Whiskey

In my last blog, I reminisced about Antone’s, which was the club where I saw so many blues legends in Austin back in the ‘80s.  In a way, this was our neighborhood bar at the time, and as such it was the scene of some notable nights out.  One that comes to mind involves the late great, ebullient Texas bluesman Albert Collins.  Albert was a one-off, for sure, who did his own thing and did it well.  We were lucky enough to see him on many occasions back in the day, but this one particular night stands out in my memory.

There were five of us that particular night, and in retrospect it should have been obvious to Bruce and I that the other three guys (Gary, Joe and Derrick) were in a bit of a fiendish state of mind.  But such a realization would likely not have deterred the two of us, in that we were young and not given to wise acts of discretion at the time. 

At the duly appointed hour, the crew piled into Gary’s dented orange Volare and drove the short distance to Antone’s.  We got to the show a bit early, per usual, and immediately bellied up to the long, battered wooden bar that ran along the left side of the club.  Bruce and I ordered Shine Bock longnecks, alternating with tequila Screwdrivers.  The other guys, however, were in the nascent days of an infatuation with Jameson Irish Whiskey and were downing shots of it at an alarming rate.  I have to say that the look in their eyes gave me a sense of foreboding.  I had seen this Look before, and wondered if we’d make it to the end of the show without there being An Incident. 

Bruce and I moved down the bar a bit.  Just to create a bit of separation, you understand, for when the club’s giant bouncer finally decided to go beyond the death stares and get off his stool by the door and come over to put the quietus on the increasingly-rowdy horseplay.

When the opening band started up, our three friends didn’t seem to pay them much mind and instead continued down their Emerald Isle rabbit hole.  It wasn’t line-dancing (thank god!), but it was getting more rambunctious down at their end of the bar.  I glanced over at the humongous bouncer and, if looks could kill, these would be three dead white boys.  I couldn’t blame him……the whiskey drinkers were now flicking each other in the ears and laughing hysterically at the resulting pain and indignation.  Juvenile shoulder punches, while the other guy wasn’t looking, were interspersed.  Eyes became increasingly unfocused.  At times, the volume rivaled the band’s. 

I sensed an iceberg approaching, but felt like my power only extended to keeping myself out of the sea.  These were not men to be reasoned with.

When the opening band finished up, Bruce and I sauntered up to the front of the stage to get a good vantage point for Albert’s show.  Based on past experience, we knew that it was going to be a good one.  Albert’s band, The Icebreakers, were great, real-deal players who had been together forever and were super-tight.  And Albert himself was a consummate showman.  He played a Fender Telecaster (using a mysterious tuning idiosyncratic to Albert alone), which is a type of electric guitar known for its high-pitched, stinging sound.  Over the course of a night, Albert would unleash endless stabbing, bent blues licks that pierced right through the mix and got the crowd more and more worked up.  Sweat would pour off him and he clinched his eyes closed with every fusillade unleashed.  He gave his all at these shows, and tonight would be no different.

As was common with the blues legends, the band came out first and warmed the crowd up with an up-tempo instrumental tune.  It cooked, popped and sizzled, and Bruce and I quickly forgot about our Jameson-swilling compatriots behind us in the club.  As the band launched into the second number, Albert was introduced and he came out firing on all six, launching javelins of sound out into the crowd from his Tele.  The energy level in the room leapt up several notches, and everyone started moving and grooving.  Fast numbers with the occasional slow blues.  Wonderful pacing, and the energy in the room kept building.

And we had a ball. 

After about 45 minutes, I thought to look back from our position at the front of the stage.  Through the crowd, I could see Gary, Joe and Derrick sitting at a big round table in the middle of the room.  I couldn’t be sure, but they appeared to be spitting on each other.  Of the many dead soldiers on the table, several were knocked over.  They seemed unsteady but determined to ride the jag straight down into the depths of the peat bog. 

I wondered if the bouncer remembered that Bruce and I came in with those guys.

