Spirit Cruises Summer 2019 Leaderboard

Why You Should Drink Tequila: A Primer for National Tequila Day

by The Drink Nation on Jul 24, 2013 in Liquor

Most alcoholic beverages are distilled from yearly-renewable fruits or grains, but tequila is different. Each drop of (good) tequila comes from a whole agave plant, which must be carefully tended for 8–10 years before it is ready to be harvested, by hand. This is not the case for barley used to make beer or the corn used to make bourbon, for example, and even grapes for wine and apples for brandy will appear in new crops each season, if well cared for.

When the agave plant is ready, trained farmers called jimadores harvest the succulent and chop off the leaves, living the “jima.” This central portion of the plant — similar to the heart of an artichoke, only much larger — is what is used to make the booze.

Mezcal & History

Tequila was the first-ever commercially produced liquor, and has a long history. The Aztecs created pulque from the agave plant many centuries ago, and Spanish Conquistadores observed these practices and began distilling mezcal in the 1400s. In 1758, thanks to a grant from the King of Spain, José Antonio Cuervo became the first officially licensed manufacturer of the spirit.

By 1873, when Don Cenobio Sauza founded his now-famous distillery, the agave spirit being sold and shipped around the world was still actual mezcal wine — defined by the use of below-ground pits filled with wood that were used to roast the jimas before extracting sugars, leading to mezcal’s defining smoky flavor.

To keep up with increased demand, Sauza switched to above-ground ovens powered by steam, and not wood directly, which led to an easier product, albeit with a slightly different taste. This is the tequila we know today.

Mixto vs. 100% Agave

Today, because of protective regulations, all tequila must originate in Mexico, but not all tequila is the same. In recent decades, international macro-brands bought into Mexican distilleries and have flooded the U.S. market with a product that is not made entirely from the special agave plant — this is the stuff that is notorious for causing hangovers, and gave tequila a bad rap.

If you’re buying a bottle tequila, look for “100% agave” on the label. If that designation is missing, there’s a good chance the agave spirit was first shipped out of Mexico and cut with other alcohol — distilled from cane sugar or other grains, for example — and then packaged and sold as tequila. While this “mixto tequila” is legal and makes for a cheap bottle, it does not make for a good morning after.

Blanco, Reposado, Añejo

Tequila comes in three main types, defined by how long the spirit has been aged with wood. Blanco (sometimes also called “silver”) is simply the raw product of the fermented, distilled agave. Along with a strong punch of alcohol, the agave flavor comes through (if it’s not mixto), and this is often the type used in margaritas or other mixed drinks.

Reposado has been aged between two months to a year, and has a more pronounced flavor and a light gold tint. Añejo tequila is aged 1–3 years, and provides a smoother sip, appropriate for drinking neat, with a strong woody character. Recently, a new designation of “extra añejo” has come into use for tequilas aged longer than three years.

Armed with this primer, it’s time for a drink! What’s your favorite way to sip tequila?

Recent Articles
spacer

Feedback

How are we doing? Tell us what you like or don't like and how we can improve. We would love to hear your thoughts!

*Name:
*E-mail:
*Suggestions:
 
Enjoy Fall Weather & PA Ciders in a Historic Setting at CiderFest, October 15 & 16

Enjoy Fall Weather & PA Ciders in a Historic Setting at CiderFest, October 15 & 16

Fall is here and what better way to celebrate than at CiderFest at the historic Woodford Mansion in Fairmount ...read more ›

by Drink Philly Oct 13, 2022
Best Bars for Outdoor Drinking in Philadelphia, 2019

Best Bars for Outdoor Drinking in Philadelphia, 2019

Whether it's to enjoy the first warm breezes of spring or the unexpected sunshine of a crisp day in fall, Philadelphia is full of great places to drin...read more ›

by Drink Philly Apr 11, 2019
WitchCraft: Halloween Themed Beer Fest in the Middle of the NJ Woods Returns October 14 & 15

WitchCraft: Halloween Themed Beer Fest in the Middle of the NJ Woods Returns October 14 & 15

The team behind the Atlantic City Beer & Music Festival have conjured up a spellbinding event - WitchCraft - a...read more ›

by Jessie Donofrio Oct 12, 2022
SPONSORED
The Best Cocktail Bars in Philadelphia

The Best Cocktail Bars in Philadelphia

Here it is - the definitive list of Philadelphia's best cocktail bars....read more ›

by Drink Philly Dec 13, 2017
LMNO: An Inside Look at Their 'Choose Your Own Adventure' Cocktail Menu

LMNO: An Inside Look at Their 'Choose Your Own Adventure' Cocktail Menu

Fishtown has a new Baja Mexican destination for tequila and mezcal fans...read more ›

by Drink Philly Feb 14, 2022
Behind the Bar: Bartender Barry (Johnson)

Behind the Bar: Bartender Barry (Johnson)

In this installment of Behind the Bar, we sit down with Barry Johnson, better known as "Bartender Barry" of Instagram and as cocktail catering special...read more ›

by Drink Philly Feb 9, 2022
Victory Brewing's New Philadelphia Location on the Parkway Now Open

Victory Brewing's New Philadelphia Location on the Parkway Now Open

Victory Brewing Co just launched their newest venture right in the heart of Philadelphia, making the former TG...read more ›

by Drink Philly Oct 26, 2021
Philly Cider Week Returns This Year, October 26-31

Philly Cider Week Returns This Year, October 26-31

Cider fans rejoice because after taking a hiatus last year, Philly Cider Week is back for it's third year....read more ›

by Drink Philly Oct 14, 2021
Where to Host a Private Event in Philadelphia

Where to Host a Private Event in Philadelphia

Whether it's for the holidays or you have a special birthday coming up, Philadelphia has some amazing options when it comes to event spaces. ...read more ›

by Drink Philly Nov 26, 2018
 Victory's New Philadelphia Brewery on the Parkway to Open this Fall

Victory's New Philadelphia Brewery on the Parkway to Open this Fall

Victory Brewing Co. is opening its first Philadelphia taproom and brewery in the heart of Center City at 1776 ...read more ›

by Drink Philly Oct 12, 2021
SPONSORED
View all Articles

Sign up to get weekly drinking news, bar reviews, events and more sent directly to your inbox!

Close