There's something hard to pin down about the taste of tequila. It's sweet yet savory, rich without feeling too filling. It's a spirit that's become increasingly popular in cocktail circles in the last few years; it's also one of the more well-known ways to replace vodka in a Bloody Mary. In a 2012 article that delved deeply into the history of said cocktail, Jack McGarry (co-founder of the bar The Dead Rabbit) noted the first mentions of a Bloody Mary made with tequila as taking place in the early 1970s. Sometimes, this is known as the Bloody Maria; some variations on this variation go by other names. Regardless of the name used to describe it, a Bloody Mary made with tequila comes with a number of noteworthy qualities.
One of the chief virtues of vodka in a Bloody Mary can also, from a different angle, work against it. "Vodka, ten times distilled and all that–they try to make it as smooth as can be," says Richard Sorenson, founder of Austin's Dulce Vida Organic Tequila. "I love a good Bloody Mary; there's no doubt about it. But tequila has a little more personality." For Sorenson, the regional qualities of tequila enrich the possibilities of the spirit. "There's so much from the terroir effect, from where you produce," he says. "Getting all those rich agave flavors and such. To me, that's key in mixing cocktails."
Jason Silverman is the Beverage Director for New York’s Agave Restaurant and Tequila Bar. From his perspective, using tequila instead of vodka in one's Bloody Mary is an understandable decision. "With tequila, people have something that has a little more flavor than vodka," he says. "Tequila has a different flavor profile; it's a little more interesting. A nice tequila with agave notes will bring a little more to the table than a standard vodka."
Melkon Khosrovian, co-founder of Los Angeles's Greenbar Distillery (makers of IXÁ tequila) agrees. "Because tequila tastes savory by itself, it's a great building block for savory drinks," he wrote in an email, going on to compare certain qualities of tequila with similar qualities in spirits like soju and aquavit. As Silverman points out, awareness of tequila in recent years has changed —specifically, the vast difference in quality between 100% agave tequilas and mixto tequilas, where agave is blended with other ingredients. "It's a generational question," Silverman says. "I do think we’ve come a long way, and the perception of tequila has changed for the better in the last five years or so."
Finding the right tequila to use for your drink is also a matter of taste. For Sorenson, the blanco is the way to go: "Blanco, in my mind, is the purest form, and I like to take a purist approach. I use blanco for a Bloody Maria and for a lot of cocktails that I do." Silverman agrees, saying, "I would suggest any good 100% agave blanco suitable for mixing." Among his recommendations are Milagro Silver, Cimmaron, and Fortaleza.
When it comes to the ingredients being mixed in, Silverman notes that certain non-traditional ingredients might work better alongside tequila. He suggests more of a citrus presence, and adding chipotle or jalapeños into the mix as well. If you're looking to go even spicier with your cocktail, Silverman suggests using jalapeño-infused tequila. This is something that can be done at home: "A couple of chilies cut in half don’t take long to infuse their flavor," Silverman says. It's a method that he uses at Agave, where the resulting tequila is used as the base for a number of drinks.
Drinkers feeling particularly adventurous might want to experiment with another spirit also made from agave. When asked if mezcal might make for an interesting Bloody Mary, Silverman responded enthusiastically, noting the spirit's "character and depth of flavor." He adds, "Mezcal would be amazing. The flavor would be fantastic."
- 12 oz t1 Blanco Ultrafino
- 2 cups Sacramento Tomato Juice
- ½ cup fresh orange juice
- 1 oz fresh lemon juice
- ¾ oz worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp tabasco
- 1 tsp chipotle adobo sauce
- 2 tbs fresh grated horseradish
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 1 tsp Fresh cracked pepper
- celery sprigs
Make ahead before serving guests
- Mix together the juices in a large pitcher. Squeeze the lemon juice with a hand-held citrus juicer.
- Stir in the chipotle and the Worcestershire with a whisk. Grate the horseradish with a microplane or a cheese grater (prepared horseradish is great too).
- When everything is incorporated, pour 2 oz of tequila over ice in a tall Collins glass. Stir in 4 oz of the Maria mix and garnish with a nice celery heart with the leaves included, and a lemon wedge. Add 1 or 2 cocktail shrimp on a skewer if you are feeling fancy.
On the Vine: recipe from Melkon Khosrovian of Greenbar Distillery
- 2 oz IXÁ silver tequila
- 1 oz fresh lemon juice
- 1 oz simple syrup
- 5 cherry tomatoes
- 1-2 dashes of hot sauce
- black pepper
- Muddle cherry tomatoes in a shaker.
- Add 1-2 dashes of your favorite hot sauce, along with tequila, lemon juice and simple syrup.
- Shake and strain into a coupe.
- Garnish with freshly cracked peppercorn.
Alejandro: recipe from Easy Bistro & Bar
- 1½ oz Trianon Reposado
- ½ oz Montenegro Amaro
- 1 oz Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 oz of celery juice
- 2 oz of tomato juice
- Bittermen's Hellfire Bitters.
Combine all, shake, and give it a black lava salt, grey salt, and black pepper rim.
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