One of Albert’s famous show-stoppers that was used for the last song of the night was to hook his guitar up to a 100 ft. long chord and start walking.  At Antone’s, that took the form of exiting stage left, going off the stage and out the emergency exit of the club, continuing on through the parking lot and out into the middle of Guadalupe Street, stopping traffic and playing crazy leads all the while.  Just when he started his stroll this night, I looked back and saw that the bouncer had finally had Enough and was heading to our friends’ table.  This seemed like an excellent time to follow Albert outside, and so Bruce and I—longnecks in hand--sidled right over to that side of the stage and then trailed Albert right out the door and out into the street (no doubt breaking multiple Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission regulations in the process).  When the rest of the crowd saw what we were doing (and not knowing out special motivation), they followed us out and soon there was close to 100 people standing in the middle of the main drag, screaming and hollering for Albert to take it higher.  And he did!  Beers were thrust up in the air, frantic dancing erupted, people got out of their cars on both sides of the road to join the party, and all the while The Icebreakers kept it cooking back in the club, with the sound pouring out the side door. 

Just as things were reaching their peak out in the street, I heard a commotion and looked over to see our three wayward whiskey drinkers being thrown out of the front door by the mountainous, scowling bouncer.  Seeing that as our cue, Bruce and I left the crowd and walked over to herd our friends around back to the car, sensing that whatever responsibility we might have abdicated earlier in the night could now no longer be avoided.

As you might expect for aspirants trying to qualify for the James Irish Whiskey Shot Team, the trio were not in a frame of mind to consider that their behavior might’ve had something to do with their ejection from the club.  Great was their indignation, and mighty were their protestations.  But finally we got them into the car and headed back over to Joe’s house.

The less said about the remainder of the night, the better, but I will divulge that the sad inventory of the next morning included a broken window and a broken pinky.  But I think it telling that the beer/tequila contingent behaved with great personal aplomb, while the Irish Whiskey drinkers made beasts of themselves. 

Would a change of beverage have made a significant difference?  Well, if a frog had wings he wouldn’t bump his ass when he hopped.

Tequila Shots with James Cotton

Any of y’all (note the regional second-person pronoun) from Austin, and “of a certain age,” are no doubt familiar with the old Antone’s nightclub.  It was truly a legendary blues dive which opened back in ‘75, moved a few times, and essentially (if not legally) perished when changing musical tastes and the ever-dwindling number of surviving blues legends required the club to start booking more general fare in the ‘90s.

The club’s namesake was a colorful character named Clifford Antone, who said the business was started because “Me and my friendswanted to hear blues before these [old blues musicians] died."  A noble sentiment, to be sure, and Antone’s provided a haven for many wonderful blues legends in their final performing years, at a time when blues music couldnot have been any more unfashionable.  He poured a lot of his profits into helping them with travel expenses, medical care, etc., and always made it a point to treat them like the musical royalty they were, which you could tell really touched them at that late point in their careers (when they had to struggle to get shows in the rest of the country).

 Antone did a bit of federal time twice for dealing weed, which by all accounts was used as an alternative funding source to keep the club open and champion the music he loved.  He was a larger than life personality--carousing, holding court and talking smack, but always evincing a true love for the blues and the musicians who played it.  He passed away in ’06, and one has to wonder if his zest for life waned as the last of those old players passed away.

 I moved to Austin in 1980 to attend the University of Texas, and immediately fell in with a bunch of fine no-goodniks with whom I had countless sordid adventures around town.  Not a small number of these involved going to Antone’s at their best location, which was on Guadalupe Street (otherwise known as The Drag) just north of the giant campus.  During that decade I was lucky enough to see Albert King, Albert Collins, John Lee Hooker, Hubert Sumlin, Otis Rush, Jimmy Reed, Mel Brown, Buddy Guy, Pinetop Perkins, Grey Ghost, Johnny Johnson, and James Cotton there along with a whole bunch of others who I can’t remember at the moment (and my concert ticket book doesn’t help because you never got ticket stubs at Antone’s). 

 Antone’s was a place of respite from the relentless MTV new wave that was pervasive at the time.  You knew there would be kindred souls at the club, soaking up the blues like there was no tomorrow.  It wasn’t museum piece music, or those cold blues gigs you sometimes experienced at other venues that had no soul and featured a black performer who seemed disgusted to perform for an all-white audience that had a hard time letting go and boogying.   Antone’s shows were different.  It was a special time and place, as they say.

