Bobby Heugel's Weekly Cocktail: El Diablo
Texans who love tequila are among the most passionate spirit enthusiasts in the world. Their connection to the agave spirit may at times seem overzealous, but tequila's Texas history may explain their unbridled enthusiasm for the spirit.
Several stories about tequila's introduction into Texas exist. Despite some historical uncertainties about the exact origins, one event influenced tequila's history in Texas more than any other - Texas's fight for independence. During this war, agave-based spirits like mezcal and tequila were brought and imported for Mexican soldiers. Eventually, the spirits became popular options on both sides of the battlefield, and tequila took its place in the hearts of Texans.
Sure, strong opinions about tequila exist, but imagine Jim Bowie standing at a bar with his big Bowie Knife. Can't you just see the man himself telling some local bartender that if he pours one more margarita out of a slushy machine, he is going to have to come back there and show him how to use a knife and cut some damn limes? We are sure Jim Bowie would love this tequila drink. The recipe, after the jump.
Shake the tequila, cassis and lime juice with ice and strain into a Collins glass filled with crushed ice. Top with ginger beer.
Whenever classic cocktails call for ginger beer, a spicy authentic ginger beer is needed. Ginger beer is easy to make at home from scratch (see this recipe), but if you prefer a bottled product, try to find Blenheim's or, if desperate, Reed's Extra.
The ginger beer gives a spicy kick to what would otherwise be a sweeter cocktail. The El Diablo is one of the first and only tequila cocktails published in Trader Vic's Bartender's Guide (Revised) in 1947.
Unfortunately, tequila is a threatened spirit. Quality agave production continues to become increasingly rare in Mexico in order to meet the growing demand here in the United States. Moreover, the popularity of over-distilled tequilas that focus on "ultra-premium smoothness" is destroying the principles of the spirit. Ultra-premium and smoothness are key words that should tell you one thing about that pretty-looking bottle on the shelf - that tequila has likely been over-distilled, is flavorless, and utilizes under-developed, poor-quality agave.
If you are interested in trying great tequilas, consider brands that prioritize agave quality and flavor. Like great winemakers, quality tequila producers make sure to make the best tequila they can each year, as opposed to major brands, which focus on producing a consistent product each year. The pursuit of consistency creates a dumb-downed spirit that is only as good as the worst tequila they can produce.
The best option currently available to those interested in trying an outstanding example of an agave-forward tequila is Siembra Azul Blanco, and the lower price makes one wonder why anyone would ever consider paying for products like Patron Platinum. Buy the tequila and make an El Diablo, but also try the tequila alone - no salt, no lime. After all, if you're a Texan, history asks you to be as passionate as the rest of us about tequila.