What is tequila? How is it made? Is there always a worm in each bottle?
I. Tequila: What is It?
II. Common Myths
III. Popular Books
IV. Terms & Terminology
V. Popular Brands
I. Tequila: What is It?
Tequila is a distilled beverage from the fermented sugars of the blue agave (agave tequilana weber azul). Producers must make it in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Or in a few other specific areas of the country. And from agave grown in those areas.
Agaves that grow in the highlands produce a sweeter beverage. Those that grow in the the lowlands have a more herbaceous character.
Tequila has two basic categories. One is mixtos and the other is 100% agave. Mixtos must use 51% or more agave sugars. Obviously, 100% agave uses no other sugars.
In addition, the beverage falls into one of these five types.
- Blanco (“white”) or plata (“silver”). These are very clear. Producers don’t age it and usually bottle it promptly. But they can can store it for less than two months in stainless steel or neutral oak.
- Oro (“gold”) or Joven (“young”). Producers don’t age this type either. Yet they can flavor it with sugar syrup, caramel, oak extract, or glycerin. Or they can make it by blending blanco with aged or extra-aged product. Either method gives a golden hue to the tequila. Hence, the name “gold.”
- Reposado (“rested”). Producers age this at least two months but fewer than twelve months. They do so in oak barrels of any size.
- Anejo (“aged”). Producers aged this at least one year but fewer than three in small oak barrels.
- Extra-Anejo (“extra-aged”). Producers age this at least three years in small oak barrels.
Distillers must make tequila from the blue agave. But they can make mezcal from over 30 varieties of agave (maguey). So all tequila is mezcal, but not all mezcal is tequila. Just as rum is distilled spirits, but not all distilled spirits is rum.
II. Common Myths
Myth: “Tequila bottles contain a worm.” This is never done. However, some mezcal producers put butterfly larva (gusanos de maguey) in their bottles.
And many people enjoy eating gusanos as a meal. Some prefer gusano rojo (red). Others like gusano de oro (gold). So now you have the truth.
Myth: “People properly drink it with only salt and lime.” False. In Mexico, people generally enjoy it neat. That is, straight or with nothing added). Many people prefer drinking it alternating with shots of sangrita. That’s a beverage of orange juice, tomato juice and hot chile. Also popular is drinking a shot of white tequila, one of lime juice, and one of sangrita. And of course, there are many cocktails that include “the spirit of Mexico.”
Myth: “Tequila is cactus juice.” This is simply false. It’s true that both agaves and cacti live in arid areas. In spite of that, agaves are not cacti. So it isn’t cactus juice.
Myth: “People tend to become aggressive when they drink tequila.” But there’s no evidence that different forms of alcoholic beverage actually cause different moods or behaviors. On the other hand, people’s expectations heavily influence how they act when intoxicated.
In fact, people who falsely think they’ve been drinking alcohol tend to act like those have really been drinking. Conversely, those who falsely think they haven’t been drinking act like people who haven’t been drinking.
Obviously, alcohol effects heartbeat, breathing, reaction speed etc. And drinking enough causes people to lose coordination, balance, etc. This is one reason for the myth. It seems so plausible. If alcohol can effect these things, people assumed it could cause our moods and behaviors.
But there’s a big problem. For example, in societies that don’t think alcohol disinhibits. And it doesn’t disinhibit! In a society that thinks men drinking will become aggressive if a woman is present, they will. Yet in another society, people think that when a woman is present, there will be no violence. And when a woman is present, there is no violence.
So, if people think that Mexico’s most popular spirit will make them aggressive, they will tend to become aggressive. But it was their belief that makes them aggressive, not their alcoholic beverage choice. Discover more at Gin Makes You Cry and Bubbly Makes You Flir
III. Popular Books
DeBarrios, V. A Guide to Tequila, Mezcal and Pulque.
Desmet, K. Tequila & Mezcal.
Gaytan, M. Tequila! Distilling the Spirit of Mexico.
Graham, C. ¡Hola Tequila!: Ninety Creative Cocktails and Inspired Shooters.
Limon, E. Tequila: the Spirit of Mexico.
February 22nd is National Margarita Day in the US. But people anywhere can celebrate it!
Williams, I. Tequila: a Global History. (Includes many cocktail recipes and advice on buying, storing, tasting and serving tequila.)
Youman, B. and Estep, B. Liquid Mexico: Festive spirits and the Infamous Worm.
Also Useful (no offense intended!)
Foley, R. Bartending for Dummies.
Zavatto, A. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Bartending.
IV. Terms about Tequila
Talk like an expert with these words and terms.
Abocado means not aged in wood.
Agave (ah-gah-vay) is a plant of great economic importance to Mexico. Agave Azul is blue agave. It’s in the family agavaceae (ah-gav-ay-see-ee). Its genus is agave. The species is tequilana (te-kee-lee-ah-na). And the cultivar is Weber’s blue.
