If overly-sweet, pre-mixed margaritas and college benders bring not so stellar memories of Tequila, we’re here to try and change your mind. The Mexican spirit is far more complex and versatile than you might expect, and a properly crafted tequila can be as elevated and distinct as an excellent scotch or whiskey. Consider this a new introduction to Tequila and your own personal guide to Mexico’s favorite drink:
What Is Tequila (Real Tequila)?
Believed to have been produced for thousands of years, the spirit must meet three requirements in order to be legally considered and called Tequila. Like many other spirits whose distinction comes from its region of origin, Tequila has five specific Mexican states where it must be made, Michoacán, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Nayarit and Tamaulipas.. Additionally, it must be made with at least 51% blue agave, or Agave tequilana, and it must be approved by Mexico’s Consejo Regulador del Tequila (CRT), or Tequila Regulatory Council.
How Is It Made?
The previously mentioned blue agave plant takes at least seven years to reach maturity, and when it’s finally ready to harvest, it’s harvested by hand through an extremely labor-intensive process. After it’s harvested, it’s before being cooked until the agave breaks down the sugars into an edible juice, which is extracted from the plant (traditionally using a large stone wheel called a tahona) then fermented and distilled into Tequila. After these standardized steps, the fun begins. Each distiller decides what type of Tequila they want to produce and can create their own personalized formula. Some may simply add a little water and bottle it immediately, while some may age it in barrels for more complex and refined flavors.
What Makes a Good Tequila?
Remember when we said that in order to legally considered a Tequila, it only has to be made of 51% blue agave? We don’t actually recommend going with that standard, as the remaining ingredients can be any other sugar or neutral spirit, which can make for an extremely sub-par experience. The best tequilas are made with 100% blue agave, and you can absolutely taste the difference (as well as notice the difference when you wake up the next day). Some of the best, 100% blue agave brands we recommend are Clase Azule, Tears of Llorona No. 3 Extra Añejo Tequila, Patrón Gran Patrón Piedra, or Casamigos Añejo.
Pick a Flavor
For anyone that’s been confused by the variations of Tequilas, here’s a quick and easy guide. There are three primary classifications: unaged Tequila, which is called blanco, often has a lighter flavor with citrus and floral notes, slightly aged Tequila (reposado) is slightly little spicy, with sweet aromas such as vanilla and caramel, while fully-aged Tequila (añejo) is far oakier with sweeter flavors and thicker “legs.”
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