Oct 18 , 2022
Whether you’ve knocked back shots on a Friday night or whipped up some killer margaritas, everyone has a soft spot for tequila. But how much do we really know about our beloved tipple? Here’s your tequila 101 guide!
How is it made?
With its popularity resulting in a significant shortage over the past few years, ‘Agave’ is a word that almost everyone will know! Agave refers to the slow-growing, succulent plant from which all tequila comes. The Agave Tequilana plant, a.k.a Blue Agave, predominantly found in an area called Jalisco, Mexico is the main plant responsible for the spirit.
The plant favours altitudes of over 1,500 metres and lives in rich, sandy soils for about five to ten years. Once the plant is harvested, the leaves are cut so that only the heart of the agave remains. The hearts are steamed in ovens - and it’s the ‘heart’ that makes our beloved Mexican spirit. The hearts are also often called ‘Piña’ (meaning pineapple) because of their resemblance to the juicy fruit.
How is it drank?
They say some tequila is to be shot, and others are to be savoured, all of which are dependent on a few factors. Tequila is globally famous for being the backbone of our favourite margaritas and the centre of attention in a shot glass but that’s not all it can do. Tequila is becoming more and more versatile, it can be enjoyed over ice with a wedge of lime, or paired with a variety of mixers such as ginger ale, grapefruit juice and tonic water.
Typical tequila terms (see what we did there)
Mezcal is technically the term used to describe any alcoholic spirit that derives from all agave. Similar to how ‘all bourbon is whisky but not all whisky is bourbon’ - all tequilas are mezcal, but not all mezcals are tequila.
The word ‘nom’ might come to mind when getting your lips around a juicy margarita, but it has a different meaning here! Norma Oficial Mexicana (NOM), is the government body that oversees the official Mexican standards of Tequila. It regulates production standards so much so that distillery labels have their own NOM number. If you spot a ‘nomber’ on a bottle of tequila then you know it’s legit, as the figures are used as a way of guaranteeing authenticity.
Blanco means white or youthful, and therefore is an un-aged tequila in this instance. Unlike reposado or Anejo, it’s only left to mature for a mere two months before it’s unleashed into our cocktail glasses.
Reposado means ‘rest’ (yes, we know this is starting to feel like a Spanish lesson). This is tequila that has sat for longer than two months, but no longer than twelve.
Tequila Añejo refers to a version of the spirit that’s been aged between one to four years in oak barrels. With age comes a richer taste with notes of vanilla and cinnamon making an appearance on the palate.
Anejo means ‘old’ or ‘vintage’ so what if it’s older than ‘old’? Behold, the new-ish category - extra añejo! With more age comes a darker hue, and a more intense, spicy oak flavour. This is the tequila that can really be enjoyed on the rocks.
A mixed Tequila is typically comprised of 51% agave, along with sugar or neutral spirits from sugarcane. The addition of other ingredients means it’s typically on the cheaper side of the scale depending on quality.
I mean, it’s gold, right? Well, technically this is a category all on its own. ‘Gold’ is the term coined for tequila that hasn’t been aged in a barrel but has a similar colour to its counterparts thanks to some artificial colours and flavours.
How is it different from mezcal?
Anyone that’s curious about the drinks of Mexico will ask this question at some point. They have a similar colour and they both come from agave, so what gives? It’s a tale of taste and strength so it seems! Don’t let appearances fool you, the flavours of these drinks are in fact, quite different. Like other spirits, the taste can be dependent on a variety of factors.
The region, the water source, the agave plant and how the spirit is made will alter the finishing flavour. Tequila tends to have a smooth and rich mouthfeel, while mezcal brings a unique, savoury and smoky taste to your palate. Our advice, stick to shooting tequila and sipping mezcal!Did someone say tequila time? Explore the huge range at sessionsliquor.com.au or better yet visit a sessions liquor store in Melbourne and the staff will be happy to help you stock up on Mexico’s finest!