 As 18-year old kids new to town and ready to fling our considerable youthful energy into the new experience of unsupervised living, we were also still in our early years of discovering Great Music.  Most of us had stuck our toes in the water of classic blues by the time we got to Austin (and had surely been rocking out to Johnny Winter, Robin Trower, Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Rory Gallagher), but we surely had a lot to learn and were ecstatic to find old Muddy Waters and Lightnin’ Hopkins albums in the cut-out section of Sound Warehouse (you younger readers are not going to understand multiple parts of that sentence).  If we swallowed our pride and used coupons from the student newspaper to “eat” (if that’s the correct word) at Arby’s and Pancho’s Mexican Buffet, we could spend the resulting savings on blues LPs.  It wasn’t the only kind of music we were listening to, but with blues we felt like we were onto a rich vein that we greatly looked forward to mining further.  Not to mention actually getting to see these guys play live! 

 Looking back now, we were truly spoiled during the ‘80s and didn’t take full advantage of all the opportunities we had to see the legends of the blues while they were still alive and putting on great shows down at Antone’s.  Sure, we saw Albert Collins and John Lee Hooker many times, but we could have seen them more and others besides, but we just had this unspoken notion that they…..the club….the scene…..would always be there.

 They weren’t.

 But we saw some great shows, all the same.  On one early ‘80s night that comes to mind, we went to see James Cotton, the superlative harmonica player who had spent years with Muddy Waters and then even more years fronting his own band.  For some reason we got there pretty early and (as was our wont) bellied up to the long, battered wooden bar and ordered Shiner Bock longnecks and some tequila shots.  As we sat down to commence, I looked just to my right and was bowled over to see James Cotton himself sitting on the barstool next to me!  We were all pretty blown away by this, and didn’t quite know what to say (the idea that we should say nothing and just leave the man in peace before he had to start playing a show was evidently beyond us). 

By Zaldi64 - Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4413799

By Zaldi64 - Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4413799

 The house lights were still up in the dingy club, and so we all had a good view of each other.  We were just skinny young white guys with long hair, feeling our oats.  But let me describe Mr. Cotton:  he was wearing a faded old green t-shirt that looked like it wouldn’t even fit me, stretched to the absolute limits of the fabric tensile strength.  He was about 5’6”, give or take, had a medium ‘fro and was (if it’s ok to say this) the most sway-backed man I have ever seen.  But the main thing I remember is that he had a huge, open, welcoming smile crowned with a gold tooth display right in front. 

 Upon noticing that such an imminent musician was sitting next to me, I was stymied for what to say, and so I sputtered out:  “Mr. Cotton, will you drink a tequila shot with us?”

 He graciously agreed, and soon we had one in front of him, clinked shot glasses, and together we knocked ‘em back.  All my friends stayed over around the poor man, surrounding his bar stool and stammering out whatever blues-related questions we could think of.  He was down-to-earth and just couldn’t have been nicer to us, although you could also tell that he was a bit shy and soft-spoken.  Several more shots of gold tequila later, and I was starting to feel it.  Cotton seemed unfazed, however, and after slamming down the last one said “Well, boys, I guess I gotta go play.”

 At that moment, we looked to the stage and realized that the house stereo was off and the band had set up and begun to play.  Cotton shook our hands, walked over to the stage, strapped on his Pancho Villa leather double harmonica bandolier and started to blow the meanest harp that I’d seen before or since.  While we weaved unsteadily to the stage, cheering wildly, he was charging ahead at 110 mph and never wavered for a fantastic two hour show.  To get a small taste of what it was like, listen to this (and jump up on your coffee table):

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ytwsi00yFsQ

 He showed us how a bluesman rocks a crowd, and how a bluesman drinks tequila.  And I can remember his huge smile and gold tooth display like it was yesterday.

