With Cinco de Mayo quickly approaching we thought it would be a good time to pause from cocktail recipes to talk about some tequila facts. As you already know, tequila is the main spirit in margarita recipes but can also be used in other cocktails or enjoyed by itself (if you have the right kind).
Tequila isn’t one of those spirits where you just grab whatever bottle on the shelf that looks pretty. You need to be aware of a few things so that you don’t end up with nasty margaritas and/or a terrible headache the next day.
Luckily, we were able to have Ted Carmon, spirit buyer at BevMo! help us provide you with some tequila facts that can be used when purchasing your next bottle of this wonderful spirit (his input is in italics).
Classifications of tequila
Tequila has two classifications: Mixto and 100% Agave.
Mixto tequila is a blend of at least 51% agave and 49% fermented cane sugar or corn or other sugar source.
100% Agave is just that, tequila made with only the fermentable sugars sourced from mature, blue agave plants.
Read the label: a mixto will be labeled with “Tequila” only. A 100% Agave tequila will be labeled “100% Agave” or “Puro”.
Word to the wise… go with 100% Agave tequila.
Types of tequila
Beyond the two classifications, tequila is also separated into five different types:
Tequila Silver (Blanco, White, Plata)
Silver tequila is clear, un–aged tequila that is normally bottled right after it is distilled but can be stored to settle for up to 4 weeks. It typically has the true flavors of the Agave as well as a natural sweetness. We tend to use silver tequila in our infused tequilas and in many of our margaritas including the Clementine Margaritas (pictured above).
Tequila Gold (Oro)
Gold tequila is usually a Mixto silver tequila that has a colorant added to it, such as caramel coloring or sugar syrup. This is what you will normally find in mixed drinks in bars and restuarants and will probably leave you feeling sick the next day.
However, gold tequila is sometimes a blend of 100% Agave silver tequila with reposado and/or Anejo so pay attention when shopping for your own bottle.
Reposado is the first stage of rested and aged tequila. It’s stored in wood barrels for a minimum of two months but no longer than twelve months. The time stored and barrels used depend on the distiller and is what sets the different brands apart. We have used reposado tequila in a few cocktail recipes including the Li Hing Mui Margarita.
Tequila has to be aged for at least one year before it can be categorized as Anejo and the barrels used for aging cannot exceed 600 liters. The aging process gives the tequila the amber color and the flavor will typically become richer and more complex. We used Anejo tequila in the Thai Basil Tequila Cocktail
Extra–anejo is a fairly new classification of tequila and applies to any tequila that has been aged for over 3 years. It must still be aged in barrels that are no bigger than 600 liters. Because of the longer aging process, the tequila becomes darker and very rich.
What to look for when buying tequila
When buying tequila for blended margaritas, Ted says, “for any tequila based cocktail, we would recommend sticking with 100% agave tequila. Which you choose is up to the customer preference: Silver / Blanco tequila will not only offer a brighter lime color to your margarita, but the agave taste and aroma will be more pronounced compared to a margarita made with Reposado or Anejo. I think for a blended margarita, a silver stands up best: Sauza Hornitos Blanco, Cazadores Blanco, Milagro Silver and 1800 Silver are all excellent choices. Going too expensive is not necessary due to the cocktail.”
When buying tequila for margaritas on the rocks, Ted says, “the choice depends on the preference of the shopper. A margarita on the rocks will allow more of the tequila to shine through since the blended margaritas dilute so quickly. Going with a Reposado is a great option, but not necessary. The Silver tequilas mentioned above would be fine, but for a Reposado palette, I would recommend Sauza Hornitos, Cazadores, Milagro, Corralejo and Herradura.”
Other tequila facts
We asked Ted for any other tequila facts he would like to pass on. Here are his final words…
As a variation, try La Pinta Pomegranate tequila! It’s a great product with tremendous consumer loyalty. La Pinta comes from the tequila distillery of Clase Azul, a top-shelf brand renowned for high quality sipping tequilas.
High quality sipping tequila sales are on the rise. Consumers are gaining appreciation in the artistry and unique characteristics a finely produced tequila offers. Like wine, tequila is influenced by terroir, quality of the fruit (agave), and maturation.
If that’s not enough tequila info for you, read this Wikipedia article that covers history, production and more.
I don’t know about you, but I’m now in the mood for some tequila. What’s your favorite kind?