Sotol is a distilled spirit produced exclusively in Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Durango in Mexico. Anything else produced in a similar manner using similar ingredients in any other part of Mexico cannot be called sotol. However, other countries can label their product as sotol because the denomination does not apply outside of Mexico.
Sotol is made from dasylirion, commonly known as Desert Spoon or sotol in Spanish, hence the name of the spirit. Sotol is the official spirit of the state of Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Durango. The production of sotol has certain similarities with how mezcal – another Mexican spirit – is made. Sotol is usually bottled at 35 to 45 percent ABV.
The production of sotol in Texas has raised debates about cultural appropriation and denomination of origin. Despite the recent signing of the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) that includes a provision concerning sotol and the US’ position on the spirit’s identity, nothing binding has been cast in stone yet that would settle once and for all the use of the label “sotol”.
- At first, they thought that sotol was made from agave. But David Bogler’s DNA examination of dasylirion revealed that it belongs to the Nolinaceae family.
- In other places in Mexico that observe the same process and use the same ingredients, the product is called cucharilla or little spoon, in reference to dasyrilion’s spoon-shaped base.
- Indigenous people in pre-Columbian America drank a beverage made from cooked and fermented sotol piña during religious ceremonies, in the belief that the drink can help cure many kinds of diseases and ailments
- Some bottles of sotol are infused with snake venom!
- Sotoleros, or sotol makers, were persecuted because it threatened the sale of other spirits like rum, brandy, and tequila. Permits granting citizens to produce sotol without being persecuted or antagonized were issued during the 90s.
Sotol Buying Guide
The most important thing to remember when buying sotol is to make sure it is made in Chihuahua, Coahuila, or Durango. If it is made somewhere else, it is not genuine sotol. It also helps if you do your due diligence. Check the plastic seal of the bottle for tampering. Check if the cap is sealed. Check the glass and the label. If the content is visible, inspect it. It should be clear and doesn’t get hazy, and free from any impurities.
If you are wondering why the price varies significantly from one bottle to another, it probably has something to do with the age classification of the sotol. Plata is unaged sotol, bottled after distillation. Sotol that is rested for several months to a maximum of one year is classified as Reposado (rested). Sotol that has been aged for a minimum of one year or longer is called Añejo, which is the most expensive of the three.
In the US, it is common to find Chihuahua-made Por Siempre.
Sotol Production & Farming in Texas
Sotol is produced in Texas, although very recently as a commercial enterprise, and it has caused a stir because Mexico wants the US to acknowledge sotol’s denomination of origin and call the Texas-made sotol something else. Dasylirion is common and plentiful in Texas. Producing sotol makes sense because this puts the dasylirion to good use. Desert Door is an example of Texas-made sotol. Desert Door uses the sotol found in West Stockton to produce this particular spirit. Desert Door is a young brand, just as sotol is just starting to inch its way upwards to mainstream popularity in Texas and worldwide. Because the ingredient can be sourced locally, it wouldn’t be surprising if other Texans start their own sotol beverage company. Marfa Spirits appears as the second Texas-based distillery producing sotol.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
When produced the traditional way, sotol does not have any chemical additive. If there are any sotol distillery using additives, this remains undiscovered yet perhaps because sotol has just started becoming mainstream and very little is known in how sotol is produced especially in Mexico, and there is no available comprehensive and exhaustive data examining the contents of sotol produced by different distilleries. Sotol curados, on the other hand, are made with additives to put flavor in this infusion. Whether it is real and organic or synthesized/chemical depends on who is making the curados. Pecan, cinnamon, raisin, herbs, and botanicals including marijuana, even beef and snake, are used to flavor sotol curados.
Sotol is sold in a glass bottle. There are different brands of sotol and the glass bottles vary in size, shape, and design of the label. Some store sotol in jugs. The label bears the name of the company, the type of sotol (if it is plata, reposado, or añejo), its ABV, and other important details the consumer must know.
Taken neat, it is easy to detect sotol’s bright and slightly grassy taste. For those who can differentiate the taste of each kind of spirit, they’ll tell you that sotol tastes like tequila, and the terroir is very noticeable in the flavor. Sotol that is grown in the forest tastes of pine, mint, and eucalyptus, while the ones grown in the desert are earthy.
For an optimal tasting experience that will allow you to appreciate the flavor of sotol, it is advised that you take it straight. But sotol is also versatile too, and mixes well when used in making cocktail drinks like the beatriz wherein you mix sotol with elderflower liqueur and aromatized wine; la lechedora which combines sotol with curacao and orange bitters; and presidio old fashioned which combines sotol with the flavor of tamarind, among others.
Store the bottle in a cool, dry area. Do not put it close to direct heat, and also do not put it where it is exposed to direct sunlight, because exposure to high temperature can adversely affect the quality of the sotol. After opening the bottle, make sure you put the bottle cap back and close it firmly to secure the liquid inside the bottle. Always make sure you keep this out of reach of children and minors.
Make your own Sotol Martini
Like gin and vodka, sotol is an excellent base ingredient for making a martini. This cocktail is popular among those who enjoy drinking cocktails as it is well-known even among non-drinkers because martini is ubiquitous in popular culture. It makes sense. Martini is a great drink that is easy to make. Simple, yet sophisticated. It is a chill drink when it is hot outside. When it is chilly, the sotol provides a comforting warmth with every sip of this cocktail drink.
- Sotol, 2 ounces
- Dry vermouth, 3/4 ounces
- Maraschino liqueur, 1 bar spoon
- Grapefruit bitters, 2 dashes
- Prickly pear bitters, 4 drops
- Orange bitters, 1 dash
Step 1. Fill a mixing glass with ice.
Step 2. Put everything inside the glass. Stir well.
Step 3. Strain into a coupe glass.
Step 4. Add an orange twist to garnish. Drink or serve.