 

Ghost Stories

Día de los muertos and Noches de Brujas are right around the corner. What better way to celebrate than with some tequila and haunted houses. Jalisco is not only home to makers of tequila but also a few legendary haunted locations. Below we have taken the liberty of compiling a short list of these spooky places to visit this fall:

1. The Vampire Tree- During the early 19th century it was said that a mad man went wild for the thirst of blood. This man was soon to be know as a vampire and ran rampant in Guadalajara feasting off the 'sangre' of livestock and newborn babies. The townspeople were on watch during the hours of the night and finally found the vampire heading home after killing his prey one evening. Grabbing their pitchforks and torches they marched to the home of the vampire (literally like a scene from Dracula). When the townsfolk finally caught and staked the vampire they took his body to a cemetery named El Panteon de Belen. He was buried with no ceremony in an unmarked coffin. They say the ground became nourished by the Vampiric blood and a tree bursted through the coffin. If you cut a limb from the tree it will ooze with blood mixed sapping. The cemetery has been said to be haunted by a few different entities but the tree has drawn the most attention. The cemetery has been turned into a museum but several sightings and hauntings of the deceased vampire are still reported. You can only visit the museum during the day but if you can sneak in at night be sure to check out the Vampire tree.  

2.  Casa del Trébol Negro built in 1908 was a family home for several years until the Husband went mad. Legend has it that the mother and daughter were grotesquely murdered in the house by the father and the spirits today still wander the house screaming and shouting leaving blood marks in memory of their angry deaths. The mansion now is often used for real haunted house adventures or festivals in the area. If you conduct a quick google search you will find several videos of individuals and their paranormal experiences in the house. The mansion now known better as Casa Clovers, is often used for real haunted house adventures or festivals in the area. Actually, if you do a quick google search tons of paranormal home videos will pop up. We personally believe this might be your best bet for some spooks, so don't have too much tequila if you decide to go.

3. In 1805 Hospicio Cabañas was constructed. For the first few years it served asan asylum, military barracks and aprison. Eventually it was settled for the use of an orphanage. Supposedly every time a child died, the monumental clock in the building would stop. As if the clock itself was marking the end of another existence. The building has since been preserved as a classic piece of Mexican history which is open to the public. Visitors report hearing laughs, screams, cries and footsteps of children from time to time when roaming the halls. Doesn't sound too scary but an asylum turned orphanage has got to have some ghosts still hanging around.

4. Hospital Fray Antonio Alcalde y Barriga still currently functions as a hospital even though it was built in the 1700s.  Patients report several paranormal entities appearing in the hospital. But critics reason that they just may be flat out crazy from being sick. The most active sighting is a female nurse named Manuela Lozano, who wanders the Internal Medicine wing. We couldn't find much on her death but some patients swear to her sightings. You may not be able to bring in a bottle of tequila but if you are need of getting your stomach pumped after drinking too much tequila, this might be a great choice hospital to go to.

5. Last on our list isLa Casa de los Perros.This colonial mansion housed the first independent newspaper in America. The Mansion now serves a historical museum of journalism and is open to the public as well. Overnight staff and visitors have reported sightings of a woman and sometimes a man. Those more familiar to the home identify the lady asto the original owner's wife, who took on a lover and later conspired to kill her husband. They do not tell how she attempted to kill her husband or if maybe in his rage he killed her. But any love story that ends in affairs and deaths is sure to produce some ghostly activity.  

So grab your pals, some Ghostbusters gear and a bottle of tequila. We dare you to take your chances and visit these locations in the tequila state of Jalisco. Don't forget to report back to us, if you make it out alive.

October Cocktail Inspiration

The end of October is a time for haunted houses, witches and ghost stories. You will see pumpkins lining the streets and children dressed in costumes, enjoying spoils of sweets. In Mexico, the the beginning of November is a time for celebrating death. Altars for those in the spirit world and Two very different cultures that represent afterlife and preservation in different ways.  But whether you celebrate Noche de la Brujas , Halloween or Dia de los Muertos, we have found 3 spook-tacular tequila based recipes for your themed party. We would love to hear your favorite cocktail recipes for this time of year! And don't forget everything's better with Blue Iguana Tequila in the mix. 

drinks-1502553-1279x1705.jpg

Purple Paloma - Inspired by/ Courtesy of Climbing Grier

Ingredients:
1 lime wedge for garnish
Black Lava Salt for garnish
1 ounce Blue Iguana tequila
2 ounces Fresca
3 ounces grape juice
ice cubes

 Directions: On a small plate, place black lava salt. Take a lime wedge and rub the lime around the top of the glass. Flip the glass over and coat the rim of the glass with the black lava salt. Fill glass with ice and pour tequila, Fresca, and grape juice. Stir and garnish with lime wedge and black lava salt.

