Interesting Facts About Tequila
Tequila is a delicious liquor with a truly storied history. It is one of the most popular liquors on its own and mixed into drinks, such as the perennial favorite, the margarita. If you enjoy tequila, you may be surprised to learn some things about this interesting drink.
- Tequila is made from plants in the lily family. Most people think of the Blue Agave plant as a cactus, but that is not botanically accurate. The fleshy center of the plant contains a sweet fluid, called aguamiel (honey water). That fluid is harvested via cooking and used to make sweetening syrups and liquor.
- Real tequila is made in Mexico. While agave plants can be grown all over the world in the right circumstances, liquor resulting from these plants will be ‘mezcal’, not tequila. Tequila must be made in Mexico to bear the name ‘tequila’.
- Tequila is a kind of mezcal. Mezcal is made from any kind of agave plants. Some mezcal makers even use multiple kinds of agave for a single batch of mezcal. Tequila is technically a highly specialized kind of mezcal. The liquor must be made from at least 51 percent aguamiel from the blue agave to be considered a tequila and not a mezcal.
- Those famous worms are in mezcal, not tequila. Although most people are familiar with the legend of the worm at the bottom of the bottle, tequila does not include the worms. In fact, it’s an actual law that the worms cannot be placed in tequila bottles. If you’re looking at a bottle of agave liquor with a worm in it, it’s mezcal.
- Tequila fans drink it straight. In Mexico, tequila is traditionally drunk on its own, slowly sipped. People do not ‘shoot’ it quickly or drink it with lime and salt (unless they are making drinks like margaritas). Especially when it comes to aged and carefully blended tequilas, aficionados will sip it slowly to enjoy the full flavor profile of the blue agave used to craft this distinctive liquor.
- Tequila is largely a handcrafted drink. In order to harvest the aguamiel from the heart of the blue agave plant, workers must chop off all the leaves of the plant. The remaining heart is then cooked to draw out the liquid within, which is processed and distilled into tequila.
- Silver or Blanco tequila is the most basic. Silver tequila is generally unaged. It is clear, which is where the name comes from. Oro or gold tequila is the next step up, and generally has a slightly amber color from aging in wooden barrels. Reposado tequila has been aged for at least several months, while Añejo and Extra Añejo are aged even longer, sometimes several years.
- Color is not always the best indicator of quality. Tequila companies know people look for a golden color in high quality tequila. Sometimes, companies add coloring agents to young tequilas in order to mimic the golden tones of a tequila that has been aged in wooden barrels. As a result, color alone won’t tell you about a tequila’s quality. If you want to drink a good tequila, look at the label and seek out Añejo or Reposado tequilas for sipping and enjoyment.