Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Toro Azul Reposado Tequila Is a Good Deal

Drinking the Bottom Shelf

Will Gordon drinks his way through the bottom shelf of the liquor store...so you don’t have to.


Bottom Shelf research director Emily and I are finally getting married next weekend, which will be great because we're serving really good macaroni and cheese and because I've been meaning to marry her for months now. But if every silver cloud has a gray lining, in this case it's that I'm about to lose my favorite excuse for letting things slide.

A lot of people in my social circles find wedding planning to be terribly stressful, but that hasn't been our experience at all. Granted, it helps that our friends bought us a wedding venue early on in the planning stages, but even without that we would have managed just fine on our own. But since everyone around me thinks finding a justice of the peace and figuring out your ring size are overwhelming challenges on the order of splitting an atom or returning a library book on time, I've taken that excuse when it's been handed to me. So far my boss, my doctor, and my sister have bought in; notable dissenters include Comcast and the Assistant District Attorney in Charge of Beating Dead Horses (For God's Sake It's Been 11 Years).

The food decisions were even easier than I expected. The macaroni and cheese was originally scheduled to come with chicken, but that's weird and I consort with a couple of vegetarians, so we had to get the animal out. That took nine seconds. Then we had a grueling 28 second cornbread debate. Emily: "I like cornbread. My mom makes really good cornbread." Me: "Unless your mom's moonlighting at the Inn, I wouldn't risk it. Most cornbread sucks." Emily: "Yeah. And roasted potatoes are better anyway." Me: "Yeah."

The only detail we haven't nailed down is the music. This is going to be an iPod affair, which should be easy enough, but we haven't picked the songs out yet. This is harder than I'd bargained for, because it turns out I like really inappropriate music. Very few of the songs that get me through the gym and the grocery store every day are based upon loving your spouse. My favorite song's chorus is "If she don't kill me, the whiskey will." Em's favorite musician is Bruce Springsteen. I'm not the biggest Bruce expert, but I'm pretty sure every song is about arm-wrestling an unemployed longshoreman's best girl for beers and letting her win because that's what made this country great in the first place. A fine sentiment, but awkward to dance to. So we still have some figuring to do there.

But otherwise we're all set, because we agree that in the end very little of it matters. Just because you can agonize over the merits of barbecued chicken versus herb-crusted chicken doesn't mean you have to, or that you should. It's going to be the best day of our lives regardless of what color the flowers are, and it's going to be a pretty good party for our guests regardless of what gets glued to the chicken. One of the keys to a happy life is knowing which decisions deserve brain space. For example, it really doesn't matter what you call your kid. He's going to be who he's going to be whether you name him Josh or Barkevious. Don't sweat it. Save that energy for figuring out your tequila preferences.

The bar I hang out at has very limited tequila options. There's no middle ground. Your affordable choices are Cuervo and a sub-Cuervo mess they pour for the college kids on Saturday night. Then there's Milagro and Patron, both of which are out of my financial comfort zone. But every now and then I treat myself to a glass of one or the other, so I recently sat down to a half measure of each to see if I have a preference. They're both very good but also very different, and I'm a little disappointed to say that I preferred the Patron (the aspiring snob in me wishes I chose the less aggressively marketed brand).

This experiment reminded me it was time to reconsider my house tequila, too. We drink a fair bit of Hornitos, but I'm always on the lookout for something even cheaper, and I've been noticing more and more 100% agaves in the $15 range lately. Toro Azul Reposado comes in a pretty classy bottle, so that's where I started my investigation.

This is aged for 11 months in American oak, which makes it nearly an anejo (tequila only has to sit for 60 days to jump from blanco to reposado), though it's no darker than your average reposado. I love the smell, which is fruitier than any tequila I've encountered. I've seen it described as "honeyed pineapple, roasted fennel, and sweet potatoes." I concur on the honey and pineapple, and you could talk me into the fennel. (Sweet potato???) The taste is a bit sharper than expected, but there's no burning and none of the sweaty compost funk I associate with cheap tequila. This is an unusual drink, much sweeter than its peers, and that may not be to everyone's taste and it could throw off your cocktail recipes. But for sipping straight from the jug, it's hard to beat a $13 bottle of Toro Azul Reposado.