What is tequila? Tequila is a distilled spirit made from the blue agave plant. Tequila comes in several varieties, delineated by the amount of time spent aging in barrels.

Let’s Talk Tequila

What is tequila?

A distilled spirit made from the blue agave plant. Tequila comes in several varieties, delineated by the amount of time spent aging in barrels.

Blanco Tequila – Unaged tequila. Sometimes called plata or silver. These tequilas are fresh and lively, showing bright and ripe agave notes often complemented by some citrus.

Reposado Tequila – Reposado means rested, as these tequilas age in barrel for at least two months but no more than 12 months. Reposado tequilas are well balanced with rich cooked agave notes and spice and vanilla from the barrels. They are most often aged in American white oak, previously used for bourbon, but other oaks from France and Hungary are sometimes used.

Anejo Tequila – Anejo means aged, and these tequilas are aged for one to three years. These tequilas often show much greater barrel and oak character than their younger reposado siblings. These are ideal tequilas for sipping neat or over ice, but also make exceptionally flavorful cocktails.

Extra Anejo Tequila – One of the newer tequila categories, extra anejo was only formally codified in 2006. Extra anejo tequilas are aged for three years or more. The roundness and richness added through extended oak aging mellows the spicy and herbaceous notes often found in tequila and makes extra anejos a gateway for whiskey fans to get into the world of agave spirits.

Cristalino Tequila – The newest style of tequila, cristalinos are aged tequilas that are filtered to remove the color but maintain the aged character. This process is akin to many silver rums. A fine cristalino teqila will maintain the sweet vanilla and full body brought by oak aging while maintaining the fresh and fruity character of an unaged blanco.

Where is tequila made?

Only in five states in Mexico: Jalisco (where the town of Tequila is located), Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit and Tamaulipas. Fermentation and distillation of agave in these areas dates back as far as the 1600’s.

How is tequila made?

Tequila is made only from the Weber Blue agave varietal, which takes about six to seven years to reach maturity before it can be harvested. The spiky leaves are cut off and the pina of the plant is dug out of the ground by hand by skilled jimadores. The pina can weigh 100 pound or more, and contains all of the sugars needed for alcohol fermentation.

Once harvested the pinas need to be cooked. Traditionally this is done in a brick oven using steam, but modern stainless steel pressurized ovens have grown in use.

After the pinas have been cooked they are shredded and pressed to extract the juices, which are collected and fermented into the low alcohol base.

The fermented agave juice is then distilled in column stills or pot stills to create the clear spirit now called tequila.

What’s the difference between tequila and mezcal?

Just like how all bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon, all tequila is technically mezcal but not all mezcal is tequila. While tequila can be made ONLY from the Weber Blue agave, mezcal can be made in many more areas of Mexico and from many different agave varietals. Although mezcal can be produced in the same manner as tequila, the agaves are often processed by more ancestral style methods that can including roasting over a wood fire in underground pits and pressing the cooked agaves by hand. This leads mezcals to their often earthier and sometimes smoky flavors.

How to drink tequila?

However you like of course! Blanco tequilas make a fantastic toasting shot, and are great with some sparkling water and a squeeze of citrus. Aged tequilas can be subbed into many classic cocktails calling for aged brown spirits such as an Old Fashioned. Extra anejo tequilas offer a luxurious and contemplative drinking experience when sipped neat.

Some popular tequila cocktails:
  • Ranch Water
  • Mexican Mule

Which tequila is best?

We would argue that depends on the time and place, but here are some of our favorite and most popular brands: