Tequila

Crafted only from the blue weber agave plant, Tequila is an iconic spirit from Mexico. It ranges from grassy-tasting blancos to rich, woody añejos, and the spirit is most famous for its use in cocktails like the Margarita, Tequila Sunrise and Batanga.
Three tall shot glasses with salt on the rim and a lime wedge on top filled with tequila on a white surface with a transparent bottle of tequila in front of a light blue wall.

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Tequila Guide – What to Know Before You Shop Tequila Brands Online

Tequila is loved in many ways by many people. Whether you drink it plain, with salt and lime, in a fun drink, or at parties, it’s a drink that fits many occasions.

Tequila is more than just the backbone of that college regret or the leading actor in your Friday night margarita. Let’s strip away the stereotypes because this Mexican gem has stories and nuances that most drinkers might overlook. In this article, we’ll take a clear-eyed (and slightly quirky) look at this famed spirit, examining its roots, the art behind its creation, and why Tequila deserves a spot in your liquor cabinet despite its sometimes rowdy reputation.

What is Tequila?

Tequila is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from the blue agave plant, primarily in the area surrounding the city of Tequila in Mexico’s Jalisco region. It is aged in wooden barrels, giving the drink different flavors and characteristics. Tequila comes in various types, each offering a unique taste experience.

Two shots of tequila on a wooden board with lime wedges and salt.

Different types of Tequila

Here are some of the most common types:

White Tequila (Blanco or Silver)

Distillers bottle this Tequila right after the distillation process or age it for a very short period in stainless steel tanks. As a result, it has a clear appearance. White Tequila has an agave flavor, making it a popular choice for cocktails like Margaritas and Tequila Sunrise.

Gold Tequila (Joven or Oro)

This type blends white Tequila with aged tequilas or caramel coloring and sugar-based syrups. It has a golden hue and a sweeter taste than Blanco. Gold Tequila is used in mixed drinks.

Reposado Tequila

Reposado means “rested.” This tequila ages in wooden barrels for two months to a year. This aging process gives a golden color and a smoother, more complex flavor profile with hints of wood, caramel, and spices. It’s suitable for sipping or in cocktails like Paloma.

Añejo Tequila

Añejo, or “aged,” Tequila undergoes a longer aging process, usually one to three years in oak barrels. As a result, it gets a darker color and richer flavors, often with notes of dried fruits, vanilla, and oak. Many prefer to taste Añejo Tequila neat to appreciate its depth and complexity.

Three tequila shots in a row with lime and salt, in front of a sunset over the water.

Extra Añejo Tequila

A relatively new category, Extra Añejo ages for more than three years. This extended aging gives it a deep amber color and intense flavors, making it a good choice for sipping.

Within the broad categories, further variations are based on the production process, content, and origin. Here’s a further breakdown:

100% Agave vs. Mixto:

  • 100% Agave Tequila: As its name suggests, this Tequila is made entirely from the blue agave plant. It offers a pure, authentic flavor and is often considered superior quality. The label will indicate “100% agave.”
  • Mixto: This Tequila contains less than 100% agave sugars, with the remainder typically being cane sugar. Mixtos can be less expensive and might not deliver the pure agave flavor that aficionados seek.

Highland vs. Lowland:

  • Highland Tequila (Los Altos): Produced in the highland regions of Jalisco, this Tequila often has a fruitier profile, with notes of red fruit, vanilla, and spice.
  • Lowland Tequila: Originating from the valley regions, it typically showcases a more herbaceous and earthy profile, with hints of agave, pepper, and green elements.

Single Estate:

  • Single Estate Tequila: Tequila is produced from agaves grown on a single estate or field. The unique characteristics of that specific plot of land give the Tequila a distinctive flavor profile, similar to the concept of terroir in wine.

Cristalino:

  • Cristalino Tequila: A relatively newer category, Cristalino is aged Tequila (either Reposado, Añejo, or Extra Añejo) that undergoes a filtration process to remove its color, resulting in a clear spirit. The taste combines the smoothness of aged tequilas with the crispness of younger ones.

What does Tequila taste like?

Tequila tastes distinctly of blue agave, with variations in flavor depending on its type and aging. 

Blanco or Silver tequila has a pure, straightforward agave taste. Reposado tequila is smoother, with hints of wood and a mellowed agave presence. Añejo tequila has deeper flavors of oak, vanilla, and sometimes dried fruits. Extra Añejo tequila is richer, revealing layered notes from extended aging in barrels. Due to additives or mixtures, Joven or Gold Tequila often has a slightly sweeter profile. 100% Agave tequila emphasizes the natural flavors of the blue agave plant, offering a genuine tequila experience. 

