Tequila is the national liquor of Mexico. It is made from the blue agave succulent. Tequila’s sister liquor, mezcal, can be made from any type of agave.
Some of tequila’s distinct flavor comes from the fact that the agave sugar is fructose (fruit sugar) rather than the sucrose produced by sugar cane or sugar beets.
Tequila comes from the area around the city of Tequila. By law it can only be produced in Jalisco state and specified towns in Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit and Tamaulipas states.
In the mountains, blue agave produces a sweeter taste. In the lowlands it has a more herbal taste.
Types of Tequila
There are two categories of tequila: 100% agave and mixtos which are at least 51% agave, but are blended with other sugars.
After 100% agave and mixtos, there are three types of tequila based on how long it is aged. Aged spirits take on wood flavors and alcohol taste mellows.
Blanco (White or Silver)
White tequila is not aged or aged in flavorless containers for under two months. Blanco tequila has a stronger flavor up front.
Reposado tequila is aged between two months and a year in oak barrels of any size.
Añejo tequila is aged in small oak barrels for one to three years. An Extra Añejo category was created in 2006 for tequila aged more than three years.
About 100 distilleries make all tequila.
The Tequila Story
Pulque is an alcoholic beverage made from the sap of certain agaves. It was a sacred drink in pre-Columbian times, but became a common drink after the Spanish conquest of Mexico (1519 – 1521).
When the Spaniards ran out of brandy, they followed the locals and started distilling agave, giving rise to mescal and tequila.
Many of today’s most popular brands of tequila have roots in colonial New Spain. Around 1600 Don Pedro Sánchez de Tagle, the Marquis of Altamira, began mass producing tequila around Jalisco. The Cuervo family received the first official license to produce tequila.
Don Cenobio Sauza was the first to export tequila to the United States. His grandson Don Francisco Javier worked to establish the tequila appellation so tequila only comes from Jalisco state, in the same way that Champagne only comes from the Champagne region of France.
Today tequila production is regulated by the Consejo Regulador del Tequila.
How to Drink Tequila
In Mexico, we drink tequila neat (just poured in a glass). Outside Mexico most people drink tequila with salt and a lime chaser.
Quality 100% agave tequilas may be sipped neat from a snifter glass to enjoy the flavors.
In 2002, an official tequila glass was designated.
The Margarita is a popular drink made from tequila, orange liqueur and lime.
National Tequila Day
National Tequila Day is July 24.
Tequila in New York City
Mexican chef Richard Sandoval’s Latin-Asian fusion restaurant Zengo in Murray Hill, Manhattan has a tequila and mezcal bar called La Biblioteca (The Library).
La Biblioteca features over 400 bottles of tequila and mezcal from the biggest producers to artisanal makers. It offers lockers, like in a cigar bar, for those who like to keep a bottle or two handy.
La Bibilioteca at Zengo
622 Third Ave, New York, NY 10017
(at 40th St)
Murray Hill, Manhattan