Tequila 101: Everything You Need to Know

It’s February, and if you couldn’t tell by the title, this month I am covering tequila!

This is one of the coldest months of the entire year, and it might be nice to have some warming drinks up our sleeves to help us get through the chilly weather. If you live in the southern hemisphere, then I’m guessing tequila month is really welcome for you.

I’ve got a tequila guide for you today, so you can be more informed about what bottle to buy for all my cocktail recipes this month.

Now, get out the salt and the lime wedges. Let’s toast to tequila!

Guide to Tequila

Tequila is one of my favorite liquors for cocktails. (Who am I kidding? They’re all my favorites. Except gin. Gin is low on my list. I know, I know. I’m working on it.) And there’s always shots, of course.

But, if you left your shot glasses behind at your college apartment, tequila is also fabulous for sipping, either neat or on the rocks. Tequila can be, dare I suggest, a mellow experience.

What is tequila?

Tequila is a type of mezcal, which is an agave-based liquor. Agaves are a large (and often ornamental succulent) chiefly found in Mexico and desert climates. They can grow up to 7 feet tall! Tequila is made specifically from fermenting hearts of the blue Weber agave, which we often call simply the blue agave.

Like champagne — a sparkling wine given its name only when it comes from the Champagne region of France — Mexican law dictates that tequila is a mezcal given its name only if it comes from in or near the Mexican town of Tequila.

Types of tequila

The bottles come in several aging categories. Each of these is denoted on the label itself. Mixto is a term used for tequilas that aren’t 100% agave, but a mixture of agave and cane sugars. Most of the common lower-shelf tequila brands are mixto, but look for 100% agave on the label.

  • Blanco, or silver is the most common type of tequila, and it’s often used for mixed drinks, like margaritas. Clear and colorless, it is unaged and stored in stainless steel tanks while it rests.
  • Joven abocado or gold tequila is also unaged, but with a caramel color and flavoring added to make the spirit appear aged. Gold tequilas are usually mixto. 
  • Reposado tequila gets its name from the word for ‘rested’ in Spanish because it is aged in oak barrels for between two months and one year. The aging process gives it some of the oak’s coloration and flavor, though additional coloring and flavoring are sometimes added. It is used for mixing and sipping.
  • Añejo is a premium tequila that has been aged for a year or longer, getting its name from the word for ‘aged’ in Spanish. Like a fine cognac, it is meant to be sipped straight.
  • Extra añejo is tequila that has been aged for longer three years. It is smoother and richer than añejo, and also meant for sipping only.

You can also infuse tequila. I love this spicy jalapeño-infused tequila recipe.

What does tequila taste like?

She has many flavors. Here’s a short list: Agave, citrus, spicy, floral, pepper, grassy, herbal, chocolate, oak, mellow, smooth, vanilla.

How to sip tequila

Smell it twice before taking a sip, fully inhaling and exhaling each time with your lips parted. Then, take a small sip to help prepare your palate before a bigger sip. Drink tequila neat, on the rocks, frozen (as in margaritas) or you can take it as a shot.

How to take tequila shots

If you’re doing tequila shots, the American tradition is to lick salt out of your hand just before taking the shot, then sucking on a lime slice.

Top tequila brands

Popular brands: Milagro, Patron, El Jimador, Jose Cuervo, Espolon, Gran Centenario, Lunazul, Olmeca Altos, Sauza, Don Julio, 1800, Tres Agaves, Maestro Dobel

Feast + West favorites: Patron, El Jimador, 1800, Sauza

Tequila recipes

Starring roles: the Margarita, Tequila Sunrise, the Paloma, the Bloody Maria, Juan Collins

Feast + West drinks: Classic Margaritas // Tequila Breeze // Spiked Oat-chata // Michelada

When is National Tequila Day?

National Tequila Day is July 24.

Further reading

(Sources // The KitchnSerious EatsEsquire)

The Golden Ratio Guide:

Mix the perfect cocktail, every time

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Comments

    • Susannah says

      I totally get that, Linda! It can be too strong for me too sometimes. Maybe you just need to find the right cocktail for you! Glad my post might be able to help change your mind. Thanks as always for stopping by!

    • Susannah says

      Then perhaps you need a grown-up tequila sip! It can be enjoyed by people of all ages (well, over 21 in this country). I’m so glad you found me through The Blog Loft! It’s great to connect with you and I really appreciate your comment.

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