As we all know, Cinco de Mayo is a big deal in Arizona. From co-eds at Arizona State, to neighborhood fiestas, there is always a good bottle of tequila nearby.
But rule No. 1 must be adhered to: Go top-shelf. The bottle you choose for this year’s Cinco de Mayo party must be made of 100 percent pure agave. None of that 51 percent (the legal minimum), tequila-flavored, gold-colored stuff. Your guests deserve it. Jose Cuervo is not your friend. Thus the hangover.
But you say that you don’t want to mix the good stuff with syrupy mixers in margaritas. Well don’t. Good tequila, if not served neat or on the rocks, should be only mixed with fresh lime juice and a good-quality orange liqueur like Cointreau or Grand Marnier, both cognac-based orange liqueurs from France. Gran Gala from Italy also works.
Two other insider tips: Add a splash of orange juice to further round out your margaritas, or a splash of Chambord raspberry liqueur in addition to the orange liqueur to impart a pink hue and more fruitiness. The Mrs. swears by it.
OK, enough lecturing. I’ve identified a couple new bottles that you should consider for this year’s Cinco de Mayo parties. Each fit the top-shelf criteria and possess interesting back stories. If you take the bottle to a party you will be instantly elevated to BFF status; and if you’re hosting a party, you will be instantly elevated to BFF status. Each are widely available at top retailers like AJ’s Fine Foods, Total Wine and More, and BevMo. Salud!
Casa Noble Tequilas
If it’s good enough for legendary rock star Carlos Santana, sign me up. He is now one of the owners of the Casa Noble brand. The toughest decision will be deciding which variety – Crystal (white, unoaked), Reposado (rested, aged up to one year) or Anejo (aged up to two or more years). Each are triple distilled and 100 percent organic blue agave – the best of the best. French white oak and warm, sweet agave nuance weave through exquisite nectar of the rested and aged varieties. For margs, I recommend the Crystal, and suggest sipping the others neat or simply on the rocks with a lime wedge. Casa Noble also has garnered accolades including “double gold winner” of the San Francisco World Spirit Competition and “best tequila” in Mexico by Academia Mexicana del Tequila. Click here for the company’s new Cinco de Mayo video. $50-$60, depending on variety. www.casanoble.com.
This haute new super premium tequila represents a partnership between musician Justin Timberlake and venerable tequila producer Sauza. After sampling the ultra-smooth, triple distilled, 100 pure agave silver tequila, I can see why there is so much buzz. The stuff is smooth and delicious for its $30 pricepoint. As a longtime tequila lover, Timberlake developed a heightened interest in the spirit during a trip to tequila’s heartland of Jalisco, Mexico. He decided to partner with Sauza to ensure consistency and quality. Warm, herbal pure agave flavor shines through. You could mix it, but why? It’s terrific on its own. www.sauza901.com.
Named for the Spanish translation of “miracle,” the two college buddies who developed this delicious brand – Danny Schneeweiss and Moy Guindi – may not be too far off. The Aficionados sought out a parcel in the Jalisco highlands to produce top blue agave plants, along with a master distiller driven to produce only the best. The final product line clearly approaches “miracle” status. The Silver, Reposado and Anejo are fresh, agave-forward and delicious. The Silver in particular is fresh and crisp with interesting vegetal nuance. Milagro Silver earned Double Gold at the 2011 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. $25-$37 depending on variety. www.milagrotequila.com.
Cinco de Mayo and Blush and Rose Wines
Every now and again, for one reason or another, someone at my Cinco de Mayo parties can’t stomach tequila. Crazy, I know. But this has prompted another springtime tradition: Serving “pink” wines. I like to drink these throughout the spring and summer season, as they’re food friendly and stand up to heat.
But again, think high-end, not the cloyingly sweet and cheap White Zinfandel stuff from California. European roses are typically drier and crisper than California counterparts, and are delicious and festive. Here are a couple fun ones I recently sampled.
• Natura 2014 Rose, Rapel Valley, Chile. This all-organic line of seven varieties first debuted in 2006 and has since matured into one of my favorite everyday sippers from the John Mariani family of New York and its overarching Banfi Family of wines. Bees, bugs and birds are used to thwart pests at its all-organic vineyards, and natural compost and compounds replace chemical fertilizers. The rose includes mostly Syrah with lesser amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and is both silky and elegant while fruity and fun. Chill or serve on ice for Cinco and let the party begin. $11.
• Masciarelli Villa Gemma Cerasuolo D’Abruzzo, Italy. An amazing rose that almost borders on a full red wine. Made from 100 percent Montepulciano grapes, the skins stayed in contact with the juice for a reduced period of time to ensure its pinkish hue. But the wine was treated like a full-bodied variety and fermented in French oak between 18 and 24 months, which smoothed it out and imparted light wood impressions. It’s fruity and round and works well with carne asada tacos and pork carnitas. $18.
• Brampton 2014 Rose, Stellenbosch, South Africa. Classic Pinotage and Merlot are combined into a deliciously fun pink wine that explodes with strawberry aromas and flavors. Fruit was hand-picked to lessen its impact prior to pressing. The skins only remained in contact with the juice for up to two hours to ensure its light pink appearance. This easy-to-drink rose is ideal for cheese dishes and ceviche – just in time for your Cinco de Mayo party. $12.
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