Welcome to our guide to tequila!
What is Tequila?
Tequila is made by smoking, steaming then fermenting the heart (pina) of the Weber Blue Agave plant and then distilling the liquid. The pina takes up to 12 years to mature and can weigh up to 200 pounds. By Mexican law, to be a tequila must contain 51-percent Weber Blue Agave – a type of agave plant. Most premium tequilas are 100-percent blue agave and are they frequently state that on their labels. There are many less-expensive brands that do add sugar or corn syrup during fermentation and are called, mixto, or mixed, and their labels usually just say tequila on them. Keep reading below to learn more about different types of tequila and their histories!
Where Does Tequila Come From?
Yes, tequila comes from Mexico, but it comes from a specific region in Mexico. Like Scotch Whiskey must come from Scotland and Champagne must come from the Champagne region in France, tequila must come from the state of Jalisco and from limited regions in the states of Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. These regions are the only places where tequila can be produced, so it is written in Mexican law so it is decreed.
A Little History of Tequila:
Tequila was first produced in Mexico in the 15th century when Spanish conquistadors began distilling “pulque,” a mescal wine fermented from the Maguey agave sap, a drink popular with many of the native Mexican Indians. The truth to where the first tequila was distilled has been lost to lore; one legend has that it was near the town of Tequila, one has its origin in Amatitan, and another in Arenal. There is no documentation from 400 years ago and it is truly a cold-case detective story, so choose the legend which suits you best. However, it is certainly documented that Jose Cuervo was the first manufacturer of tequila. In 1758 the King of Spain granted Senor Cuervo the rights to land and it is on that land where Jose Cuervo brands continue to grow its agave and produce its tequila. While Cuervo is the world’s oldest and largest tequila brand, it was Cuervo disciple and eventual rival, Don Cenobio Sauza, who first imported tequila into the United States in 1873.
Aging of Tequila:
There are three distinctive types of tequila: Blanco (also called silver), reposado (meaning: rested), and anejo (meaning: old). Blanco tequilas are unaged – or at least unaged in wooden barrels. They have the purest agave flavor, sweet with a little bite. Reposado tequilas are aged in wooden barrels for a minimum of two months but no more than 11 months. Repasados still have a significant agave taste but the flavors are blended with some vanilla and caramel notes that often gained by wood aging. Anejo tequilas must be wood aged for at least two years, so it’s flavor and color are most affected in its aging process. Flavors imparted by the wood often dominate the agave flavors found in the blanco and reposado tequilas, yet anejo tequilas have deeper and more complex tastes ranging from black tea, chocolate to tannins.
Worms and Other Tequila Myths:
The history of tequila is loaded with myth, lore, mystery and downright fabrications. Perhaps tequila’s greatest myth revolves around the worm in the bottle. Worms were never put into tequila bottles, at least not until the 20th century, and it was more likely a marketing ploy than anything tradition. Damn those marketers. However, worms were put into mescal bottles which could lead to the confusion, because myth number two is that tequila is actually a mescal, but not all mezcals are tequilas. Tequila is a type of mescal, grown in specific regions of Mexico, like scotch whiskey is a type of whiskey produced specifically in Scotland. One other difference – Mezcal is produced from the agave plant, but tequila is produced from a specific type of agave plant – Weber Blue Agave. This leads to another myth, call it a misconception, that agave is a cactus; it is not. Agave is a succulent and a member of the Lily Family.
Tequila is More Than a Shot:
Most Americans have come to drunk tequila either drunk as a shot and mixed in a margaritas. These are not wrong ways to drink tequila, just the Gringo way. The three different types of tequila are much more versatile than we appreciate. Whether your pleasure is blanco, reposado or anejo, tequila is a wonderful sipping spirit, served up, chilled or on the rocks. It great mixed with juice – which is why the lime juice in margaritas is so prevalent; so try mixing it with orange juice, grapefruit juice, or pineapple juice. Sprite and 7Up are common mixers with tequila but if you want your own dash of sweet, try mixing the soda with agave nectar – after all, this nectar comes from the same succulent family that produces tequila; it’s got to mix well.
Molly’s Spirits is Tequila Central:
Molly’s Spirits has an excellent selection of tequila at all price levels. Our Spirits Staff is educated on all things tequila and they love to help our customers find the right tequila for the best price. And now that you’re an expert, check out these 7 Margarita Recipes You Need To Try!