Agave sazon (sah-zone) is ripe agave. That is, ready to harvest.
Aguamiel (ah-gwah-mee-el) is the sap from the core (piña or cabeza) of the agave plant. It has a high level of sugar.
Alambique (al-am-bee-kay) is a still. Producers distill alcohol by boiling liquids that have alcohol in them. They then condensing the steam through condensation. Alcohol boils before water. Thus, it condenses first.
Altos de Jalisco (altos-day-ha-lees-coh) The heights or uplands area of Jalisco state.
“Smile if you call me old.”
Añejo (an-yay-ho) means old. Producers aged this at least one year but fewer than three in small oak barrels.
Blanco (blahn-co) or white Producers generally bottle their clear product promptly after distillation.
Blue agave (agave azul) is agave tequilana weber azul.
Caballito (ca-ba-yee-to) or “little horse” is a traditional shot glass. It’s tall, wider at the top, and holds two to three ounces.
Cabeza (ca-bay-zah) is Spanish for head. It’s another name for the piña, the core of the agave. The first portion of the distilled liquid is also the head.
Coa de Jima (co-a-de-hema). Harvestors use this sharp round-edged tool to remove leaves from an agave’s piña.
Concha (cone-ka) or shell. If you shake a bottle of tequila, a bubble stay on the top. If it doesn’t, you may have a mixo instead. Many people call it a perla (pearl).
Consejo Regulador del Tequila (cone-say-hoe-reg-u-la-door) or CRT. This is a private, non-profit organization protecting the name and quality of tequila. Members include the government, agave farmers, distillers, bottlers and distributors.
“Really smile if you call me extra old!”
Extra Añejo is extra-old. Producers age the liquid for at least three years in small oak barrels.
Fermentacíon (fur-men-ta-see-own) is fermentation. Yeast converts sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Gusano (ga-sah-no) A butterfly larva (gusano de maguey) that can live in agave. Some producers of mezcal put a gusano in their bottles. But they never put them in tequila bottles.
Hecho (ay- cho) en Mexico means made in Mexico. Producers print this on the labels of distillate made from 100% agave.
Jalisco (ha-lees-coh). The Mexican state which produces by far the most tequila.
Joven (hoe-vin) means young. Producers don’t age this. However, they can flavor it with sugar syrup, caramel, oak extract, or glycerin. Or they can make it by blending blanco with aged or extra-aged product. Many producers call this oro (gold).
Madurado is another word for reposado.
Maguey (mah-gay) is the generic name for all agave species.
Mezcal (mez-call) is another name for maguey plant. Also, Mezcal is the generic name for all spirits distilled from the agave.
Mixto (mix-toe). Distillers make this from a mixture of at least 51 percent blue agave sugars. They supplement it with other plant sugars and distill it twice.
Mosto (moss-toe) is must. Producers toast and grind piñas and call the resulting mixture mosto.
Normas Oficiales Mexicanas (NOM) or Mexican Official Rules. The Mexican government licenses businesses, including distilleries. Therefore, each distillery has a unique license number.
Oro. See Joven.
Perla (pearl). See concha.
Piña (peen-yah) is Spanish for pineapple. The core of an agave resembles a pineapple. Hence, the name. Cabeza (head) is another name.
Plata (silver). Producers bottle the liquid promptly bottle the liquid promptly after they distill it. They label it plata or, more commonly, blanco (white). It’s not white but very clear.
“Show me the proof!”
Proof is a measure of the percentage of alcohol in a liquid. In the U.S. and Canada, it’s twice the percentage. Thus, a beverage of 40% alcohol is 80 proof. Different countries measure alcohol differently.
Pulque (pull-kay). Brewers make this beer-like beverage from the sap of agave.
Reposado (ray-po-sah-doh) means rested. Distillers put the liquid in wooden barrels for two to twelve months.
International tequila day is July 24th.
Sangrita is a non-alcoholic beverage. It contains tomatoes, orange and lime juice, onions, salt and hot chili peppers. Don’t confuse sangrita with sangria. The latter is a fruit juice and wine beverage.
Tepache (tee-pach-ee) is wort. That is, the fermented pulp and juices of agave piñas.
Tequila is a spirit distilled from the piñas of blue agave.
Yeast is a microscopic plant that converts sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
V. Brands of Tequila
Some distilleries make many brands. In addition, many brands don’t have their own distillery. Instead, they lease the use of one.
If you would like your favorite brand listed, send your recommendation to hansondj [at sign] potsdam [dot] edu/.
A – C
E – F
H – K
L – O
P – S
T – V
VI. Tequila Distilleries
AGAVEROS DE MICHOACÁN.
“ UNIDOS DE AMATITAN.
“ Y TEQUILEROS UNIDOS DE LOS ALTOS.
AGROINDUSTRIAS CASA RAMIREZ.
AGROTEQUILERA DE JALISCO.
ALTOS CIENEGA UNIDOS.