The taste can range from a direct agave punch to a symphony of aging-induced flavors.

How much alcohol is in Tequila?

Tequila usually contains an Alcohol by Volume (ABV) of between 35% and 55%, which equals 70 to 110 proof.

Tequila’s alcohol content is similar to vodka, rum, and whiskey, with an ABV ranging from 35% to 55%, or 70 to 110 proof. Liqueurs are typically less strong, with 15% to 30% ABV, while absinthe can be much stronger, with up to 72% ABV.

Are there Tequila substitutes?

You can use agave juice for sweetness or water with lime juice for acidity for non-alcoholic options. If you want an alcoholic option, mezcal or white rum can work, but they’ll taste different, with mezcal being smoky and rum being sweet.

Top 10 Best Tequila Brands

Patron

Patron is a top-notch tequila brand. It has a smooth and sweet taste and is very popular. It comes in different types like Silver, Reposado, and Anejo.

Don Julio

Don Julio is another well-known brand. It’s known for its rich and smooth flavor. Don Julio 1942 is a special kind and is very refined.

Two bottles of Don Julio tequila in an ice bucket with a pineapple.

Espolon

Espolon has a balanced flavor and is liked by many. It’s good quality and reasonably priced, making it an excellent choice for many people.

El Jimador

El Jimador offers an authentic Mexican taste and is one of the best-selling Tequila in Mexico. It has strong flavors and a reasonable price, making it a favorite.

Herradura

Herradura is famous for its high-quality Tequila. It uses traditional methods and has tasty selections, making it a favorite for those who love genuine craftsmanship.

Casa Noble

Casa Noble is known for its smooth, clean taste and is organic. People who care about the environment like it because it’s made in an eco-friendly way.

Corralejo

Corralejo is known for its tall bottles and different flavors. It offers sweet, fruity, spicy, and bold options, pleasing many taste buds.

Fortaleza

Fortaleza keeps the traditional way of making Tequila. It’s well-liked for its strong commitment to quality and rich taste.

Tres Agaves

Tres Agaves has a balanced and easy-to-mix flavor. It’s a good choice for making different tequila-based drinks.

Clase Azul

Clase Azul is a luxury brand known for its unique bottles and top-quality taste. It’s for those ready to spend more for an extraordinary tequila experience.

Where to buy Tequila online?

If you want to buy Tequila online, several reputable options offer unique benefits. Here are some places where you can shop for your favorite bottle of Tequila:

Drizly

Drizly is a convenient platform connecting local liquor stores with customers, much like Uber, but for alcohol. You can explore many tequila options online and often have your selection delivered to your doorstep within an hour. The user-friendly platform allows you to filter by brand, price, and type of Tequila, simplifying your search.

Total Wine & More

Total Wine & More is a well-known U.S.-based alcohol retailer with an extensive online store. They provide a variety of tequilas, ranging from budget-friendly to premium options. The website is easy to navigate, allowing you to find and purchase your preferred Tequila easily.

Wine.com

Wine.com is another reliable online store where you can buy Tequila. They offer diverse tequila brands and types, catering to different preferences and budgets. The website features user reviews and ratings, helping you make informed decisions.

ReserveBar

ReserveBar is a premium online liquor store offering a curated selection of Tequila. It’s a suitable place if you are looking for high-end and limited-edition tequila bottles. The sleek website provides detailed product descriptions, ensuring you know your purchase.

Caskers

Caskers specializes in providing a diverse selection of spirits, including Tequila. They offer exclusive hard-to-find options, making it a go-to place for tequila enthusiasts looking for something unique. The website is organized and gives insights into each Tequila’s flavor profile and background.

These online stores make buying Tequila straightforward and convenient, allowing you to explore and purchase a wide range of options from the comfort of your home.

Why we like Tequila

We all have a thing for Tequila. Firstly, there are so many fantastic flavors. We can enjoy a sweet one like Corralejo or a smooth one like Don Julio. Choosing brands like Herradura feels extra special because they make Tequila the old-fashioned way, a nod to Mexican traditions. Trying out different kinds of Tequila, from Silver to Anejo, is always exciting too. And, having a glass occasionally is good for us, like helping with digestion!

