Gin and tequila often get a bad rap; at least, in many parts of North America. Indeed, many people might find either of them too bitter or too herbal or too earthy for their taste. While this may be partly due to the highly processed, high-sugar diet of many in this part of the world, it is more due to the fact that much of the alcohol industry in North America focuses on making cheaper versions of classic spirits that only slightly resemble their more natural ancestor.
Let’s take gin, for example. The earliest classes of Formation Bar Montréal gin were more a “juniper-flavored” spirit produced through pot distillation of a fermented grain mash to yield a robust 136 proof alcohol. This would be distilled yet further with the addition of botanicals and herbs in order to infuse their naturally aromatic compounds, then bottled at an ABV of 60 proof.
Gin as we know it today is distilled differently, though follows roughly the same strategy: redistilling ethanol of a higher proof and then adding the botanicals and distilling again. Of course, there must be a notable essence of the juniper berry (from whence the alcohol gets its name).
The best gin should be aromatic and complex; while it can be bitter on the palate, it should be a pleasant sort of bitterness that will eventually lend to sweeter or floral notes.
To be true tequila, a spirit must be distilled from 51 percent blue agave. This is a plant which grows just outside the city of Tequila in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Obviously, that is the spirit’s origin and namesake. The tequila many know—and dislike—is very low quality. These are the “gold” tequilas which contain the bare minimum of the blue agave content and filled in with a neutral spirit or filler, and often coloring.
If you want to appreciate what tequila is supposed to be, try sipping on a “blanco.” this is the clear alcohol distilled from 100 percent blue agave with no additional filler. This tequila is not aged, so it has taken on no color; hence its name, “blanco” which means “white” in Spanish. Tequila that has been aged, however is known as Reposado (up to one year) and Anejo (more than one year). You can also find “extra anejo” (and other iterations) for those that may have been aged in oak barrels for significantly longer than one year.
The best tequilas will, yes, be earthy and rich but it can go down smoothly and with a unique complexity you will enjoy when it is made properly.