A Tequila Primer

A Tequila Primer

The Tequila Diet: Exploring Mexican Food & Drink with the World’s Greatest Spiritby Chef Dave Martin

Given my relative lack of experience with tequila, I decided to begin my review at the beginning with a definition of tequila and then proceed to the next question, which focuses on the the reason why the rim of a glass used for a margarita is first moistened-typically with juice from a lime wedge- and then dipped in salt.

From the beginning: Tequila is a distilled beverage made with the blue agave plant. The area that produces the most tequila surrounds the town of Tequila, which is about 40 miles northwest of Guadalajara. The regional connection is reminiscent of the regionality of French wines. Think Champagne.

Next: Moistening the rim of the glass with lime juice and then dipping the rim in salt (typically coarse salt), tempers the bitterness of the tequila. One source said that while salt is commonly used, you could use sugar or cocoa, a mix of herbs or even chili powder. The source also suggested coating the rim of other cocktails.

Another interesting tidbit: Mexicans tend to drink tequila straight (“neat”).

El Baston del Rey Tequila, which sponsored the book, produces four different tequilas-Silver, Reposado, Anejo, Extra Anejo. The second, third and fourth varieties are aged in oak for varying amounts of time, the second in Canadian oak, the third in American oak, and the fourth in French oak. Each of the recipes uses a specific tequila.

In the introduction, Chef Dave Martin explains how he lost the weight he’d gained on an extended tour of Italy by limiting his alcoholic intake to tequila and, in addition, using it in cooking. One of the points he stresses is that tequila is a stimulant, as opposed to a depressant, adding that it also increases your metabolism, which can be a positive factor in weight loss.

Whatever the plusses, taste and ease of preparation are always important factors when it comes to choosing recipes. Seasonality is also important, especially in the summer when cooking and eating outdoors is at the top of everyone’s list.

The meat in the following recipe should marinate for no more than 2-3 hours, given the high level of acidity in the marinade.

Citrus & Tequila Marinade

4 pounds skirt, flank or flap steak2 cups fresh orange juice1/2 cup fresh lemon juice1/2 cup el Baston del Rey Reposado Tequila1 tablespoon garlic powder1 tablespoon onion powder1 tablespoon pioncillo or brown sugar1 teaspoon ground cumin1 cup corn or neutral oil 2 tablespoons agave nectar1 1/2 kosher salt and black pepper blend, for grilling

Make the marinade by combining all of the ingredients. Place in a resealable plastic bag. Add the meat, press out the excess air, reseal the bag and then allow the meat to marinate for the specified time. Remove the meat from the bag.Cook the meat on the grill, stove top or in the oven.

Filed under:

Mexican food, tequila


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Carole is an arts, entertainment and food journalist. She writes “Show Me Chicago” and “Chicago Eats” for ChicagoNow and covers Chicago places and events for Choose Chicago (City of Chicago) as well as freelancing for a variety of publications.


I started writing when I was in grade school. And when I wasn’t writing or thinking about writing, I was reading what someone else had written. So it wasn’t a stretch for me to think about writing as a career. Neither was it a stretch to think about writing about food, a subject I’d always found interesting, more in terms of history, cooking, restaurants and culture than eating and critiquing. Decades after selling my first story, my interest in writing about food continues, and “A Bite of Chicago” gives me another opportunity to pursue my passion with people who share it.

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