“Clayton Szczech knows more about Mexico, its heritage and of course, tequila, than anyone I’ve ever met. More than that it is his respect for the culture and people that really shine through. Best of all, he gives tours through the tequila region in Mexico and they are truly spectacular.”
“Best travel tip: Engaging the services of an expert guide (Clayton at [email protected]) in advance is well worth the cost in order to get you into the underground caves and private tequila tastings.”
The second half of ET founder Clayton Szczech’s appearance on the “Cita con Nelly” program. The segment aired on Univision in Oregon and Washington July 16, 2011.
In part 2, Clayton, host Sandra Cervantes and Trébol’s bar manager Tony Pepe taste Siete Leguas añejo and Tony prepares two fantastic cocktails: a paloma made with El Relingo reposado and an original apricot margarita make with Chinaco añejo.
“The luckiest tourists arrive with Clayton Szczech of Experience Tequila. He’s a Portland resident who loves the culture and history so much that he now guides tequila-curious tourists. The Lonely Planet-recommended guide is the first gringo to hold the TT certification of the country’s Tequila Regulatory Council, which means he is as adept at discerning flavors as he is at explaining how it all came to be. He took us to an obscure, one-man operation where the tequilero used a garden hose to fill our liter Coke bottle from his lone aging barrel. And he’s friendly with premium distillers such as Casa Noble, which don’t usually open their doors for tours.
“True tequila and a tequila culture thrive down here, you’ve just got to know where to look,” said Szczech.
Tequila : a guide to types, flights, cocktails, and bites / by Joanne Weir.
(Berkeley, Calif. : Ten Speed Press, c2009.)
Celebrity chef Joanne Weir offers up a welcome addition to the sparse, hit-and-miss genre of tequila writing. Weir is a true tequila lover, and her infectious enthusiasm comes through loud and clear in the preface, where she describes creating the Agave Girls, a club of female tequila aficionados in the often male-identified world of agave spirits.
The book will primarily interest bartenders and cooks, both professional and amateur, since over 80% of the text consists of recipes from the author and collected from some of the country’s top mixologists. Weir’s brief survey of tequila’s history and production process is a fun read, and free of the types of embarrassing factual errors that all too often typify tequila writing. The brevity of her treatment, however, keeps this book from being a “go-to” tequila reference book for spirits generalists.
There is really only one other shortcoming here: I had hoped Weir would expand upon the idea of pairing different types of tequila with food, which she seems exceptionally qualified to do, but we get only a brief comment on the topic. Perhaps in a future book, as Weir is a unique voice with even more to offer than we get here.
This book is well-suited for tequila beginners and any cook or bartender, and the hardcore tequila fan will want to add it to their library, not only because the genre is so small, but because the cocktail and food recipes will inspire dreams of a tequila-centered diet.
Popular beliefs about tequila abound, and often contradict each other.
“It gives you the worst hangover,” say some.
“No, you can’t get hung over from 100% agave tequila,” is the hubristic retort of many aficionados.
The debate over tequila’s effect on sexual performance is equally divided. We doubt that the following yarn will settle the issue, but hope you’ll agree that it’s entertaining. This tale appeared in the syndicated column De política y cosas peores by Catón on December 10, 2010. It was translated by Clayton Szczech. All rights are reserved by the author and translator, respectively.
Candorio, an innocent youngster, married Pirulina, who would have been a virtuous woman, were she not hindered by her thoughts, words and acts…Before kicking off his wedding night, Candorio went down to the hotel bar and ordered a double gin. He told the bartender that he hoped the liquor would take away the nervousness of the occasion, and beyond that would give him vigor and strength to rise to the occasion, as he suspected that his new little lady tended to the exotic in matters of love.
