Originally Posted Thursday, June 22, 2000
With dinosaur bones and fossils as a backdrop, John Braggs an avid tequila aficionado and restaurateur, gave an eloquent textbook presentation on the history of tequila to the 200 in attendance at the Page Museum. What we heard was a shortened version of his usual 2-hour seminar which you can hear at Pancho’s, his restaurant in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and sample one of his 427 tequilas on hand.
John took the audience through the early beginnings of tequila — pulque, a native low alcohol drink that goes back to the Mayans and Aztecs and the introduction of Mezcal wine by the Spaniards using the distillation process — to the present and what we know today as tequila. All these derived from the same magical plant, the Agave.
He continued with a slide presentation demonstrating everything from agaves to the distillation process courtesy of Tequila Herradura. John emphasized the difference between the types of tequilas and the methods by which they acquire their tastes during distillation. He encouraged all tequila lovers to buy “Tequila futures” since, in fact, there is an ongoing shortage as well as a disease attacking the Weber blue agave, the only agave (of the over 400 species found in Mexico) that can be legally used for the production of tequila.
Following John’s informative lecture, we were treated to a short but sprited lecture by Brent Karner (the Museums Entomologist and Coordinator of the Insect Zoo) who gave us the facts on the “worm in the bottle”. Brent enlightened the audience with the fact that the “gusano rojo” (red worm) is the worm actually placed in mezcal bottles, never tequila. He amused us with his first magical experience with “the worm” when he was in college and how this might have sparked his interest and career in insects. Later at the tasting, he shared his “gusano rojos” with those bold enough to try them and Brent ate a few for the crowd. Interestingly, he mentioned how we, along with the Canadians, are the only people with aversions to insects. Almost 80% of the world eats insects as part of their regular diet. I asked him if he likes to taste what he studies, he smiled and gave me an emphatic “Yes.”
After both presentations we were invited to the Museum’s Atrium where we were greeted by the live South American sounds of Sikus, as well as hors d’oeuvres and tequila donated by Tequila Herradura. The representatives from Sadrac, the importers of Herradura, were on hand serving their classics: Herradura Silver, Reposado and Añejo. As always, the tequila was great! By the reactions on some of the faces, I think some had never imagined 100% agave tequila could taste this good.
Thank you Linda Simeone for bringing this program together and the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits for having us.