Tequila shots© theluxuryspot.com

Tequila is a Spanish regional-specific name for Mezcal originating from Mexico. Tequila is produced from the blue agave plant found around the town Tequila in the Mexican State of Jalisco.

The local red volcanic soil is particularly suited for the cultivation of blue agave. Depending on the growing region, the aroma, taste and size of the agave Tequila changes: in the Highlands region the agave is larger and sweeter and in the lowlands the agave is smaller and spicy.

Each year more than 300 million of these plants are harvested.

The Mexican legislature prescribes that Mezcal may only be called Tequila if it is produced in the Mexican State of Jalisco and in some municipalities of the States of Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas.

The supervisory authority Consejo Regulador del Tequila monitors compliance with the legal requirements and assigns an identification code that is found on all the bottle labels.

There are over 900 brands of Tequila in Mexico made by over 100 Mexican distilleries.

What is the story behind the Mexican national drink?

Tequila Agaven Ernte© bwbx.io

The first Tequila was produced in the 16th century by the Spanish. Previously the old Aztec had developed a fermented beverage from the agave plant and also chewed the agave hearts.

They began with the relocation of Spanish immigrants to distill the agave plant to manufacture the so called first "local spirits" in the new world.

Who started the production of Tequila?

In the 17th century Don Pedro Sánchez de Tagle opened the first factory in the area of the present-day Jalisco with the mass production of Tequila. The Spanish King Carlos IV granted the Cuervo family the first commercial license to trade with Tequila.

Finally it was Don Cenobio Sauza - founder of Sauza Tequila and municipal President of Tequila – who first exported Tequila to the United States. Thanks to him the name was shortened from "Tequila extract" for the American market to "Tequila".

Piña as the centerpiece of the Tequilas

Tequila Pina© huffpost.com

Production of Tequila is still a traditional manual effort. Regular trimming of the Quiotes (a several meter high shaft in the middle of the agave) by the jimadores (farmer), prevents the agave from blooming and dying too early which also allows optimum ripening.

The jimadores carefully cut the leaves from the lush heart – the pina, with a coa - a circular knife on a long pole.

If the pina is harvested too late or too early, the piñas may not have produced the right amount of carbohydrates for the fermentation. A pina can weigh anything between 70 kg to 110 kg depending where they were grown.

After the harvest the piñas are slowly baked in kilns to convert their complex starch into simple sugars. Then they are either shredded or mashed under a Tahona - a large stone wheel.

The fibers - bagazo – can be reused afterwards by some manufacturers to make useful products like fuel or compost. A small amount of bagazo is added into the fermentation tanks to produce a stronger agave flavor in the final product.

Tequila Reifung© jackdaniels.com

How is Tequila made?

The extracted agave juice ferments for several days either in large wooden or stainless steel tanks. The resulting wort with low alcohol content (mosto) is distilled again to produce ordinario.

After a second distillation, clear silver Tequila is the result. Some producers even distill the product a third time.

Some connoisseurs don’t agree with third distillation saying that too much aroma is removed from the Tequila.

Finally the Tequila is bottled and sold as silver Tequila or it is stored in wooden barrels for maturation and color formation. Thus emerges Tequila gold, Reposado, Anejo and extra Anejo.

Tequila is a distilled liquor so it does not need special storage other than to keep the bottle sealed and to keep the bottle out of direct sunlight. Tequila is ideally consumed within one to two years of opening.

How different is the taste of Tequila Agave regions?

There are distinct taste differences between agave grown in the low and high country. Plants from the Highlands are often sweeter and give a fruity Tequila, while lowland agave lend an earthy and spicier taste in the Tequila.

Are there many different types of Tequila?

Tequila is distinguished by two categories. The first category is the Mixto. The Mixto contains at least 51% sugar from the blue agave - the rest is usually cane sugar. The Mixto apply to lower transport and maturity requirements. The second category is the 100% agave azul, which must consist of 100% blue agave.

The different phases of maturity of the Tequila then determine its name. This is either Spanish or English:

Don Julio Reposado Tequila
Don Julio Reposado Tequila
  • Tequila blanco/ silver
    pure clear or white Tequila will be bottled immediately after distillation. Has a 38% to 55% alcohol content
  • Tequila gold/ joven/ oro
    Tequila gold is a blend of white and aged Tequila. It is simply a white Tequila with some added caramel color
  • Tequila aged/ reposado
    Tequila Reposado is white Tequila which is matured at least 2 to 12 months in white oak barrels allowing rich and complex flavor’s
  • Tequila extra-aged/ añejo
    a maturation period of at least one and up to three years is prescribed in barrels that previously aged whiskey ensuring the dark color and complex flavor’s
  • Tequila ultra-aged/ extra-añejo
    this category exists since March 2006 and refers to a shot of Tequila, which is matured at least three years

How is Tequila drunk traditionally?

Tequila Sangrita© saveur.com

In Mexico Tequila is traditionally drunk without lemon and salt. In some regions it is very popular to drink the Tequila with Sangrita because it is all at once sweet, sour and spicy.

Usually in balanced proportions Sangrita consists of orange juice and grenadine (or tomato juice) - in many variants some chili is added.

A further popular drink is the Bandera (Spanish flag). Why flag? The flag of Mexico is composed of three colors: white, red and green.

Consequently the Bandera consists of three shot glasses with lime juice (green), white Tequila (white) and Sangrita (red).

Tequila tasting international

Tequila Blanco und Oro shots© gomeal.de

Outside of Mexico Tequila is often served with salt and a slice of lime or lemon. This is called Tequila cruda and lick-sip-suck is sometimes referred to as Jockey wheel or is referred to as lick-shoot-suck.

The drinkers moisten the back of their hand, sprinkle salt on it, licking it out of hand, drink the Tequila and bite into the citrus fruit.

The idea is that the salt reduces the burning of the Tequila and the sour citrus fruit improves the taste and it is balanced.

In Germany and some other countries Tequila gold is often consumed with cinnamon on a slice of orange while Tequila Blanco is enjoyed with salt and lemon or lime.

The perfect blend: Tequila and cocktails

The Margarita is the most popular Tequila cocktail in the United States and is also one of the most popular spirits. Tequila, Cointreau and lime juice can be found in the traditional Margarita. The Paloma is a popular cocktail in Mexico.

Also a number of Martini variations include Tequila as well as many cocktails with fruit juice bases such as the Tequila Sunrise or the Matador.

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