“Let me give you some advice,” offered the bartender, “I am a man of experience in matters of Venus and Bacchus. I mean that I know about love and drinks. So I can assure you that gin is not a good stimulant for mattress battles, on the contrary, it inhibits libidinous impulses, and puts out the incandescent flames of carnal passion. Consider the sailors of the British Navy in the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries: according to Dana, their captains gave them gin to extinguish their manly lust during those long wanderings to find breadfruit or a new passage to the Indian Ocean. That was how they kept Her Majesty’s Navy free from the germ of disorder and quarrels caused by unbridled passions, poorly suppressed jealousies or unrequited love. Don’t drink gin, sir. Instead, drink a couple of glasses of tequila. The juice of the plant called Agave Tequilana Weber is proven to fortify erotic impulses. An inspired poet from Saltillo said it in resounding alexandrine verses:
‘Tequila, gentlemen, more than liquor, is magic. / It banishes sorrow; it soothes afflictions / It makes the lover adroit. It tunes the singer’s voice. / If your body is weak it lifts your spirits. / It gives you strength and spirit in battle / It warms you in winter; and in summer exalts you, / and at all times offers comfort and hope. / In short, tequila is a heavenly gift. / The Holy Mother Church should declare it / a second holy water, if not sacred, / and use it as anointing oil at baptisms, / and at the last rites, so that the soul leaves / happy and without sorrow this vale of tears ….’
“So much for the inspired poet of Saltillo. Trust me, young man, drink two shots of tequila, not gin, which if at other times can be a fine drink, on this very special night could take from you all the thrust, potency, nerve, substance, inspiration, grit, vitality and vigor that a groom needs on his wedding night to hoist to full mast his triumphant flag of manhood and acquit himself with grace in the sweet contest of love.”
The only thing Candorio got for certain out of the barman’s lyrical outburst was that tequila increases desire and gin on the other hand shuts it off. So he downed two glasses of the best tequila, and headed for the honeymoon suite. A few hours went by. The bartender was already preparing to close up when the groom appeared again. He came in dragging his feet, exhausted, weak, completely spent. With a feeble voice he asked of the bartender: “A bottle of tequila for me, and for my bride, four bottles of gin!” THE END.
“Fans of tequila and travel (and who isn’t, really?) are smart to book their next vacation with Experience Tequila – a tourism company designed by tequila geeks, for tequila geeks. The five- to 10-day trips offer a laidback mix of distillery tours, cultural outings and beach excursions, all with enough downtime to kick back with a glass of tequila at the end of the day.”
[Imbibe published the original item in the print version only, but we have uploaded a scan in case you’d like to see it.]
“Maybe it’s that thing with the salt and the lime. Maybe it’s that crazy old tune by the Champs. Whatever the reason, when it comes to tequila, many Americans are once bitten, twice shy—as Clayton Szczech ’00 knows full well. “Tequila’s got a lot of bad reputation to overcome,” he admits.
Clayton wants to change all that. Equal parts scholar, evangelist, and self-described “booze nerd,” he’s on a mission to defend the honor of Mexico’s famous libation.
Doing business as Experience Tequila, he leads immersion tours to Jalisco, where enthusiasts can explore the culture of the enigmatic spirit, see the blue agave (turns out it’s not a cactus after all), and learn how subtleties in harvesting, distilling, and aging affect the liquor’s taste.
“That’s the thing that’s fascinating to me,” he says. “You’ve got this process that’s pretty rigidly defined, and a raw ingredient that’s nominally the same . . . but I can pour you two [unaged] blancos that taste totally different.”
By concentrating on the process—and as important, the context—Clayton encourages his guests to think beyond the stuff that comes out of the bottle.
“I really try to push a lot of culture on people, whether they like it or not,” he says. “Go see the murals, go to the marketplace, go to the cathedral. Because you can’t separate tequila from its history and its culture. . . . When you know the story behind something, it does taste different.”
Clayton cites professor Gail Kelly ’55 [anthropology, 1960–2000] as a key influence on his approach. “The idea of field work . . . really did help my perspective on going down [to Mexico] and doing research for months,” he says.
Clayton will conduct a tasting at Reunions 2011 and lead an alumni trip to Jalisco in the fall (See www.reed.edu/alumni/travel). Meanwhile, he offers this advice for warding off hangovers: “It should say, somewhere on the bottle, ‘100 percent agave.’ Avoid anything else.”
[Click the image above for the original article in its entirety.]