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Mention tequila and one may think about Mexico, sipping on margaritas, and perhaps the odd shot or two! For some it may remind them of things that they never thought they would do like dancing on tables, kissing total strangers...you get the picture. Often people say that tequila gives you a "different" buzz than other alcohols. Most likely, after they have had a few! By the way, there is no proof of this.

So if you are a tequila aficionado or a naiveté there are some complexities to tequila that are not immediately apparent. For example; what is the difference between anejo, reposado, white, or gold tequilas and what about the crazy worm in mescal? Is it tequila? As you can imagine, this research entailed only the highest of standards drinking many shots until the wee hours of the morning!

So what is tequila made of? The best tequila's are made of 100% blue agave , which is a large plant that is harvested for its core or "pina" that is made into tequila. All 100% agave tequila must be bottled in Mexico.  This pure tequila can come in three forms: Blanco, reposado and anejo.

Blanco: This young non-aged tequila has the most distinct agave taste because it is not stored in wood barrels for long. Typically, they taste somewhat floral, herbal with a peppery bite to them.  *Note that it can also be labeled as plata or silver

Reposado: Literally means rested and is aged a minimum of 2 months. They usually have a light to medium golden color with a smoother taste due to the aging in wood barrels.

Anejo: Meaning aged, this tequila is aged a minimum of 1 year and usually not more than 3. These tequilas are usually darker with a smooth, mellow taste. Similar to enjoying a fine scotch it is often served in a brandy snifter. Mmmmmm, a definite favorite whether it is served straight up or in a margarita!

Tequila that is not 100% is known as mixto.

Mixto blanco = non-aged

Mixto gold = not aged and has added color and flavors

By definition, all tequilas are mescals but not all mescals are tequilas.  Mescal, like tequila, is distilled from the agave plant family but of a different variety called espadin. The process in which it is made is also different. The agave is roasted, not cooked, like tequila. This accounts for the smoky taste.  And what about the worm? Legend has it that the worm that lives in the plant carries the magical spirit and carries it to the drinker. This is really an ingenious marketing tool as the worm contains only a bit of protein!

Now, how does one drink tequila? This may seem silly but so many times people use the typical shoot ‘em back style which is wrong in so many ways.

First of all, many bars serve fine tequila such as a 100% reposado as their house tequila. (We'll talk brands later) These tequilas and the finer anejos are not meant to be shot back with salt and lime. They are meant to be savored and sipped, perhaps even on ice. Many tequila aficionados claim that good tequila should not even be served in a shot glass.  If you really must shoot it back you may as well buy a cheaper one.

So these are the basics of types of tequilas and how to decipher what is on the label.  But what do you buy? By all means, you may need to go out and do some research of your own but here are some of my favorites:

Gran Centenario: Both reposado and anejo are excellent at a reasonable price; a favorite among tequila fans that is served in most bars.

Herradura: They make only excellent, 100% blue agave tequilas that are a favorite among Mexicans. That's got to tell you something.

Jose Cuervo: Commonly served in bars is a very well known brand with a wide price range. My pick would be Cuervo 1800 Anejo or Reposado. If you want decent tequila for mixed drinks Tradicional is priced reasonably.

Sauza: Another common brand that is served in most bars as their house tequila is Hornitos that is pretty decent.  Sauza Conmemorativo is a better quality, smoother tequila.

Don Julio: A little more pricey, but excellent tequila whether you choose the blanco or anejo.

So whether you are a margarita connoisseur, an upscale tequila sipper, or a shot taking professional, there is a tequila for every one! So hopefully after this information you can hold your own in a tequileria, and truly enjoy the tequila experience. There is certainly more to tequila then meets the eye.



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