cover image TEQUILA: A Traditional Art of Mexico

TEQUILA: A Traditional Art of Mexico

, . . Smithsonian, $25 (238pp) ISBN 978-1-58834-213-3

If you think tequila comes with a worm in the bottle and is best downed with lime juice and salt in a margarita, you'll definitely learn a thing or two just leafing through this browsable, illustrated monograph. Ruy-Sánchez and de Orellana outline the fundamentals: tequila is made only from a particular agave plant, the Agave tequilana Weber, blue variety. Its three basic styles—blanco (clear), reposado ("rested") and añejo (aged at least one year)—are all wonderful for sipping straight. A different agave produces pulque (a spirit uncommon in the U.S.); still others are distilled for mezcal. While indigenous people were fermenting and drinking agave juices long before the Spanish invaded Mexico, it was the Spanish who brought the technique of distillation (using the Arabic still) to the Tequila region, which lies between Guadalajara and San Blas on Mexico's Pacific coast. In addition to the history and method of tequila production, chapters cover tequila's role in Mexican film and poetry, the rituals of tequila drinking, and recipes for tequila cocktails and cuisine. The book ends with an illustrated gallery of some 65 notable tequilas, all lovingly described. Even if readers don't care for tequila, this work's luscious layout and sunny graphics are alluring. Some of the color art has been created especially for this volume; other pages reproduce paintings in private collections that feature a retro-Mexican look. All told, it's a lovely literary cocktail. (Dec.)