Cantina Beach's Tequila Expert
by john heinz
Does a worm at the bottom of the bottle signal authenticity? Will the clear kind give me less of a hangover? Tequila is probably mytholo- gized more than any other liquor on the market. It’s derived from the blue agave plant (not from cactus!), but only when harvested in certain swaths of western Mexico according to very strict, state-sanctioned speci- fications. If it doesn’t follow the rules, it’s simply not tequila.
Milagro Tequila, Spanish for “miracle,” sets the record straight. Triple-distilled and extracted from the estate-grown, hand-harvested blue agave of the Jalisco highlands northwest of Guadalajara, it’s the highest-quality offering on top shelves today—clean, flavorful and muy auténtico. But don’t take my word for it—take Heriberto Oviedo’s. He’s the resident tequilier at Cantina Beach (the delicious Mexican-inspired restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne), and the final word on this oft-misunderstood spirit.
So, Heriberto, how do you spot a good tequila? It must have a good body and flavor... you’ll taste the essence of the agave and flavor hints like citrus, vanilla, pepper or chocolate, as opposed to that burn- ing feeling as if you’re drinking pure alcohol.
And what makes Milagro in particular so distinctive? Milagro tequilas are aged in French American oak barrels, giv- ing them a more woody essence and stronger notes of vanilla. Additionally, Milagro distills their tequilas more than once using a continuous column still, which adds to their drinkability.
Should tequila of this quality only be taken neat? Well, I enjoy Milagro’s Select Reserve Silver neat, with guacamole or the trio of ceviches at Cantina Beach. But it’s also good on the rocks with a splash of grapefruit or lime juice. As an after-dinner drink, I would go with the Select Barrel Reserve Añejo, which is really best by itself with a chocolate-based dessert.
Care to share a recipe? Sure—the Silver Mine is very pop- ular. It’s a bit of a margarita/mojito hybrid: Muddle together eight lime pieces, six mint leaves and an ounce of simple syrup. Add an ounce and a half of Milagro Silver and a half- ounce of Cointreau. Shake it up, top with a splash of club soda and serve in a highball glass with a salted rim.
Cantina Beach at The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne, 455 Grand
Bay Dr., 305-365-4500; ritzcarlton.com/keybiscayne
TOP IMAGE: Heriberto Oviedo
BOTTOM IMAGE: Milagro Select Reserve Silver
photograph by hamid kootval (oviedo)