Tequila On Your Own
By Chad Olsen
While on our annual North of the Border trip, I promised my brother-in-law, let’s call him Jim, a road trip when he joins us in Ajijic. As a lover of tequila, he has chosen the town of Tequila. Chances are if you are living at the Lakeside, you have been to Tequila—probably more than once. We have been there more than a few times, but always with a tour group. The local tour with Charter Club is laid back, informative and fun; the Tequila Express is an extreme once (but only once) in a lifetime experience. On the train ride back, tequila was flowing and my wife ended up dancing in the aisle like a wild woman and won a prize—yes, it was a bottle of tequila.
There is more to do in Tequila than just tour the Jose Cuervo distillery, so this time we are doing it on our own. It takes less than two hours to get to Tequila on the new highway so we head out; with the help of Maria (the name we gave our GPS), another GPS on an iPhone, and maps. We have reservations at the Hotel Plaza Jardin. This is a nice hotel right on the plaza. The room had no telephone, but the TV worked and it was clean. A parking lot close by provides security for our car.
Our first stop is the City of Tequila museum. The exhibits tell the history of tequila and many rooms are filled with hundreds of colorful bottles from the past and present. They still had something in them, but I doubt it was tequila—they wouldn’t waste that precious liquid.
We had read about a tequila bar a few blocks off the plaza and are going to check it out. The name of the establishment is La Capilla, (the chapel of tequila, I guess), and claims to be the oldest bar in town. From the street signage, one would think the name is Tequila Orendain—a well-known tequila. The owner is an old guy named Don Javier and he was tending bar.
We ordered his specialty, El Batanga (The Outrigger). It is made of Coca-Cola, tequila, lime, ice, and mixed with his special butcher knife. After three of these, just to be polite of course, we agree that dinner would be a good idea.
Most restaurants in Tequila serve only Mexican food and close early. People on the street suggested the Real Marinero (Real Sailor) and after wandering around awhile, a street cop pointed it out: it was close. Real Marinero lived up to its name: the seafood was superb.
At the restaurant we met a local author, Roberto Denison. He has written a brief, but fairly comprehensive, book about Tequila called, Tequila, the Town of Endearment. It has over 200 photographs he has taken of museums, historic buildings, hotels, restaurants, events, and distilleries. He plans to write another book about the 42 small towns and villages around the City of Tequila.
After dinner Jim decides we need to go back to “church” (La Capilla,the chapel of tequila) to try some of the owner’s anejo (aged) tequilas he saw behind the bar. Don Javier is still there and brings down his high-quality tequilas, even an extra aged anejo.
“I want to try this one! Let’s try that one!” Jim is really excited. Senior Javier even lets Jim pour his own! We quit after a couple a few “shots” of the best tequilas we have ever tasted, but Jim continues on. After an hour, I look over and see Senor Javier sitting on a stool behind the bar—asleep. I figure this is a good time to head back to the hotel. Jim joins us, reluctantly.
The next morning, we pick up our car and head for Ajijic. Jim is up and wide-awake. No hangover for any of us after all we had to drink the night before. As they say in Tequila (about tequila), “It alleviates, defends, fortifies, nurtures, purifies and stimulates.” We’re believers.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com