The woman we were staying with in Houston was lovely. She picked us up from the station, and took us out a couple of times while we were there. She is a vocalist in a band and invited us along to their practice. They were very good, and we were disappointed that we left on the day of their first gig. But should you get the opportunity, do check out The Heights Funk Collective.
She also took us along to a great tequila bar. Now most peoples' experience of tequila is either a Margarita or a shot with salt and lime. It often isn't an especially good experience and I know a few people who have had almighty hangovers the morning after a tequila session. And we were no different (though thankfully not the hangovers,) until last year when we were travelling with a Texan, who introduced us to good sipping tequila.
Good tequila absolutely has to be 100% blue agave. Most general bar tequilas only have to be 51%, with the rest made up of sugars etc, and like any low quality alcohol can be a bit harsh.
The bar we were at specialises in tequila, so we were able to try a good number of them between us and we discovered that we rather like it. The basic tequila is a Blanco (white) or Plata (silver), which is unaged, bottled straight from its distillation. Joven (young) or Oro (gold), is generally only a 51% and is coloured gold.
The better ones are Reposado (rested), kept in oak for 2-12 months, Anejo (aged) which is kept in oak for 1-3 years, and the Extra Anejo (extra aged), which is kept in oak barrels for at least 3 years. These are smooth, without the alcohol burn that you can get with the low quality ones.
Then there is also the Mezcal, which is the one that you sometimes get a worm in. There does not seem to be any consistently accepted reason for the worm, which is in fact the larvae of a moth that can infect the plant, but that is added afterwards. Some suggest that the larvae will only remain intact if the quality of the Mezcal is good enough, but others say that is nonsense. It is probably just someone's idea of a good marketing ploy as it tends to generate much amusement and becomes the basis for a challenge.
But worms aside, Mezcal is along the same lines as tequila, though usually made in a different area of Mexico using the maguey plant, another type of agave. The gradings are the same as tequila, but the drink has a smokier flavour because the hearts of the plant are cooked underground. I rather liked the ones I tried.