One Tequila, Two Tequilas, PURA VIDA!

What's better than tequila? Free tequila at Brennan's, d'oh! Last Thursday Pura Vida Tequila held the Tequila Olympics at Brennan's of Houston, and I got me some.

The high-quality blue agave used for Pura Vida has a very high sugar content, which is the heart of great tequila. These special Weber agave plants have been grown and harvested in Jalisco, Mexico by the Vivanco family since 1923; four generations later, Feliciano IV follows in his great-grandfather's tradition of caring and serenading the plants and barrels of freshly distilled tequila.

In addition to musical notes, Pura Vida follows a triple distillation process to remove most, if not all, of the impurities that cause the dreaded hangovers. They also pride themselves in bottling tequila that is 100 percent pure, no colors or worms added.

The bottles are striking too -- they reminded me of colorful perfume bottles. Chris Novosad, their marketing guy, explained that they can only get these blue, hand-blown Mexican glass bottles twice a year, so they really need to make accurate production estimates. The labels are then painted and stamped on each bottle. Onto the booze, shall we?

Richard Middleton was the bartender for the evening. He prepared three cocktails, one for each of the tequilas featured: Pura Vida Silver, Gold (Reposado) and Añejo. He started us out with the Añejo, blending it with fresh lime juice and Amaretto into an Italian Margarita. Mike Kirten, Pura Vida's Regional Director, explained that after the tequila is distilled, they allow it to hang out in bourbon barrels for at least a year. This allows the agave flavors to fully develop and deepen and result in añejo, aged tequila. I found this one smoky and kinda musky; assertive, like an old friend.

We then had a Paloma made with the Reposado, another version of a Margarita, with a splash of grapefruit Jarritos. To make reposado, they allow the tequila to rest for up to six months. Mike suggests using this tequila in your margaritas if you want to impress your friends. He also gave us straight samples of it. As you inhale it, you pick up on its sweetness, but also a bit of spiciness. Once you taste it, you know it is potent -- you feel that right away -- but it was remarkably smooth, slightly sweet with an undertone of vanilla.

We ended the evening with the Silver, straight off the distillery. You immediately pick up on its freshness; there's something herby about it. We had it in a Freddy Fudpucker -- made with orange juice, tequila and a Galliano floater. It tasted like a spiked orange sorbet; the Galliano added a nice creamy vanilla and licorice note to the drink. Good stuff, but I prefer limey drinks.

Chris told me stories about the Extra Añejo. This baby is aged for at least three years and ends up rivaling brandy. They expect to have it bottled and on the shelves in December 2011. Pura Vida Silver, Gold and Añejo has been on the shelves since January 2011. Priced between 32 and 38 bucks, this is a pretty bottle I'll be adding to my collection.

What's your favorite tequila?

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