  

Devil’s Hammer - Inspired/Courtesy of Hispanic Kitchen

 Ingredients:
1/2 ounce agave nectar
4 mint leaves
1/2 one lemon
1/2 one orange
1 1/2 ounces Blue Iguana Silver tequila
1 ounce lemon juice
1 ounce club soda
1/2 ounce cherry syrup
ice

Directions:Muddle agave nectar, mint leaves, lemon, and orange in a cocktail shaker. Add tequila, lemon juice, and club soda. Shake well and serve in a chilled glass over ice. Finish with cherry syrup.

Serves: 1

 THE BLACK WIDOW COCKTAIL

 Ingredients :
2 Blackberries
3 Basil leaves
1.5 oz Blue Iguana Tequila
1 oz Fresh lime juice
1 tsp Agave nectar
1 Blackberry and basil leaf for Garnish

 Directions:
In a shaker, muddle the blackberries and basil.
Add the remaining ingredients and fill with ice.
Shake well and strain into a stemless Martini glass filled with fresh ice.
Garnish with a blackberry and basil leaf on a toothpick.

We hope you enjoy these cocktails along with your celebrations in the coming weeks. Don't forget to send in yours for us to share :-)

Sources:
http://www.cosmopolitan.com/food-cocktails/news/a32225/the-best-cocktails-for-dia-de-los-muertos/
http://www.liquor.com/recipes/black-widow/#gs.CoeDVzE

5 Reasons to Drink Tequila in the Fall

We believe tequila is a drink for all seasons and we have several reasons for this. What are they? Well, if we told you all of them then we’d have no tricks up our sleeve. And what is the number one rule of a professional tequila drinker? Always keep a card hidden. However, we will share a couple of our bright ideas with you. But first thing is first. Pour yourself a smooth tequila like a Blue Iguana Reposado before proceeding.

1. Tequila warms you up. It’s a gentle burn rolling down your throat and keeps your body feeling warmer as a result. Why wear a coat when you could just drink more tequila? (Yes, this is my usual course of reasoning which leaves me inappropriately underdressed nearly all the time.)

2. If it doesn’t warm you up, it definitely makes you numb. Okay, don’t look at me like that. It’s a GOOD thing. You’re not cold if your appendages are numb, right? It may make dancing slightly more embarrassing, though we feel it’s just another reason to drink more tequila.

3. If you’re numb, you're inherently ballsier. Yep. You know that guy / girl you’ve been thinking about making a move on or maybe just talking to? That numb sensation is actually liquid courage coursing through your veins. As a matter of fact, you’re now officially invincible. Go for it. Hone right on in with all the pick-up lines you’ve got.

4. You feel no cold. You feel no fear. And luckily for you, you feel no rejection. Even if they laugh in your face, there is a decent chance you won’t care (at least while you’re drunk, anyway.) Meanwhile, you’ll be rocking that liquid shield to try with the next cute guy / girl at the bar.

5. Beyond all of the successes or failures of the night, one thing still holds true: your toasty, incorrigible ass is bulletproof, invisible and indestructible …at least in your mind. Plus it tastes good. 

 

Hangover DNA

Last week after you stumbled home reeking of Tequila did you stop to think about the hangover battle you may be encountering  the next day. Odds are it may have occupied your thoughts for a moment or two but that was before you realized you were already over the edge of the greatest night ever (no judgement ).  Just like every other hangover you’ll fight against your better judgement to stay in bed all day and spend the next few hours crawling between  the bathroom and gulping down water with a headache that can only be described as pure hell.

There´s been some dispute as to whether or not tequila can give you a hangover.Some brands will even go as far as to say they have created a hang over free tequila while others cower in fear of ever drinking tequila again after their last hangover. So which is it?

 Were here to let you know any alcohol puts you at risk for a hangover; some more than others. Just like beer and your other favorite spirits Tequila is produced with ethanol. Excess levels of ethanol can contribute to your hangover symptoms like headaches from dehydration. Also similar to other liquors Tequila contains toxins that irritate your digestive system, even one shot causes your stomach to produce more acid than usual , that’s why the day after you get tanked your stomach hates you.