How much does Tequila cost – Price Ranges

The price range of Tequila varies depending on factors like aging, origin, and production methods. Here’s a breakdown of what you might expect to pay for different categories:

  • Budget-Friendly ($10 – $30)

In this range, you’ll find tequilas that are great for mixing into cocktails but might be better for sipping neat. Brands like Jose Cuervo Especial and Sauza Silver fall into this category.

  • Mid-Range ($30 – $60)

These tequilas often balance quality and price, making them suitable for mixing and sipping. Think brands like El Jimador Añejo and Espolon Reposado.

  • Premium ($60 – $100)

You’ll encounter high-quality tequilas typically enjoyed neat or on the rocks in this category. They are often 100% agave and aged for more extended periods. Brands like Patron Añejo and Don Julio Reposado are examples of premium tequilas.

  • Super-Premium ($100 and above)

Tequilas in this range are of exceptional quality, often limited edition, and best enjoyed neatly. They are made using meticulous production methods and are usually aged extensively. Examples include Clase Azul Reposado and Gran Patron Platinum.

  • Ultra-Premium ($300 and above)

This category includes the crème de la crème of tequilas, featuring exceptional aging and production methods. They are usually enjoyed by connoisseurs and are sipped neat to appreciate the full range of flavors. Brands like Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia 250th anniversary and Gran Centenario Leyenda are in this ultra-premium range.”

How to drink Tequila?

You can drink Tequila neat, on the rocks, or mix in cocktails like Margaritas and Tequila Sunrises. You can also enjoy Tequila in shots, use it to enhance the flavor of food dishes, or experience it through tasting flights to compare different types and flavors.

  • Neat or On the Rocks

A glass is all you need for premium and super-premium tequilas with refined flavors. Pour a small amount into a snifter or a tumbler and enjoy it neat, or add a couple of ice cubes if you prefer chilled. The ice will melt slowly, altering the flavor and character of the Tequila subtly.

  • In Cocktails

Silver Tequila works exceptionally well in cocktails like Margaritas, whose crisp flavor mixes with lime juice and triple sec. For a Tequila Sunrise, blend silver Tequila with orange juice and grenadine, then stir it well with ice. Añejo tequila adds depth to cocktails like the El Diablo, where its rich flavor complements crème de cassis and ginger beer.

A shot of three tequila sunrise cocktails in three different glasses on a wooden-marmol tray surrounded by orange pieces and a shaker on the background.

  • With Mixers

You can mix Tequila with various non-alcoholic beverages for a straightforward yet delightful drink. Reposado tequila pairs wonderfully with grapefruit soda, while silver Tequila is excellent with lime soda or tonic water. Pour the Tequila into a glass, add your chosen mixer, and stir.

  • Tequila Shots

Tequila shots are a popular way to consume Tequila quickly. Typically, a shot of Tequila is accompanied by salt and a slice of lime or lemon, known as “lick-shoot-suck.” However, premium tequilas are usually enjoyed without these accompaniments to savor the full range of flavors.

Three tall shot glasses with salt on the rim and a lime wedge on top filled with tequila on a white surface with a transparent bottle of tequila in front of a light blue wall.

  • Culinary Uses

Tequila can also be used in cooking to enhance the flavors of various dishes. It can be used in marinades for meat or added to sauces and desserts for an extra kick.

10 Popular Tequila Cocktails

Margarita

A side shot of a Margarita cocktail in a coupe glass on a black stone plate placed on a blue table surrounded by lime wedges and on a pink background colour.

A Margarita mixes silver tequila, lime juice, and triple sec. Shake these ingredients with ice and strain them into a chilled glass with a salted rim. It balances the crispness of Tequila with sweetness and tartness.

Tequila Sunrise

A side shot of a Tequila Sunrise cocktail in a highball glass on a brown coaster with oranges on the background.

This colorful cocktail combines silver Tequila, orange juice, and grenadine. Pour Tequila and orange juice into a glass over ice, then slowly add grenadine. It creates a sweet and fruity drink with a vibrant appearance.

Paloma

A side shot of a Paloma cocktail in a highball glass on a brown coaster placed on a light blue table surrounded by a jigger, a straw and a half grapefruit.

The Paloma blends tequila with grapefruit soda. Add Tequila to a glass with ice, top with grapefruit soda, and stir. It’s a refreshing and slightly tart cocktail.

