Tequila is one of the major hard liquors, also referred to as distilled spirits, typically consumed in the United States. The six major types of distilled spirits are; whiskey, vodka, rum, gin, brandy, and our favorite, tequila. Below, we will be telling you all about tequila.
Tequila is distilled from the Blue Agave plant, native to the area around the city of Tequila, Mexico, which is northwest of Guadalajara and the Jaliscan Highlands in west-central Mexico in the state of Jalisco. Much like certain wines from France, tequila is a designation that requires that the liquor be produced in this area of Mexico and must be made from the Blue Agave cactus. A sister liquor known as Mezcal can be produced with both different ingredients and produced outside of the designated region. Tequila must have between 35 and 55 percent alcohol (70 to 110 proof). To be sold in the United States or Canada, tequila must have 40% alcohol.
Tequila is served neat in Mexico but is consumed either as a shot or in a drink outside of Mexico.
Types of Tequila
What story all about tequila would stop here? Definitely not this one. It’s essential to understand the different types of tequila that there are. As this is my preferred cocktail, I will tell you in advance, if you are going to be mixing drinks, you can use any tequila, but if you are going to be drinking the tequila neat or as a shot, you should stick with the more expensive types of tequila.
There are four different types of tequila available; Blanco, Reposado, Anejo, Extra Anejo. There are different variations of these, but these are the four generally acceptable types of tequila available.
- Blanco also referred to as Silver Tequila, is not aged and is bottled and stored immediately upon distillation. Blanco may be aged in stainless steel vats but is typically aged for less than 2 months. We recommend that Blanco/Silver tequila only be used for mixing drinks. You can drink it straight, but if you do, drink it very cold.
- Reposado literally means rested tequila. Reposado is aged a minimum of 2 months up to a year in oak barrels. You can drink Reposado either straight or as a mixed drink.
- Anejo literally means aged or vintage. Anejo is aged from one to three years in small oak barrels. We recommend Anejo be consumed straight as mixing it in a drink won’t allow the full flavor of the spirits to come through.
- Extra Anejo is a new classification that became recognized in 2006. This is aged a minimum of 3 years in oak barrels. We recommend that you only drink extra Anejo neat or in shots to get the full flavor that the extra aging brings to the drink.
Two additional types are really variations of these four types. Gold tequila is typically a blend of distilled spirits from blue agave and some related plant. It’s not 100% pure blue agave tequila. There is some aging in barrels which can add to the color. Gold tequila is typically a little more expensive than Silver or Blanco tequila. Jose Cuervo is known for its Cuervo Gold tequila. Another somewhat new variation is Ultra Anejo. Herradura has recently introduced this new variation in 2015. This particular tequila is made from a 25-month old Anejo called Seleccion Suprema, but the color from the bourbon barrels is filtered out of it.
Growth of Tequila
Tequila sales have grown significantly in the last decade. According to the Distilled Spirits Council, sales of tequila have grown to 22,172,000 cases by 2020, rapidly approaching the popularity of rum in the United States. This was the fastest-growing category of spirits in 2020. In 2010 there was a total of 11,562,000 cases sold in the US, an increase of 92% in the decade. This is in comparison to sales of rum, which has only grown 0.7% in sales in the same period. Much of the growth in tequila sales have been in the high-end premium products, rather than what would be considered to be the value products (Blanco).
Jose Cuervo is by far the top brand of tequila in the United States. The company represents nearly a quarter of all tequila sales worldwide. Some other top brands in the US are; Patron, Sauza (the oldest distillery selling into the US since the 1800s), 1800 Tequila (owned by the same family that owns Cuervo), and our favorite for chilled shots is #5 Don Julio. Two of the better ‘other contender’ brands that you might see in your local liquor store are Hornitos and Herrudura. These two might be a few dollars less than the other brands, but they are really excellent choices.
Our Favorite Tequila Cocktail
Roughly half of the time that I drink tequila (which is my distilled beverage of choice). The other half of the time, I like to drink a La Paloma. I really love the taste of this one, plus there’s a really quick and easy shortcut for this cocktail, with very few calories.
The standard recipe for a La Paloma is:
- Shaker (optional)
- 2 ounces tequila we recommend a reposado
- 2 ounces grapefruit juice
- 2 ounces sparkling water or club soda
- 1/2 ounce lime juice
- 1/4 ounce agave nectar or simple syrup
- Combine all the ingredients in a shaker with 2 or 3 ice cubes.
- Shake until the shaker feels cold.
- (Optional) Salt the rim of the glass
- Fill a rocks glass with ice,
- Pour the contents of the shaker into the glass.
This is a very simple and very satisfying recipe. If you don’t want to go through the bother of mixing all of this (and it’s not really that much), there’s a really simple recipe with only 3 ingredients (besides ice).
The simple recipe for a La Paloma is:
- 2 ounces of tequila
- 4 ounces of grapefruit soda, Jarritos is an excellent Mexican soda (for 0 added calories you can use Fresca)
- 1/2 ounce of lime juice
Just a note, the simple recipe will tend to be a little bit sweeter than the standard recipe.