Tequila moves beyond shooting to sipping at Maya restaurant at The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa (video) | VailDaily.com

Tequila moves beyond shooting to sipping at Maya restaurant at The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa (video)

For most of us, our knowledge of tequila may be brief and a bit hazy. It's the liquor used in margaritas, it's poured for shots and maybe you ate the worm from a tequila bottle once in college during spring break. But delve in a bit further and you will find that it can be enjoyed sipped and savored.

Much like champagne, cognac and whiskey, tequila is protected by an appellation-by-origin status and can only be produced in the 5 recognized regions of Mexico using the blue weber agave plant. There are over 200 different varietals of agave but only one is used to make tequila.

There are two different categories of tequila, 100% agave tequila and a mixto tequila. Most people are only familiar with the mixto version, which is not as high of quality and is only required to be 51% blue weber agave, and the other 49% can be additives like neutral-grain spirits, caramel coloring and high fructose corn syrup, which usually causes the hangover effect for the consumer. Since it does not have these additives, 100% agave tequila is the purest form of tequila.

The 100% agave tequila is also used to make the aged tequilas. A blanco, or silver tequila, is the purest form of the agave, it is aged less than two months, if at all. A reposado is aged in oak barrels 2-12 months, and anejo is aged 1-3 years and an extra anejo is aged over 3 years.

The luxury tequila market has seen substantial growth over the years. According to the Distilled Spirits Council, tequila volumes have grown 140% since 2002. In 2017 alone, 17.2 million 9-liter cases were sold.

Locally, Maya, the modern Mexican restaurant and tequileria led by restaurateur Richard Sandoval, offers over 100 agave-based spirits and house-infused tequilas.

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"Tequila is a diverse and versatile spirit, it can really surprise someone who does not usually drink it," said Kayla Wittich, director of outlets at the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa. "If a guest normally likes to drink bourbon, I would suggest a sweet and smoky anejo or extra anejo. For gin I would suggest a blanco with a floral or peppery profile. If they normally drink vodka, I would suggest a blanco with a crisp citrus profile," Wittich said.

The staff at Maya is creative in how they blend their tequilas to preserve the quality of the flavor. Try a serrano-infused tequila mixed with fresh-pureed cucumber and lime juice. Their Mexican Mule contains blanco tequila, lime juice, cilantro and ginger beer and is perfect for summer. "On the sweet side, we have our sandia tajin, which is blanco tequila with fresh pureed watermelon, fresh citrus and tajin simple syrup. Tajin is a dried citrus chile spice that is commonly served on fresh fruit in Mexico," Wittich said.

And where did the salt and lime come from? “In the 1930s, Spanish Influenza hit Northern Mexico and doctors most commonly prescribed a shot of tequila with lime and salt as the remedy,” Wittich said. “The salt would increase salivation and the lime would alleviate the pain in the throat.”

At Maya, they get creative with ways to enjoy the flavors of their various tequilas, often pairing an orange slice dipped in sugar and cinnamon to enhance the flavors of an anejo or extra anejo. “On our current menu, we have a cocktail that consists of Patron Roca Anejo tequila, cinnamon simple syrup and blood-orange puree. It is simple and yet full of flavor, without hiding the flavor of the spirit,” Wittich said.

With Cinco de Mayo coming up, dare to go beyond the classic margarita and enjoy this spirit from south of the border in a new way. Expand you flavor profile with the help of the staff at Maya Mexican Kitchen and Tequileria, located in the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa in Avon.