El Diablo

This cocktail pairs reposado tequila with crème de cassis, lime juice, and ginger beer. Mix Tequila, crème de cassis, and lime juice, then top with ginger beer. It offers a rich and spicy flavor profile.

Chamomile Highball

The Chamomile Highball combines reposado tequila, chamomile syrup, and club soda. Mix tequila and chamomile/saffron syrup in a glass, add ice, and top with club soda. It’s a light and floral drink.

Juan Collin

Juan Collins mixes silver Tequila, lemon juice, agave syrup, and club soda. Combine these ingredients over ice in a tall glass and stir. It’s a sweet-and-sour cocktail with a fizzy finish.

Matador

The Matador blends silver Tequila, pineapple juice, and lime juice. Shake these ingredients with ice and strain them into a chilled glass. It’s a tropical and tangy cocktail.

La Bandera

La Bandera combines silver tequila, grenadine, and crème de menthe. Layer these ingredients in a shot glass. It represents the Mexican flag’s colors and offers various flavors.

Mexican Mule

This cocktail mixes silver tequila, lime juice, and ginger beer. Add Tequila and lime juice to a glass with ice, then top with ginger beer. It’s a spicy and refreshing drink.

Bloody Maria

The Bloody Maria is a twist on the Bloody Mary, using silver Tequila instead of vodka, mixed with tomato, lime, and various seasonings. Stir all ingredients in a glass over ice. It’s a savory and spicy cocktail.

What are the ingredients of Tequila?

Making Tequila involves a few basic ingredients: blue agave, water, and yeast. Some tequilas may include additional flavorings or additives, especially flavored ones, but genuine Tequila primarily relies on the agave plant.

  • Blue Agave

Blue agave is the core ingredient in Tequila. It is a succulent plant native to Mexico, and its core, called piña, is harvested to produce Tequila. The piñas are cooked to convert their starches into sugars and then fermented.

  • Water

Water dilutes the agave juice after fermentation and again after distillation to bring it to the desired alcohol content. It is a crucial component in the tequila-making process, affecting the overall quality and taste of the final product.

  • Yeast

Yeast is added to the cooked agave juice to ferment the sugars, converting them into alcohol. The type of yeast used can be a natural airborne yeast or a specifically cultivated strain, impacting Tequila’s flavor profile.

  • Additives (Optional)

Some tequilas, particularly those not 100% agave, may contain additives like caramel color, oak extract, glycerin, or sugar syrup to adjust the Tequila’s flavor, aroma, and appearance. However, high-quality, 100% agave tequilas typically do not contain additives.

How is Tequila made?

The process of making Tequila involves several key steps: harvesting blue agave, extracting its juice, fermenting, distilling, aging (for certain types), and finally bottling. Here’s how it unfolds:

1. Blue Agave Harvesting and Juice Extraction

Producers begin by harvesting the core of the blue agave plant known as the piña. After harvesting, they bake or steam the piñas to convert their starches into sugars. They then crush or shred the cooked piñas to extract the agave juice.

2. Creating the Mash

Next, water is added to the agave juice to create a mash. The water dilutes the sugar content to a level suitable for fermentation.

3. Fermentation

Producers introduce yeast into the mash to start fermentation. The yeast consumes the sugars and transforms them into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This process usually lasts seven to thirty days and produces a liquid called “mosto” with low alcohol content.

4. Distillation

The mosto is then transferred to a still for distillation. It usually undergoes two distillations to purify it and increase its alcohol content. The result is a clear, unaged tequila, silver or blanco tequila.

5. Aging (Optional)

Some tequilas are then aged in wooden barrels to develop additional flavors and aromas. The duration of aging can classify Tequila as reposado, añejo, or extra añejo, with each category representing a longer aging period.

Food pairing

Tequila has a crisp and versatile flavor that goes well with many foods. Citrus fruits like lime, orange, and grapefruit make a refreshing and tangy pair with Tequila, enhancing the overall dining experience.

Spicy foods also complement Tequila well. Tequila’s sharp and crisp taste balances the bold flavors in spicy tacos and chili con carne, making each bite enjoyable and flavorful.

A row of tacos with various fillings on a wooden board, served with two tequila shots garnished with salt and lime.

For those who prefer savory foods, Tequila is an excellent match for grilled chicken and ceviche. The smoky flavor of the chicken and the acidity of ceviche are elevated by the earthy notes of Tequila, offering a flavorful experience.

Sweet foods like chocolate and flan taste even better with Tequila, especially the aged ones. The complex flavors of Tequila harmonize with the sweetness of these desserts, adding to their richness.

