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New Mexico’s Spirits Trail: Part 3

In our final installment of the New Mexican Spirits Trail (have you read the others?) we’ll be sampling tequila. Ay-yi-yi!

Tequila, pronounced tə-ˈkē-lə, tā-, or after one particular birthday party, I was convinced it was pronounced “to kill ya,” is an import from Mexico. And, it has to be from Mexico, specifically the Jalisco state, to be considered true tequila. It’s like the French with their Champagne. So, the “tequila” made in New Mexico, is considered “tequila-esque.”

Modern tequila is made from the agave tequilana (or blue agave) plant. This spiky succulent loves volcanic soils at elevations over 5,000 feet, so Jalisco is home sweet home. Due to the high sugar content, the plant handles all the marinating so that the liquor isn’t aged in a barrel – or not for long.

At first, the native Mexicans – Aztecs – used sap from the Maguey plant (a variety of the agave) to concoct “pulque.” This early form of tequila was used by priests and royalty in rituals. Yep, sacrifices occurred between shots. Of course, many an American has sacrificed their liver during Cinco de Mayo.

El Pinto, Albuquerque
Ah… Good to the 10th to last drop.  I don’t remember the actual last drop.
Then, the Spanish arrived in the 1500s and introduced the distillation process (basically making and collecting steam) to the Aztecs. They experimented, making mezcal (agave) wine.  Eventually, the distillation process and blue agave were united, and produced many hangovers since. Sidenote: Did you know that tequila is supposed be SIPPED? That’s right. The invention of the margarita was the downfall of tequila.

There are five main types of tequila: Blanco (white), Plata (silver), Joven (gold or young), Reposado (“rested” or aged 2-12 months) and Añejo (“aged” 1-3 years).

Now, let’s go and SIP some of this goodness at several great New Mexican bars and lounges.

Secreto Lounge, Santa Fe
Our first stop is in downtown Santa Fe, at the Secreto Lounge, which is tucked inside the historic Hotel St. Francis (210 Don Gasper). This dimly-lit, wooden bar offers a small – but great – menu. The lounge is connected to the Tabla de Los Santos restaurant, and the roasted corn green chile chicken chowder is exceptional.

But you’re here to try the SilverCoin Tequila served by some amazing mixologists (they’ve appeared in numerous magazines, newspapers, etc.). SilverCoin is a “silver” tequila that is distilled to proof (meaning water isn’t added later).

Secreto Lounge, Santa Fe
The blue agave used is imported from “The Highlands” area of Jalisco. It’s distilled twice and then aged for thirty days in oak whiskey barrels. We tried it both neat and in a margarita. It was mildly sweet, smoother than most, and had a citrus scent. The finish was on the spicier side.

El Pinto, Albuquerque
Yes, a waterfall is a delightful obstacle for people who are drinking.
If you’re in Albuquerque, stop by El Pinto (10500 4th Street in the North Valley). The salsa makers also have a full-service restaurant, patio with live music (seasonally) and the best (by far) tequila bar in the state. The bar, nestled next to a waterfall and amongst overflowing plants, stocks over sixty tequilas. They are serious about this liquor. Most shots are $8-10 and are served with salt and lime.

El Pinto, Albuquerque

It’s a jungle in here…

El Pinto, Albuquerque
Pre-mixed house margaritas on tap!  Great, if you’re in a hurry.
We had a merry afternoon testing several of their offerings.

  • Dos Lunas is actually out of El Paso, and also uses imported blue agave. We tried the Silver. It is distilled three times and then aged for six days in white oak barrels prior to bottling. We found it a bit sour and the citrus flavors usually found in tequila were muddled.
  • Centinela Tequila Reposada was next up. This is a family-owned tequila distillery, located in Jalisco, which dates back to 1890 so it’s an import. Reposada means it’s aged 3 years. To our tongue, it was a bit too oaky. It felt “whiskey-like”.
  • We lost track… Oh, yeah we’re at shot #3 – the Hornitos Añejo (not aged as long as Reposada style). This one was very aromatic and had a great balance of sweet and citrus. *My pick

Then I saw it, just hanging out with the other bottles. The fabled Cabo Wabo Reposada tequila (created but no longer owned by Sammy Hagar at his bar in Baja, Mexico).

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The Sacred Cabo

As I sipped the nicely oaked tequila, with citrus and only a slight burn, I could hear Sammy singing…

I’m goin’ way down south where the big blue agave grow,
Takin’ a weekend trip down to Baja, Mexico!
Where you can drink the water, but don’t ya eat the ice,
Take your vitamin “T” with salt ‘n lemon slice …

You can hear Sammy sing it too…

One more shot and I’d be free-driving off the waterfall to “I Can’t Drive 55”…  Time to close with one final note: the New Mexico International Intimate Tequila Tasting is held sporadically in Albuquerque. The last one was in 2011.

Lane & Juliet

The writing and photography team behind Southwest Compass, the travel blog for the American Southwest.


Gran Canaria Local

Wow, thanks for the tequila masterclass. If we’d only sipped rather than downed in one in the past, we’d definitely have suffered fewer hangovers. We’ll know for next time.

The Duo

Yep. I learned the hard way too. :) Thanks for stopping by.


I had to laugh as I read this because I would not have remembered a single thing about any of these tequilas after the first one. :) Glad it was you and not me.
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The Duo

That was all done in a day. :(

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