The presence of a little thing called congeners also contribute to those morning after troubles. Congeners are produced during the fermentation process and are more abundant in darker liquors. No wonder the recovery from a night of whiskey is harsher than an evening sipping on Ciroc. Along side those friendly congeners the price of your tequila can contribute to the pain of being hungover. Higher priced brands normally mean more precise distilling which means less unwanted substances floating around in your glass. 

And with all that now even DNA may be a contributing factor as to whether or not you will suffer from hangovers. Researchers in Australia fed alcohol to a bunch of twins and then studied their hangovers in correlation to their genetic factors (we know what you are thinking, why weren’t we invited!) . Identical twins displayed strong similarities in their regards to hangover susceptibility in addition researchers also determined that those who were less susceptible to hangovers where at higher risk for alcohol addiction. Over all the study reads that DNA played a factor in hangovers for about 45% of the women and 40% of the men. So you could be one of the lucky ones with the gene variant less likely to receive a hangover after a night of drinking.  

But to be on the safe side we suggest we all head out to the bar not banking on having superior hangover DNA. Steer clear of cheap booze and tequila that is not 100% agave , pace yourself, drink lots of water andnever be afraid to cut your self off early. For now Tequila is not off the hangover list but we’re crossing our fingers for the future.

Sources:

http://vinepair.com/articles/tequila-wasnt-responsible-for-your-hangover-your-dna-was/

http://www.livescience.com/47517-hangovers-genetic-alcohol-drinking.html

Iguanas in Tequila

After the gut-wrenching ride from San Miguel de Allende to Guanajuato we entered Jalisco, the state of Mexico where the town Tequila hides alongside the posh metropolis Guadalajara, and spied a tiny cowboy on a full size horse. The bluish hue of the textured landscape wasn’t the reflection of the heavy grey clouds hanging over me nor a denim-clad army of hard-working jimadores. It was the first of many Blue Agave Tequiliana Weber fields, the bewitched plant responsible for an intoxicating beverage that causes unsuspecting drinkers to break things that they have little to no consciousness they were ever in contact with.

Driving along La Ruta de Tequila, little Oak trees dotted purple mountains in the distance: forested land filled with cattle and haciendas, avocado farms followed by Bougainvillea vines, terraced hills of Agave enclosed in foot-high loose stone walls and separated by delicate green grass. Mexican men rode by on horseback and tequila barrels lined each street. I passed an above ground cemetery in pastel colors (where Herradura distills their tequila) framed by dormant green volcanoes in the distance thinking that the name of the town comes from the indigenous Nahuatl meaning a place of tribute, and that it is. Drunken tribute.

Behind the scenes at our agave harvest with filmmaker Janosh Chassan and photographer Sean Reagan. 

Behind the scenes at our agave harvest with filmmaker Janosh Chassan and photographer Sean Reagan. 

In four-wheel drive, the distiller and I zoomed through the winding mountain trails till we reached the cloud line, overlooking a vine-laden gorge and reservoir below. Though I’d passed Agave fields being harvested by tractors, the Jimadores hauling agaves for Blue Iguana Tequila used mules with manual release baskets.  As I jumped down from the truck, I was greeted by the supervisor. Assuming that I was less bilingual than I am, he shouted to his men in fast slang, “Look good, assholes. You’re being filmed.”

They paused to look at me. One Jimador yelled back, “But, I’m ugly. What do I do?” I laughed, and after that, they were careful what they said when I was in earshot.

The town of Tequila was hopping, which was the exact opposite of what I had heard about the “Pueblo Magico.” I sat at a bar drinking Coronas and writing. Not my favorite beer, but tolerable. The enormous church emptied, filling the zocalo with people eating roasted corn with mayonnaise. Tequila tour buses shaped like giant liquor bottles or barrels whizzed around the same four main corners like a merry-go-round. Once they made me dizzy, I dipped into one of the Tequila museums which showed a grizzlier side of the fermentation process than I had been aware of. Rather than use a cultivated (and we would like to imagine clean) yeast, they stuffed a dirty guy in the tequila “beer.” By bathing in it, he added the needed bacteria to make booze.

All I can say is thank the Tequila gods for modern technology.

 

 

Nights at La Cucaracha, Episode One: The Dave Chappell of Sinaloa

Tequila Stories: A Unique Tequila Tale to Be Read in One-Sitting with a Sip!