Salty foods such as salted nuts and olives are also a good match with Tequila. The saltiness of these foods complements the smoothness of Tequila, creating a balanced and enjoyable pairing.

Lastly, herbaceous foods like avocado and cilantro-seasoned dishes pair well with Tequila’s sharp and herbal notes, uniquely satisfying each bite.

Non-alcoholic Tequila

Non-alcoholic Tequila is gaining popularity for those who enjoy the taste of Tequila but prefer to avoid alcohol. It undergoes a similar production process as regular Tequila, utilizing blue agave. However, the distinction lies in the manufacturing process, where producers either remove the alcohol or reduce it to less than 0.5% ABV.

Several brands are venturing into the production of non-alcoholic Tequila. One such brand is ArKay, offering a version of Tequila that retains the fiery and earthy taste of the alcoholic variety. Another notable brand is Ritual Zero Proof, which provides a non-alcoholic alternative that maintains the characteristic flavor of traditional Tequila.

Nutritional facts

The USDA supplies the nutritional data for a single shot of Tequila, which weighs 42 grams or 1.5 ounces. Here’s a table summarizing the nutritional facts:

Nutrient Amount % Daily Value
Calories 97 kcal
Total Fat 0 g 0 %
Saturated Fat 0 g 0 %
Trans Fat 0 g 0 %
Cholesterol 0 mg 0 %
Sodium 0 mg 0 %
Total Carbohydrate 0 g 0 %
Dietary Fiber 0 g 0 %
Sugars 0 g 0 %
Protein 0 g 0 %
Vitamin D 0 mcg 0 %
Calcium 0 mg 0 %
Iron 0 mg 0 %
Potassium 1 mg 0 %

(Please note that the nutritional content can vary slightly based on the brand and specific formulation. Always refer to the product label for the most accurate information).

History and Origin of Tequila

The Aztecs were the first to use agave, the plant from which Tequila is made, long before the Spanish arrived in the 1500s. They made a fermented beverage from the agave plant called “octli,” later called “pulque.”

When the Spanish arrived, they began distilling agave to produce one of North America’s first indigenous distilled spirits, as they had run out of brandy. This early form of Tequila was crude and not refined but was consumed widely by the Spanish conquistadors.

Tequila gets its name from the town of Tequila, located in the state of Jalisco, where the production of Tequila became centralized. The volcanic soil in this region is well-suited for growing blue agave, the only kind of agave from which Tequila can be made.

A man on horseback with a dog, riding through a blue agave tequila production field.

In 1758, the Spanish King granted José Antonio de Cuervo the first commercial license to produce Tequila. José Cuervo’s company is still in operation and is one of the best-known tequila brands in the world.

In the early 19th century, tequila production was on the rise, and by the time of the Mexican Revolution in 1910, it had become a symbol of national pride. Tequila was being consumed widely across Mexico and gaining popularity in the United States.

In 1974, the Mexican government declared the term “tequila” the intellectual property of Mexico, meaning that the drink can only be produced in Mexico, primarily in Jalisco.

FAQs

  1. What is the difference between Tequila and mezcal? While both are made from agave, Tequila is made specifically from blue agave, and mezcal can be made from over 30 types of agave.
  2. What does “100% agave” mean on a tequila bottle? The Tequila is made entirely from blue agave with no additives or additional sugars.
  3. How should Tequila be stored? Tequila should be stored upright in a cool, dark place.
  4. Can Tequila go bad? While it doesn’t spoil, it can lose its flavor and aroma over time, especially after opening.
  5. Is Tequila a type of vodka? No, Tequila and vodka are distinct spirits from different ingredients and processes.
  6. Is Tequila high in sugar? No, pure 100% agave tequila does not contain added sugars.
  7. Is Tequila gluten-free? Yes, pure Tequila, made from 100% agave, is gluten-free.
  8. How long does opened Tequila last? It can last several months but may lose its flavor and aroma.
  9. What is the worm found in some tequila bottles? The “worm” is a moth larva commonly found in mezcal, not Tequila.
  10. Is Tequila made from cactus? No, it is made from the blue agave plant, which is a succulent, not a cactus.
  11. Can you make Tequila at home? No, making Tequila at home is illegal and a regulated product of Mexico.
  12. Can people with diabetes drink Tequila? While Tequila has a lower glycemic index than many other alcohols, it’s best to consult a healthcare provider.
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