Tequila is a distilled spirit made from the blue Agave or Agave Azul and produced only in Mexico’s five areas. It can be drunk on its own or in a cocktail. But now you can enjoy this delicious beverage in Texas, you can visit El Rincon Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar in Carrollton and you can find out more about tequila bars in the guide below.
- Colour: Can range from clear, unaged spirit (Blanco) to light gold (reposado – rested) and a vibrant gold (añejo – aged). Some Tequilas are extra-aged, giving them a richer gold hue.
- Region: Produced in Mexico – five Mexican states are legally allowed to produce Tequila: Jalisco and parts of Guanajuato, Tamaulipas, Michoacan, and Nayarit.
- ABV: Typically bottled at 35% in Mexico, 40% in the US, and 38% in Europe.
- Made from: The agave plant, which has the appearance of cactus, is a succulent related to the lily family and native to Mexico. Premium Tequilas are made from 100% blue agave, while lower-end tequilas, called ‘mixtos,’ typically contain 51% agave with the remaining made up of molasses, corn syrup, or other sugars.
- Translation: The name is derived from the Mexican town of Tequila, which lies to the northwest of the central city of Guadalajara.
What is Tequila?
Tequila is a distilled spirit made from the Agave tequilana Weber Blue, blue agave or Agave Azul, and produced only in five areas of Mexico: Jalisco (where 99% is made and home to the town Tequila) as well as Guanajuato, Michoacan, Tamaulipas, and Nayarit – these are known as the Denomination of Origin Tequila (DOT) and recognized as such in more than 40 countries.
There are 166 different agave species, 125 of which can be found in Mexico, but only the Weber Blue (named after the German botanist who first classified the species in 1905 due to the slight blue hue of its green foliage) can be used to make Tequila. These plants are particularly suited to the silicate-rich, red volcanic soils in the region around the city of Tequila, with more than 300 million plants harvested there every year.
The history of Mexican agave dates back more than a thousand years, to 250-300 AD when the Aztecs created pulque, a cloudy, slightly sour tasting alcohol drink made from the extraction of the sweet sap from the plant’s hearts and fermenting it. The drink was a hallowed beverage and consumed at religious ceremonies and sacred rites.
But it wasn’t until the 16th Century when the Spanish conquistadors who had settled in Mexico in 1521 ran out of their supply of brandy and decided to use their knowledge of distillation to turn pulque into a spirit.
Around 1600 the first mass-produced Tequila was being made with the first official license to commercially make Tequila issued by Spain’s King Carlos IV to the Cuervo family in 1975.
There are currently over 22,000 registered agave farmers in the DOC Tequila region, cultivating several hundred million agave plants over 125,000 hectares.
The Mexican government has imposed strict regulations to control what can be called Tequila and how it is made. Those that adhere to these regulations, including the registration of all agave grown for Tequila production, are authenticated by the Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT) and carry a NOM number (Norma Oficial Mexicana) on each bottle’s label identifying the distillery.
It must be made from a minimum of 51% Blue Agave, with legislation allowing for the remainder to be made up of a neutral spirit made from cane sugar juice. Those that are 100% Blue Agave are labeled as such while those made with less than 100% are called ‘mixto.’
All tequilas are required to be aged for at least 14-21 days; it must be made from 100% natural ingredients and be a minimum of 38% alcohol.