Tequila 101

Tequila is a versatile liquor used in many types of mixed drinks or taken as a shot. For most people, tequila means Jose Cuervo or another brand-name bottle the bartender has stockpiled in the storage room. However, there are many subtleties and nuances in craft tequila that are just waiting to be discovered. Whether you are an online culinary student or a regular fan, there is much to learn about this Mexican liquor.

What is tequila?
Where tequila is made and what it’s made from is crucial. In tequila’s case, the Mexican states of Jalisco, Nayarit, Guanajuato, Michoacan and Tamaulipas are important. Only products made in these five regions can be legally considered tequila.

Blue agave is the main ingredient in tequila. Indigenous Mexicans have cultivated the agave plant for thousands of years, using it for food, textiles, building materials and tools. But most importantly, the ancient peoples produced a fermented beverage called octli. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived on the shores of Mexico in the 1500s, they noticed the natives used agave and began to distil the plant themselves.

Types of tequila
Although all tequilas share the same ingredient and are made in similar regions of Mexico, there are three distinct types of tequila on the market.

With a name that literally translates to rested, reposado tequila is aged in oak barrels for months at a time. Close to a year passes before the liquid is released, and in that time it absorbs characteristics of the wood. Many reposado makers create complex flavors by using old bourbon, wine and other beverage barrels. Doing so produces distinct notes in the tequila’s taste and color.

Anejo is one of the most sought-after types of tequila. It is aged between 1-3 years in oak barrels of relatively small size. You won’t find anejo tequila being used in margaritas or shots. Many liquor connoisseurs and tequila enthusiasts prefer to sip anejo from a glass to enjoy its subtleties.

Oro is the Spanish word for gold, but oro tequila does not equate to being the best. Many beverage experts consider it to be for people who do not drink tequila regularly. Oro is allowed to be less than 100 percent blue agave. As a result, up to 49 percent of the sugars are often from other sources like cane. Oro producers usually add coloring and flavors to their final product.One of the most notable characteristics of oro tequila is that it doesn’t have a strong agave flavor. Because it uses non-agave sugars, oro tequila is sometimes called mixtos.

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