Tequila Selection
Spirits 101

The ultimate tequila guide

The complete tequila guide: Learn its history, find out what it's made from, the different types of tequila, how to drink it, delicious recipes, top brands and more.

by: The Bar
Tequila Selection

We've all been there. On a night out when someone yells: "shots," and the next thing you know, a row of shots, along with salt and a wedge of lime, are lined up on the bar waiting for you and your crew. It's fair to say this is what many people think of tequila, but honestly, that’s a pretty outdated representation – there's so much more to this wonderful spirit.

Celebrity-owned brands have been popping up everywhere, which has helped tequila establish itself as the spirit of the moment year over year, not to mention its versatility in drinks. Whether you like white spirits or aged ones, there’s a tequila for you. There is an abundance of ways to enjoy drinking tequila, but it all starts with a beautifully unique and authentic process. So get ready to forget everything you think you know about tequila and let’s get into it…

What is tequila?

Tequila is more than just a drink; it’s an iconic spirit that has been part of Mexico's history for years. Tequila is a distilled spirit made from the blue agave plant, a native plant to Mexico.

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Where is tequila made?

Tequila is only produced in five regions of Mexico: Jalisco (where 70% of tequila is made and home to the town Tequila), Michoacán, Guanajuato, Nayarit and Tamaulipas. It can only be made in Mexico as the agave plant that tequila is extracted from is indigenous to specific regions of Mexico.

Don Julio Brand Passion Photoshoot ODF1198
Don Julio Brand Passion Photoshoot ODF1353
Don Julio Brand Passion Photoshoot ODF1353

What is tequila made from?

Tequila is made from blue agave plants that can take anywhere between 6-12 years to mature depending on where they are planted. Usually after seven to ten years of growth, the agave plant is ready to be harvested. This process is still done by hand. The agave is then cooked, crushed and fermented to extract the juices. The juice is then distilled and bottled or aged in oak barrels to create different flavors and aromas.

What defines tequila?

For a spirit to be legally called 100% tequila, it must meet a few requirements.

 

  1. It can only be made in the five Mexican states listed earlier.
  2. It must be made with 100% blue agave.
  3. It must legally be distilled twice.
  4. It must be made from a minimum of 51% blue agave, with the remainder to be made up of a neutral spirit made from cane sugar juice.
  5. Consejo Regulador del Tequila (CRT), or Tequila Regulatory Council, must approve it.
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What about tequila’s alcohol content?

ABV stands for Alcohol by Volume percentage, as in the percentage of the drink that contains alcohol. Tequila needs to be bottled at between 35% and 55% ABV but is usually sold at 35% – 38%. You'll find that different countries have different ABVs - the US market stipulates a minimum of 40%, South Africa 43% and Europe 37.5%.

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Patio Margarita Squeezing Lime Square
Patio Margarita Squeezing Lime Square

What does tequila taste like?

Each tequila is slightly different. But tequila has a unique smooth, sweet and earthy flavor. This is all determined by where the agave is grown and the style in which it is processed.

Tequila made in the lowland areas tends to have more of an herbal, earthier taste, whereas you get a fruity, floral taste with a sweeter finish with tequila made in the highlands. Barrel aging tequila will give the spirit an oaky, vanilla-y sort of flavor. Blanco tequilas tend to offer the purest tequila taste, with a semi-sweet, distinctive flavor.

Is tequila the same as mezcal?

No. Although mezcal is similar to tequila—they’re both made from an agave plant—it’s not the same as tequila. It can be made from many species of agave plant, not just the blue agave like tequila is. Also, mezcal is produced using traditional methods, which include cooking the agave underground which creates a smokier flavor. Mezcal has quickly gained popularity due to its smoky and smooth flavor, with people using it to create unique drinks like Mezcal Negronis and Mezcal Mules.

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What are the five main types of tequila?

1. Blanco (silver/white)

Blanco, the purest tequila, is made of 100% blue agave. The taste is slightly sweet, and the color is clear. This tequila is unaged and bottled after the second distillation. Occasionally, it is rested for up to 8 weeks.

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2. Reposado

Reposado means “rested”. These tequilas are aged in oak barrels anywhere from two months to one year. It has a smooth flavor with notes of oak, vanilla and caramel, and is best mixed in cocktails with grapefruit and lime.

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3. Añejo

Añejo means "old" or "vintage." These are tequilas aged for at least one year, or between 1- 3 years, and have had direct contact with oak containers. It has a rich taste with notes of vanilla and cinnamon.

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4. Extra Añejo

This tequila has been ageing for three years or more with a maximum capacity of 600 liters per barrel. As it spends more time in contact with wood, it has a stronger aroma with more complex notes and a smoky flavor, like an aged whiskey or cognac. It’s the most expensive and rarest type of tequila.

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5. Cristalino

Cristalino means “crystal-clear.” This type of tequila is truly a luxury craft spirit. Twice distilled and aged to perfection for 18 months, this añejo is then filtered to remove the golden honey color, resulting in a crisp, bright spirit that maintains the flavor and cask notes of a premium tequila.

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Is tequila a good gift?

Absolutely! We believe gifting a bottled drink as a gift is always a good idea, and a personalized top-shelf bottle of tequila is the perfect choice for your tequila-loving friends or someone special who wants to try something new.

What tequila should you buy?

Not sure where to start when choosing the right tequila? Planning a party at home and want to stock up? Looking to perfect your margarita technique? Or maybe you know your way around tequila and want to try something different.

Sip your way through the best tequila brands

So, now that you know all about tequila, here are our top 5 favorite tequila cocktails that are easy to recreate at home.

Don Julio Limonada

Fresh lemon meets the taste of sweet agave. If you're looking for a simple serve where tequila takes centre stage, this is it. 

Añejo Old Fashioned

A unique Mexican take on an iconic cocktail, the Añejo Old Fashioned is guaranteed to create a stir with your guests. From the notes of dried fruit and vanilla in the tequila to the aromatic spice of the bitters, it's packed with the warm flavors of chiller seasons. 

Casa Paloma

The Paloma combines tequila with sour citrus and a drop of sweet agave nectar for a delicious tasting cocktail. 

Classic Margarita

The tequila cocktail, above all tequila cocktails. The classic marg is an easy to make tequila drink to sip on with friends.

Tequila Sunrise

If you want to try something a bit different, then this Mexican classic is for you!

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