3 Tequilas to Toast on Day of the Dead
By Anthony Galasso
Move over, Halloween! Day of the Dead – or Dia de los Muertos for our Spanish-speaking friends – is beginning to cement itself more and more in popular American culture. And why shouldn’t it? This three-day holiday is filled with a rich, meaningful heritage that includes with colorful sugar skulls, delicious foods, fun music and time-honored family traditions.
Sure, Day of the Dead’s rise in American popularity is likely the result of yet another cultural holiday being distilled down to a drunken bar crawl for America’s amusement.
However, we know our readers – as world travelers – are likely more sensitive of and respectful to other cultures. That’s why, rather than using Day of the Dead as an excuse to get hammered on Halloween, we urge our readers to take part in the tradition, treat it with cultural courtesy and respectfully toast the dead with Mexico’s finest spirit – tequila.
How to Celebrate Day of the Dead
While the holiday is heavy on sugar skulls and Calaveras – or skeletons depicting the dead – truthfully, Day of the Dead is a celebration of life.
During Day of the Dead, it’s believed in Mexico that the souls of the dead return to celebrate with their families every year. While it can certainly be an emotional time for those who have lost loved ones, Day of the Dead is meant to honor and cherish the lives of those who have lost their lives.
To celebrate, many people in Mexico build “alters” in their homes. Atop these alters, people place photos of their deceased loved ones along with their favorites foods or treats, any trinkets or heirlooms that hold meaning to the family, candles, marigolds, sugar skulls and even alcoholic beverages – all designed to honor the dead and help them to and from earth on their lengthy journey.
It’s not unlikely for Mexicans to throw lavish parties filled with music and dancing on Day of the Dead, inviting the dead to revel with their families again and again, year after year.
While there are many different ways to celebrate Day of the Dead, they all carry the same beautiful message that this writer interprets as “Life is short, but life is good. Love the ones that matter most.”
Toast the Dead with a Lively Spirit
It’s no secret that tequila is perhaps Mexico’s most famous export. According to VinePair.com, just about all tequila is prepared and distilled in the Mexican state of Jalisco and has to at least be made from 51% blue agave.
To make tequila, blue agave plants are essentially shucked down to their cores, which somewhat resemble the body of a pineapple. In fact, to drive that home, these cores are commonly referred to as “piñas.”
The “piñas” are then roasted for hours on end, making it easier to extract fermentable sugars. From there, the tequila is fermented, distilled and potentially aged in French or American white oak barrels.
For reference when discussing aged tequilas:
· A Tequila Blanco is clear tequila that hasn’t been aged at all.
· A Tequila Reposado is tequila with a brownish hue that’s been aged between two and twelve months.
· A Tequila Añejo is a darker-colored tequila that’s been aged between one and three years.
· A Tequila Extra Añejo is a dark tequila that’s been aged three years or longer.
3 Tequilas to Toast on Day of the Dead
When drinking tequila, it’s customary to drink it neat without ice. Considering we’re discussing an actual toast that’s respectful of the lives honored on Day of the Dead, perhaps consider sipping – not shooting – one of these three Day of the Dead-themed tequilas.
With its distinctly Day of the Dead packaging based on 19th century engravings by José Guadalupe Posada, ESPOLÓN is an excitingly appropriate 100% blue agave tequila perfect for your Day of the Dead toast.
"Sweet, zesty, and straightforward, this light-bodied blanco is appealingly smooth and easy to drink. Nice bright cayenne and terra-cotta notes on the nose, but none of the brininess on the palate that these would suggest. Instead, it's lean, slightly fruity and relatively mellow. Nice flavors, but I would have wanted a little more intensity and energy. Still, a pleasant drink and a particularly good value in its price bracket." – Duncan McRoberts
KAH boldly, and perhaps rightfully, refers to itself as the Day of the Dead tequila. This lay to claim likely has much to do with the bottle itself, which is notoriously shaped just like a sugar skull, ideal for any Day of the Dead celebration.
"KAH Blanco is sweet smelling with notes of pineapple, lavender, raw agave and honeydew leading up to a spicy toasted white pepper. Not as sweet as it smells surprisingly with lots of natural fruit, papaya, mango and pear. Finish is quick with a touch of black tea and the faintest hickory smoke." – Brock Schulte
Fun and exciting, Tequila Cabeza features a sugar skull right on its bottle. While this tequila may not lean heavily on Day of the Dead as a selling point, it is undeniably fun and is fermented with Champagne yeast to give it a fruitier edge.
"The nose is initially tame, perhaps some lime and mint are detected. As you continue to nose and taste, however, the fruit factor really kicks into gear. Lots of ripe tropical fruits are found, almost to the point of a little bit of funk. It skirts the edge nicely. The palate isn't too oily and the finish shows a bit of acidity to prepare you for the next sip. This tequila makes you sit up and take notice." – Stephanie Moreno