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The history of Tequila: Taste-testing on a London rooftop bar


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Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited along to an afternoon devoted to tequila. It’s a hard life for some, isn’t it?

The event took place on the rooftop terrace of The Ham Yard Hotel in Soho, hosted by El Jimador tequila. What made this event special (other than the delicious cocktails in the sun) was that it was all about the way in which the spirit is made by José Cortes, a third generation jimador and head of Casa Herradura where El Jimador is made. José came along with some of the actual agave plants used to make tequila.

A jimador is a Mexican farmer specialising in the harvesting of agave plants, the key raw material involved in the making of tequila. The event marked the first time the agave plants have been brought to the UK, with José demonstrating exactly how the jimadores in Mexico harvest it.

The plant takes a minimum of seven years to ripen before being harvested, with each jimador usually working from around 5:30/6am to midday in the fields. Throughout a typical day, they can harvest around 120 plants each, usually taking two minutes on average per plant with a sharpened coa.That’s some thirsty work, so it’s no surprise to find out that most

That’s some thirsty work, so it’s no surprise to find out that most jimadores tend to have a hipflask of tequila on their person while they work!

While demonstrating how to harvest the plant, José said: "[The job] makes you feel proud, it’s a job only done in Mexico. They [the jimadores] are always together, always support each other". Being a third generation jimador, with his father and son also taking on the job, José said: "[it] must be in your blood".

Once harvested, the plants are crushed and milled before being pressed with water, which is then semi-filtered to make an agave juice. There are three main expressions of the El Jimador tequila brand: blanco, double distilled and crisp; reposado, rested in 200-litre American white oak barrels for an authentic taste; añejo, double distilled and rested in the same barrels for a year, for a more full-bodied taste. There is also a fuego (fire) expression, with others that come in flavours such as lime and mango.

Of course, during the afternoon some tequila cocktails were showcased, and perhaps the best was a classic tequila serve: the Paloma. Add together 50ml of El Jimador Blanco, 10ml of lime juice and then top up with 150ml grapefruit soda, and voila - the most refreshing and tasty tequila cocktail you’ve probably ever tasted. It definitely gives your usual tequila shot, salt and lemon combo in freshers a run for its money.

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