Friday, November 29, 2019

Tequila, Mexico: A Parade and Some Margaritas

I crawled out of my tequila barrel in Tequila, Mexico and thought... I should probably find some tequila to drink!

I thought the barrels of Matices Hotel de Barricas were looking very nice in the Mexican sun. I think we all agreed our previous hotel was better but this place definitely looked cool.

It happens to everybody.

Our first tour of the day was at Casa Sauza. Despite the great time we had at the Cuervo distillery yesterday I was excited about this tour too because it included a visit to an agave field. We've passed so many driving around out here and I've only been able to longingly gaze at them out the car window.

La Quinta de Casa Sauza

When the tour began we immediately marched to the tour bus to head out to the farm.

The shuttle bus was nice and classy with a wooden interior. Reminded me of our glorious St. Louis Loop Trolley.

"Look around! Here in this botanical garden, we are growing the magnificent plants that are used to produce tequila. Before the agave plant can be harvested for the spirit we all enjoy so much, it must be nurtured and grown in the fields. This process takes from eight to ten years and requires hard work and dedicated effort from a large number of people.

In this visit, we want to share with you the spirit that makes Sauza OUR TEQUILA.

The agaves of this garden come from donations made by (Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados Sede Irapuato) y CIATEJ(Centro de Investigación y Asistencia Tecnológica y Diseño del Estado de Jalisco. A.C.), which are gratefully acknowledge, and from Sauza's own collection."

This was another tour where it was sweet to be an English speaker. We were on a private tour while the Spanish tour seemed to be some sort of giant high school field trip.

Our tour guide Julissa had an interesting life story. I think she was born in California and then moved to Mexico.

I don't know if you can see from the pictures, but the ground was peppered with little chunks of black obsidian glass launched there by an eruption of nearby Tequila Volcano (if that's not already the name of a cocktail I will have to retire to my laboratory when I get home). Julissa said that the sharp glass all over the place is what led natives to name the place Tequila, meaning "place where it cuts".

Of the 32 states that comprise Mexico, Jalisco is the only one in which tequila can be produced anywhere. There are small areas of neighboring states where it is allowed as well. Wikipedia: "Many of the characteristic traits of Mexican culture, particularly outside Mexico City, are originally from Jalisco, such as mariachi, ranchera music, birria, tequila, jaripeo, etc., hence the state's motto: "Jalisco es México." Economically, it is ranked third in the country, with industries centered in the Guadalajara metropolitan area, the second largest metropolitan area in Mexico."

Here we got a demonstration on the hand-planting of blue agave plants. I didn't take part in this charade... I was a little annoyed that we weren't planting something that would stay. They were clearly just digging up the same plants over and over for the amusement of tourists. What about my legacy?!

A jimador is a Mexican agave farmer who harvests the plants. Here a few jimadores are sharpening the tool they use to do the harvesting: a long wooden pole with a circular blade on the end called a coa. On one of these tours they quipped that the coa is so long and sharp that they refer to it as a mother-in-law's tongue.

It was nice to get a photo op after all the work had been done.

We traded our sun hats for hardhats and headed into the factory.

I really liked this mural showing the old school production and enjoyment of tequila.

We weren't allowed to take pictures in the factory which was a bummer but she did allow me to take a little video of the agave piñas being dumped onto a conveyor belt to begin their magical journey.

We said our goodbyes to our lovely guide and sat down at the in-house restaurant,  La Cueva de Don Cenobio.

There were welcome drinks. It's getting to the point that without a drink I start to feel really really unwelcome.

Zoe got what I think were the fanciest chips y guacamole ever assembled.

There were fancy margaritas. After having so many good ones in Mexico it's going to be hard to go back to the crap ones in the US. The US version is like a snowcone for an adult. These had more complex flavors going on and weren't so sickly sweet.

I apparently hate myself and ordered tequila with a pepper floating in it.

A nice manager man stopped by and poured us some drinks on the house. I could get used to this.

They were selling some real holy grail type bottles in the shop. This one costs about $120 dollars.

We called a cab to take us to another distillery. Roaming from distillery to distillery gallivanting is apparently what my life is about now. Juan the cab man made sure I didn't enjoy myself too much, though. He told us that he used to work in Alaska washing dishes in a restaurant before being deported. I wonder if US policy would change if everyone was required to meet an illegal immigrant.

Casa Herradura was next up for tequila tour time.

This English tour actually featured other English speakers. Lame.

Casa Herradura's tour was unique because they showed you some of the distillation process, something that we haven't seen a lot of on our previous experiences.

Something that all of the tours liked to do was pour some tequila on your hands and have you smell it. I don't know.

Here I was getting yelled at for taking a picture of this old school oven. This tour had a lot of really neat antique distilling equipment. Of course that being the most notable part of the tour, for some damn reason they didn't want you to take any pictures of it. Cool, thanks guys.

Herradura means "horseshoe".

Even got to see a little of the bottling line. I think I'm officially familiar with how tequila is made. Mission accomplished.

Back in town the Féria Nacional del Tequila was in full swing with an excellent parade.

Luckily this town was already full of humorously shaped vehicles.

After the parade we headed to the town square to check out all of the different stalls that had been set up. We got roped into playing some sort of game with like marbles and math... I didn't really understand what was happening. I was expecting there to be some sort of hard sell after the first free game we played, but no. They just seemed to be being nice to us.

This is a good time to mention that although Tequila was a very touristy place, it was for Mexican tourists primarily. Things were reasonably priced and there wasn't a lot of dirtbags creepy around trying to scam foreigners. This was mostly a good thing until it came time to find a cab. It was really hard to find one! I feel like everyone must have just had their own car or taken a bus.

Speaking of nice a local family walked up to us and handed me an egg and demanded that I smash it on Lydia's head. I knew that saying no would be a grave insult in their culture, so I very very reluctantly complied with their wishes. The cascarón had been emptied of its eggy contents and filled with confetti, then sealed back up. The experience brought to mind that time Lydia caught fire at the 4th of July parade in St. Louis.

We had such a fabulous time at our original hotel, Hotel Solar de las Animas, that we returned to hang out a little and eat some dinner. The bad part about the tequila barrel hotel was that it was a good drive away from the city center where all of the action was happening, and as I mentioned transportation was a little hard to procure.

Round two.

I got a sweet bracelet at each tour and then refused to take any of them off. Everybody was real jelly of how cool I looked. I couldn't get enough of these tequila coladas, or getting caught in the rain.

"Tostones, fried plantains served with molcajete sauce".

I was honor bound to order something from the "Jalisco local food specialities" section of the menu. I went with "requesón flute tacos, served with requeson cheese, onion, epazote and complemented with lettuce and tomato."

And that mi amigos was my last night in the wonderful land of Tequila.

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