How tequila has become Australia's official Christmas spirit

Four top tips for drinking tequila

Ultra-premium tequila is growing in popularity around the world. Lee Applbaum from Patron Spirits explains his top tips for enjoying tequila. With vision from Patron Spirits

'Tis the season to be (really) jolly, and Australians go straight for the hard stuff over Christmas.

Retailer Dan Murphy's says it sells four times the amount of tequila over the week of Christmas compared to the rest of the year.

"Whilst in northern continents Christmas calls for mulled wine, deep reds and whisky … tequila is a great summertime beverage," says the retailer's spirits expert Adam Jenkins. "It fits in well with the way we celebrate Christmas – outdoors, soaking up the sunshine."

Noble spirit

Discerning drinkers are no longer chasing the worm at the bottom of the bottle, as tequila has become one of the fastest growing ultra-premium spirits on the market.

"Spirit aficionados recognise that it is a very noble spirit," says Patron's global chief marketing officer Lee Applbaum. "It's one of the most labour-intensive spirits to make, and it's incredibly versatile. The days of a bad story from uni, where 'I drank too much tequila and had a terrible hangover' are long gone."

While many of us have only slammed back a tequila with a wedge of lemon and a stolen salt shaker, premium tequilas are to be spipped neat, on the rocks, or in a creative cocktail.

Espress yourself

While it's a relatively new concept to enjoy a tequila like a whisky, our tastes are changing. "This country's food, coffee, and spirits movements have accelerated an appreciation for tequila that we haven't seen anywhere else," says Applbaum.

Patron began 27 years ago with three tequilas in the range: the classic Silver, the Reposado (aged for two months), and the Anejo (aged for 12 months), but most of us are familiar with the brand because of its notorious coffee-based XO Cafe product.

"XO Cafe was actually the first Patron in many global markets, like Australia. To say that was a mistake is a difficult statement, but I would say we are trying to unwind that," explains Applbaum. "XO Cafe is a wonderful spirit, but it is a distillate of tequila … you have to taste it neat, or on the rocks, understand the production process."


Agave hunting

Recently agave has made headlines for the wrong reasons, with a critical shortage across Mexico leading to higher prices and skyrocketing demand. "Demand is far outstripping the supply, so you also have a lot of tequila brands that have jumped into the ring, just trying to harvest profits," says Applbaum.

Patron works with a number of agave-growing families to ensure the supply is not compromised. "It does mean that agave is more expensive, but we think it will be a good thing because a lot of the brands that were only in it to make money will get weeded out … which happens in every category if you think about it. It's Darwinism."

Top of the shots

There are numerous options for choosing tequila depending on your budget.

"1800 Anejo ($76) is a darker tequila ideal for people who prefer a spicier, deeper oak and butterscotch flavour," says Jenkins. "Herradura Plata ($80) is the world's longest-rested blanco tequila  – it's aged just 45 days to add a hit of colour to its unique citrus taste." 

If you want to go to the top shelf, Patron's Gran line is the way to go.

The Platinum tequila ($445) is triple-distilled using agave with the highest sugar content for a velvety finish, while the Piedra ($550) uses the stone-wheel tahona process and is then aged for four years.

"Four-year-old tequila is exceptionally old by almost any measure," says Applbaum. "This is a whisky-drinkers tequila. "

Finally there's the Burdeos ($800), which is finished in first growth bordeaux barrels. "What that imparts is a very cognac-like finish," Applbaum says. "Tequila really has become one of the world's most appreciated, rather than misunderstood, spirits."

Just remember to appreciate responsibly this Christmas.