- Tequila has evolved greatly over the years, with smoother and more complex flavors.
- Made from the core of the agave plant, tequila has a rich history dating back to the Aztec Indians.
- There are four main aging categories of tequila: Añejo (aged), Extra Añejo (extra aged), Silver (white), and Reposado (rested).
- Premium tequila is best enjoyed neat or in carefully crafted cocktails.
- A wide range of tequila brands exists, catering to different tastes and budgets.
- The pint of tequila price varies based on factors such as aging, brand, and production quality.
Tequila: A Spirit with Rich Roots
A Brief History of Tequila
Tequila is a distilled spirit made from the core of the agave plant. Its origins can be traced back to the Aztec Indians, who first fermented the essence of the agave plant in their ceremonies around 250-300 AD. Spanish conquistadors began producing their own tequila in the 16th century, leading to the mass production of tequila in Jalisco, Mexico, by Don Pedro Sánchez de Tagle. The Cuervo family was the first to acquire a license to produce tequila commercially, and Sauza Tequila was the first to be imported to the American market.
In 1974, the Mexican government declared the term “tequila” as its intellectual property, distinguishing it from other agave-based spirits like mezcal.
How Tequila Is Made
The best tequilas are made in Mexico, specifically in Tequila City, where the red volcanic clay provides the perfect environment for premium blue agave to grow. Mexican law mandates that tequila must be made from blue agave from Jalisco and certain other Mexican states. While some brands may complete the aging process in other locations, Mexico is still the primary distillation site for the spirit.
The Four Aging Categories of Tequila
- Añejo (Aged): Añejo tequila is aged for one to three years in French oak barrels, giving it a darker shade and complex flavors.
- Extra Añejo (Extra Aged): Extra Añejo tequilas are aged for more than three years, resulting in a darker color and a higher price.
- Silver (White): Silver tequila is distilled twice and aged for no more than two months in either neutral oak or stainless steel barrels.
- Reposado (Rested): Reposado tequila is aged between two months and one year in oak barrels, giving it a darker shade than silver and a smooth flavor profile.
How to Savor and Enjoy Tequila
Drinking Tequila Neat
Premium tequila is best enjoyed neat, allowing the drinker to appreciate the smooth, warm sensation and complex flavors without the need for salt or lime.
Traditional tequila shots are taken with a Caballito shot glass and enjoyed neat after appreciating the aroma of the spirit.
Tequila in Cocktails
Tequila serves as an excellent base for cocktails, providing a unique punch to the drink. Silver or Reposado tequila is often used in cocktails to achieve the desired flavor profile.
Tequila in Margaritas
Reposado and Blanco tequilas are the best choices for making margaritas, as they complement the other ingredients in the drink.
How to Choose the Right Type of Tequila
Once you’re familiar with the basics of tequila, it’s time to explore different options and find the one that suits your palate. Here are a few tips to help you choose the right type of tequila:
- Determine your preference for flavors and aromas: Different types of tequilas offer unique flavors and aromas. Blanco tequilas tend to have a fresh, agave-forward taste, while reposados and añejos have more complex and richer flavors due to the aging process. Extra añejos offer the most depth and complexity, with flavors reminiscent of oak, vanilla, and caramel.
- Consider your drinking style: If you plan to sip your tequila neat or on the rocks, you might want to consider an añejo or extra añejo for their richer, more complex flavors. For shots or cocktails, blanco or reposado tequilas work best, as they have a lighter flavor profile that mixes well with other ingredients.
- Research the production process: High-quality tequila is made from 100% blue agave, while lower quality “mixto” tequilas contain only 51% agave and are mixed with other sugars. Look for tequilas labeled as “100% de agave” or “100% puro de agave” to ensure you’re getting a high-quality product.
- Read reviews and ask for recommendations: Online reviews and recommendations from friends or bartenders can help you identify brands and specific tequilas that you might enjoy. Keep in mind that individual preferences can vary, so it’s essential to explore different options to find the perfect tequila for you.
- Sample before you buy: If possible, try sampling tequilas at a bar, tasting event, or liquor store before committing to a full pint. This can help you discover new favorites and avoid buying something that doesn’t suit your taste.
Tequila Brands to Explore
As you embark on your tequila journey, consider trying some of these popular brands:
- Don Julio: Known for its smooth and rich flavor, Don Julio offers a range of high-quality tequilas, including blanco, reposado, añejo, and extra añejo options.
- Patron: A well-known premium tequila brand, Patron offers a variety of tequilas made from 100% blue Weber agave. Their lineup includes blanco, reposado, añejo, and extra añejo tequilas, as well as limited edition and flavored options.
- 1800 Tequila: Named after the year tequila was first aged in oak barrels, 1800 Tequila offers a selection of 100% agave tequilas, including silver, reposado, añejo, and their special Colección Extra Añejo.
- Jose Cuervo: As one of the most recognized tequila brands globally, Jose Cuervo offers both mixto and 100% agave tequilas in various aging categories.
- Hornitos: Focusing on sustainable and traditional production methods, Hornitos offers a lineup of 100% blue agave tequilas, including plata, reposado, and añejo options.
Remember, the key to discovering the perfect pint of tequila is exploring different options and finding the one that best suits your preferences. Happy tasting!