Tuesday, July 13, 2010

At Guanajuato, tequila shines as the star of the show

Guanajuato’s appeal lies not only in its passion for authentic cuisine and beautiful décor, but also in its creative, comprehensive approach to tequila. More than 40 tequilas are included in the bar menu—tequila aficionados have their choice of savoring it by the shot or as an ingredient in a creative selection of specialty cocktails and margaritas.

To build an outstanding tequila program, owner Mark and chef/owner Margarita Challenger worked with wine and spirits consultant and certified sommelier Michael Bottigliero, who is also known for his popular blog, www.windycitywineguy.com.

“We wanted to offer a wide selection of tequilas that are clearly not run of the mill,” said Bottigliero. “These are best rated tequilas chosen to showcase the breadth and depth of the tequila experience. The list features tequilas that are not typically found in restaurants and nightclubs. Some, like the Casa Noble Single Barrel Extra Anejo, are organically produced as well.”

Guests at Guanajuato can choose from blanco, reposado, añejo and some extra special selections. Most of the tequilas are priced at $7-$9 per shot, but the best tequilas, which can be compared in quality to fine aged cognac, are priced from $15.50 to $71. These special tequilas are served in a snifter to bring out the best of the magnificent bouquet. The Patron Gran Burdeo Anejo, at $71, is an ultra-premium dark tequila which is triple distilled, velvety smooth and aged for at least 12 months in American or French oak barrels, distilled again, and racked in hand-selected Bordeaux barrels, adding the flavors of vanilla, raisons and dried fruit which are found in the greatest Bordeaux wines.

Guanajuato also offers a tequila flight program: three different tequilas served with salt and lime and garnished with a grilled scallop. Margarita lovers need not fear—there are five flavors of margaritas which can be ordered on the rocks, straight up or frozen. There is also an expansive specialty cocktail list featuring all natural ingredients.

The wine program also features selections that are not typically found elsewhere. They were chosen because they pair well with Guanajuato’s contemporary Mexican cuisine.

Tequila explained
It is a colorless or pale straw-colored distilled spirit made by fermenting and distilling the sweet sap of the agave plant. Tequila is made in and around the small town of Tequila, in the highlands northwest of Guadalajara, which is in the western Mexican state of Jalisco. The blue agave thrives in the red volcanic soil of these areas, and more than 300 million agave plants are harvested there each year.

According to the Food Lovers Companion, in order to be classified as tequila, a distilled spirit must be produced from blue agave plants grown in a precisely delineated area in the five Mexican states of Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacan, Mayarit and Tamaulipas. Tequilas labeled "100% Blue Agave" are considered the best. Mexican law states that tequila must be made with at least 51 percent blue agave; the remaining 49 percent is most commonly sugarcane, although other raw products may be used.

Tequila can be produced with an alcohol content that ranges from 35% to 55% (70-110 proof), but most is made within a range of (76–80 proof). Most bottled tequilas are 80 proof, and many distillers will distill to 100 proof and then dilute it with water to reduce its harshness. Some of the most well respected brands distill the alcohol to 80 proof without using additional water as a diluter. Some of the aged versions are bottled at higher alcohol levels.

There are four categories of tequila: blanco, joven abocado, reposado and añejo. Tequila blanco (also known as white, silver or plata) is bottled soon after distillation. Its smooth, fresh flavor has an herbaceous, peppery quality. Tequila joven abocado (also called gold) is a tequila blanco with flavoring and coloring added; it doesn't have to be aged. Tequila reposado may also contain added flavoring and coloring and must be aged at least two months but can be aged for up to a year. The wood aging (usually in oak) endows reposados with hints of vanilla and spice and produces character more mellow than that of tequila blanco. Some reposados also use the word "gold" on their label, which gives the impression that golds have been aged, although there's no such legal requirement. Tequila añejo is aged for at least one year (and often two to three years). The smooth, elegant and complex flavor of the best añejos is often compared to that of fine cognacs.

Tequila continues to grow in popularity in the United States. While tequila is the eighth largest spirits category in the U.S. with approximately 9.1 million nine-liter cases, representing less than 6 percent of the total distilled spirits market, it’s the fastest growing segment. Tequila's growth has outpaced most other major spirit categories over the last decade and some analysts see no immediate end to its continued growth.

Tequila usage is likely to continue its strong growth over the long term, due to the influence that the growing Mexican population has on U.S. culture, including food and beverage.

The margarita cocktail continues, by far, to be the most popular way tequila is served. However with the advent of mixology as a serious culinary discipline, tequila is finding its way into a deeper and broader range of beverages and cocktails.

About Guanajuato
Guanajuato is a contemporary Mexican restaurant located at 73 Green Bay Rd. in Glencoe, Ill. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days per week. The bar is open Monday-Wednesday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 4 p.m. to midnight; Saturday, noon to midnight; and Sunday, noon to 10 p.m. For more information, contact Guanajuato at (847) 242-0909 or online at www.myguanajuato.com.
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