We met The Dave Chappell of Sinaloa at La Cucaracha in San Miguel deep into the late night, several weeks back.  He had volunteered his birthplace.  We came up with the nickname, in appreciation of his highly-entertaining rap and general way of moving.  Plus, he kind of looks like Dave Chappell.   After telling us where he was from that first night, he was quick to add “but I’m not that kind of Sinaloan…..I’m a lover, not a fighter.”  He then initiated some tequila shot rounds, and a fine time was had by all (until the piper was paid next day, anyway).  

When we walked in the door on this night, there he was again, down at the far end of the bar by the jukebox, where Jonathan, my Aussie friend, and I like to hang out.  With him were four large, stern-looking dudes who looked enough alike to be brothers.  Turns out they were.

“Hey, man, I want you to meet my cousins!  They’re visiting from Sinaloa.”  Firm, solemn handshakes were exchanged.

“They don’t speak any English, but there’s great guys.”

Now, Jonathan speaks Spanish fluently, albeit with the same thick Antipodean accent that makes his English hard for me to understand in loud barroom situations (which is where we tend to congregate).  My brain, however, has demonstrated a lifelong resistance to representational systems like other languages.  I berate it for this, but so far it remains resistant and unrepentant.  And so I struggle.

Cucaracha was hopping on this night as the clocked danced heedlessly past midnight, and things were loud enough where even Jonathan was having a hard time trying to communicate with the taciturn (and still large) cousins.  

And then Dave Chappell started The Shot Buying.  

I had an immediate flash of how this was going to go:  seven guys taking turns buying rounds of shots for each other.  Rinse and repeat.  I felt my skull get an anticipatory jump on things by starting to throb, pulsing in and out and putting a rhythmic pressure on my brainpan.

Disclaimer: This is not Walter! It's another tequila lover, Kevin Holloran, hanging out in La Cucaracha taking cheap tequila shots.

Disclaimer: This is not Walter! It's another tequila lover, Kevin Holloran, hanging out in La Cucaracha taking cheap tequila shots.

And so it went.  I’ve always been deeply impressed by the Mexican ability to consume tequila throughout a night without making faces, hopping about, cursing or otherwise showing any effects from the ingestion.  Whereas growing up in Texas in my day, we were the subject of a ruthless, comprehensive and effective advertising campaign that created the pervasive false impression not only that gold tequila was GOOD, but that Jose Cuervo Gold was the only tequila anyone should buy.  And so, as you might imagine, much sputtering and hopping about was always involved, accompanied by some truly creative expletives.  And this in turn produced “tequila stories” (eg. waking up in the back of a pickup truck as it sped down the road, driven by people you didn’t know) as well as a Pavlovian response to further tequila drinking (which of course was not a deterrent).      

So after a round or so on this night at Cucaracha, I realized that my only hope was to introduce a different kind of shot into the rotation.  I needed some relief from the not-Cuervo-Gold-But-Still-Not-That-Great-Quality blanco tequila shots.  So when my turn to buy came around again, I asked our friend Herman, the bartender, for “siete kamikazes, por favor.”  Herman was not familiar with this one, and so Jonathan helpfully pulled out his phone and the recipe was quickly pulled up and passed behind the bar.  Herman read it, nodded once, and soon we had a long line of cloudy little shot glasses lined up for us.  The four cousins looked a little dubious at this break from tradition, but without objection they each grabbed a shot glass and we all tossed ‘em back.  I waited with some trepidation for their reaction. 

They loved it!  Turns out none of our group but myself had ever had a kamikaze before.  One of the cousins even ordered more as the shot buying rotation came his way.  I started to feel better about maintaining a bit of dignity and poise for the rest of the night.  But then more low-grade tequila shots were ordered, and I began to feel a certain uncertainty in the rigidity of my legs.  Nothing too serious yet, but let’s just call it an increased potentiality of toppling.  

So as my round-buying turn approached, I began to consider something truly desperate……something I had not done in a very long time……something that might not even be possible (or legal) in a Central Mexican cantina.   I scrolled through my besieged and sputtering mental Roladex, trying to remember how one might make the damn thing.