ASOCIACIÓN PROCESADORA DE AGAVE DE CHURINTZIO.
BACARDI Y COMPAÑIA.
BROWN – FORMAN TEQUILA MEXICO.
“ DON ROBERTO.
“ REYES BARAJAS.
“ TEQUILERA DE ARANDAS.
CAVAS DE DON MAX.
CIA. TEQUILERA LA QUEMADA.
“ LOS ALAMBIQUES.
“ TEQUILERA LOS GENERALES.
COMERCIALIZADORA DE AGAVE Y DERIVADOS LA MULA.
COMPAÑÍA DESTILADORA DE XAMAY.
“ TEQUILERA HACIENDA LA CAPILLA.
“ “ HACIENDA SAHUAYO.
“ “ LA MISION.
COOPERATIVA TEQUILERA LA MAGDALENA.
CORPORATIVO DESTILERIA SANTA LUCIA.
“ CASA BLANCA VAZQUEZ.
“ DE AGAVE EL MENTIDERO.
DESTILADORA DE AGAVE EL MENTIDERO.
“ “ “ HACIENDA LOS HUAJES.
DESTILADORA DE LOS ALTOS LA JOYA.
“ “ “ “ .
DESTILADORA DE TEQUILA MARAVA.
“ “ “ TANGAMANDAPIO.
DESTILADORA DEL VALLE DE TEQUILA.
DESTILADORA EL PAISANO.
“ “ PARAISO.
DESTILADORA GONZALEZ GONZALEZ.
“ LA BARRANCA.
“ LOS MAGOS.
“ “ SAUCES.
“ SANTA VIRGINIA.
“ SUPREMA DE LOS ALTOS.
“ SUPREMA DE LOS ALTOS.
“ EL PANDILLO.
“ LAS CAÑADAS.
DESTILERIAS SIERRA UNIDAS.
ELABORACION DE BEBIDAS DESTILADAS DE AGAVE.
EMPRESA EJIDAL TEQUILERA DE AMATITAN.
FABRICA DE AGUARDIENTES DE AGAVE LA MEXICANA.
FABRICA DE TEQUILA DON NACHO.
“ “ “ EL EDEN.
“ “ “ EL NACIMIENTO.
“ “ “ TLAQUEPAQUE.
“ “ “ FINOS.
FELICIANO VIVANCO Y ASOCIADOS.
GRUPO FAMILIAR DON CRISPIN.
“ INDUSTRIAL TEQUILERO DE LOS ALTOS DE JALISCO.
“ INTERNACIONAL DE EXPORTACION.
“ TEQUILERO DE LOS ALTOS.
“ “ MEXICO.
“ “ WEBER.
“ DE ORO.
HERLINDO LUNA GARCÍA
INDUSTRIALIZADORA DE AGAVE SAN ISIDRO.
“ INTEGRAL DEL AGAVE.
INTEGRADORA SAN AGUSTIN.
J – M
JORGE SALLES CUERVO Y SUCESORES.
JUAN ANGEL RIVERA PARTIDA
LETICIA HERMOSILLO RAVELERO
LUCIO RIVERA DE ARO
MARCO ANTONIO JAUREGUI HUERTA
P – R
PATRON SPIRITS MEXICO.
PERNOD RICARD MEXICO.
PREMIUM DE JALISCO.
PROCESADORA DE AGAVE PENJAMO.
PRODUCTORES DE AGAVE Y DERIVADOS DE DEGOLLADO.
PRODUCTOS FINOS DE AGAVE.
“ REGIONALES DE ATOTONILCO.
“ SELECTOS DE AGAVE.
PROMOTORA AGRO INDUSTRIAL MILENIUM.
PROVEEDORA Y PROCESADORA DE AGAVE TRES HERMANOS.
TEQUILA 3 REALES DE JALISCO.
“ ARETTE DE JALISCO.
“ ARTESANAL DE LOS ALTOS DE JALISCO.
“ CASA DE LOS GONZALEZ.
“ DON JULIO.
“ EL TEPOZAN.
“ EL VIEJITO.
“ LAS AMERICAS.
“ LOS ABUELOS.
“ ORENDAIN DE JALISCO.
“ SAN MATIAS DE JALISCO.
“ SANTA FE.
“ SELECTO DE AMATITAN.
“ SIETE LEGUAS.
“ TRES MUJERES.
“ ZAPOTLÁN DEL REY.
TEQUILAS DEL SEÑOR.
“ GONZALEZ LARA.
“ DE LA BARRANCA DE AMATITAN.
“ EL TRIANGULO.
TEQUILERA LA GONZALEÑA.
“ “ LUPITA.
“ “ NORIA.
TEQUILERA LAPER LA.
“ LAS JUNTAS.
TIERRA DE AGAVES.
U – V
UNION DE PRODUCTORES DE AGAVE.
VINOS Y LICORES AZTECA.
Please note. No one has provided benefit of any type for listing on this page.