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:
 
Cocktails to Go in Bars & Restaurants Legalized in PA During Lockdown: Here's Where to Get Them in Philadelphia

Cocktails to Go in Bars & Restaurants Legalized in PA During Lockdown: Here's Where to Get Them in Philadelphia

Bars & restaurants in PA can now sell cocktails-to-go. Here's where to find them in Philadelphia...read more ›

by Drink Philly May 21, 2020
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
Relief for the Bar, Restaurant, & Hospitality Industry in Philadelphia

Relief for the Bar, Restaurant, & Hospitality Industry in Philadelphia

Right now the hospitality industry is—to put it lightly—struggling. We created a resource directory for an...read more ›

by Jessie Donofrio Mar 20, 2020
SPONSORED
Drink Nation Store Rectangle
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
Where to Find Beer, Wine, & Liquor To Go in Philadelphia During the Pandemic

Where to Find Beer, Wine, & Liquor To Go in Philadelphia During the Pandemic

Bars and restaurants are officially closed (and offering take-out and delivery only), so your favorite bartend...read more ›

by Drink Philly Mar 18, 2020
Suits & Sazeracs Returns for Second Year to Benefit Career Wardrobe, February 24

Suits & Sazeracs Returns for Second Year to Benefit Career Wardrobe, February 24

At this NOLA-style event benefiting Career Wardrobe, you'll be able to sample unique Sazerac-inspired cocktail...read more ›

by Drink Philly Feb 20, 2020
Drink Philly's Mad Hatter Whiskey Tea Party Returns to Stotesbury Mansion, Feb 29

Drink Philly's Mad Hatter Whiskey Tea Party Returns to Stotesbury Mansion, Feb 29

Drink Philly's Mad Hatter Whiskey Tea Party is back, and this year, it's sure to be bigger and better than eve...read more ›

by Drink Philly Feb 4, 2020
Inside Look: Campari's Stylish North American Headquarters in New York

Inside Look: Campari's Stylish North American Headquarters in New York

If you're a frequent Negroni drinker, always order Wild Turkey Bourbon in your old fashioneds, or prefer your ...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Jan 9, 2020
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
Behind the Bar: Liana Oster of Dante

Behind the Bar: Liana Oster of Dante

For this exciting installment of Behind the Bar, we had the incredible opportunity to sit down with Liana Oster, the head bartender at Dante in New Yo...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Jan 7, 2020
SPONSORED
View all Articles

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

Close