And then it was my turn.  “Herman,” I asked with some hesitation, “can you make a Flaming Dr. Pepper?”  One furrowed brow and recipe look-up on the phone later, Herman got down to some serious alchemy.  He seemed deep in thought……a true craftsman, enjoying a new challenge.  It took several trips for him to ferry all the parts of these shots over to us, and when lined up it covered the entire length of the bar.

As you may know, a Flaming Dr. Pepper is a combination shot whereby a large shot glass is filled with Amaretto and topped off with Bacardi 151, which is then lit on fire and dropped in a full mug of beer, which is itself then immediately chugged in its entirety.  Against all odds and reason, it tastes exactly like a Dr. Pepper.  No one knows why.

To say that the Sinaloans appeared dubious of my new order would be a bit of an understatement, but they did enjoy the fire display (Herman had been so enthusiastic with the lighter, and the bar so saturated by booze from its venerable 69-year history, that our entire end of the bar caught on fire for a bit).  And so all seven of us stepped up in a complicated ballet, since the timing of the lighting of the shots, the deposits in the mugs of beer, and the beer chugging itself, was crucial for the Right Effect to be delivered.  

It was brutal, as I knew it would be, but it did provide that diversity so craved by my palate and soggy brain stem.  But how would the Sinaloans react?

They loved it!  They all slapped me on the back, smiles and handshakes all around, and two of the cousins ordered the same thing when their turn next came around.  Everyone in the bar seemed to enjoy the fire spectacle, and Herman seemed well-pleased with this new mixology arrow added to his quiver.  It was Good.

Sure, it took 2-3 days to feel human again (with my skull on Day One feeling as if it were cracking open a’la Zeus birthing Athena), but in the end it was a small price to pay for the whole hands-across-the-sea brotherhood and libationary solidarity that our diverse little group shared that night in the same little Mexican cantina where Kerouac and Ginsberg where drinking when Cassady got hit by the train on the outskirts of town.


Rather than drinking ANY of what we drank that night, try this much more sensible and tasty alternative:
Prickly Pear Margarita
--4 oz. Blue Iguana Silver Tequila
--2 oz. prickly pear cactus syrup
--2 oz. Cointreau, Mathilde Orange XO Liqueur, or Triple Sec
--1 oz. orange juice
--4 oz. lime juice
On the rocks:  Mix ingredients, pour over ice.
Frozen:  Put 4 cups of ice in the blender with ingredients.
(serves four, or two with large tiki mugs) 

An Iguana's Guide to Tequila Misconceptions

Here are a couple of frequent misconceptions about Tequila.

1.    Tequila has a worm in it. 

No it does not. That’s ridiculous. Mescal may have a worm (or another variety of insect or arthropod) because it isn’t regulated like tequila. As a matter of fact, I recently tried a mescal with a scorpion in it. Talk about ballsy.

2.    All tequila is pretty much the same. 

 Incorrect. There are four types of tequila: blanco (also called silver), reposado (rested for a short time), añejo (aged), and mixto (AKA crap.) Blanco is the strongest and purest (think firey-fresh.) It’s clear. Reposado and añejo are smoother and have a yellowish tone due to the aging in wooden barrels. Mixto should be drunk under no circumstance, unless someone has a gun to your head or you’re a masochist.

3.    Tequila makes you hallucinate. 

Again, where do you get your information? Truly preposterous. This myth takes root in the similarity between mescal and mescaline which are actually derived from different plants all together. While mescal comes from a different kind of agave than tequila, mescaline comes from peyote. Believe us, it’s a different trip altogether.

4.    We have Mexicans to thank for Tequila.

True and not. While Mexico is responsible for fermenting the agave, it’s actually the Spanish we have to thank for distilling it into tequila. Apart from raping their women and lands, the Spanish did come up with the bright idea to make “agave-beer” a stronger, forget-your-woes sort of libation.

5.    Tequila is meant to be shot.

And so are you. Tequila is a fine spirit that should be sipped and savored, just like a fine wine, scotch or cognac. Each agave field has unique properties which translate into the individual tequila making it distinct. If you want to really understand tequila take your time with it and don’t try to get frisky by introducing other partners to mix, like lime and salt. Keep it simple and straight. 

Your best love affair has just begun.