|La Destileria, home to the Tequila Museum in CanCun|
Lessons from the tequila museum: How to drink tequila like a local
By Jayne Clark, USA TODAY: Given the drink-dance-and-shout sensibilities of party-hearty Cancun, cultural institutions don't get a lot of foot traffic in this mega Mexican resort city.
But a new museum in the heart of the Hotel Zone plays perfectly to the sun-soaked, boozy mentality of the place. Its subject: Tequila!
But first, a lesson on how to properly drink the spirit, courtesy of the Tequila Museum's charming guide, Laura Elek.
"People think tequila is a drink for partying and getting drunk," she says. "But they don't know the process."
(They also obviously haven't checked out prices for premium labels like Don Patron Platinum, which goes for about $500 a bottle.)
Here's a fundamental mistake many American tequila tipplers make when approaching this blue agave-based spirit: downing it with a salt and lime chaser.
"That's really bad," says Elek. "The lime kills all the flavor and it's bad for your stomach. And the salt? That has nothing to do with anything."
Instead, if you want to drink a shot of tequila like a local, she says, chase it with an orange slice sprinkled with cinnamon or sip it straight with a side of sangrita (a mix of orange, lime, pomegranate and/or tomato juice, with chile powder).
The Tequila Museum didn't have a sign out front when I visited last month. Nor does it appear to have a dedicated website, but here's a fun video showing what the museum experience is like. It's above an upscale food and liquor emporium called Europea in a new, big-windowed building that looks more like an auto dealership than a liquor store.
A sign inside directs you upstairs, where 50 pesos (about $4) gets you inside the museum and a bit more ($5) buys a basic tasting, and $12 gets you samples of the really good stuff. The museum is run by Herradura, one of Mexico's oldest (since 1870) tequila distilleries, but owned since 2007 by Brown-Foreman, an American company that also owns Finlandia Vodka, Jack Daniels Whiskey and Fetzer wine.
So not surprisingly, the message is all about the Herradura brand. But the museum is nicely done and utilizes some nifty effects -- videos, smells and samples of cooked agave, the spiky plant from which tequila is made. (It tastes a little like pineapple.) Exhibits take visitors through the distillation process, with a tutorial on what distinguishes a basic white tequila (best for mixing), from the aged sipping tequilas (designated, respectively, as reposados, añejo and extra añejo).
Five Mexican states have the government's blessing to call their 100% blue agave-based drink tequila (in the same way sparkling wine must come from France's Champagne region to be designated Champagne)