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Tequila Spirit - Your Ultimate Handbook to the Iconic Alcoholic Spirit

Tequila Spirit cover

We've all been there. On a night out when someone yells: "shots," and the next thing know, a row of shots, along with salt and a wedge of lime, are lined up on the bar waiting for you and your crew. It's fair to say this is what many people think of tequila spirit, but honestly, this is quite an outdated representation – there's so much more to this wonderful alcoholic spirit. 

Celebrity-owned brands have been popping up everywhere which has helped tequila establish itself as the alcoholic spirit of the moment year on year, not to mention its versatility in drinks. Whether you like white spirits or aged ones, there’s a tequila for you. There is an abundance of ways to enjoy drinking tequila, but it all starts with the beautifully unique and authentic process. We're here to tell you to forget everything you think you know about tequila. Let's get into it…

Tequila Spirit 101: A Complete Guide

What is tequila?

tequila
Tequila is more than just a drink; it's an icon that has been part of Mexico's history for years. Tequila is a distilled spirit made from the blue agave plant – a native plant to Mexico. It can only be produced in 181 municipalities in Jalisco, Nayarit, Michoacán, Guanajuato and Tamaulipas. Tequila falls into two categories: mixtos and 100% agave. The difference? Premium tequilas are made from 100% blue agave which means as well as making a great cocktail, they can be enjoyed neat. Mixtos tequilas are made with at least 51% of agave sugars and the rest from other sources. They're generally cheaper than 100% blue agave and are best used enjoyed in mixed drinks.

Where is tequila spirit made?

Tequila is only produced in five regions of Mexico: Jalisco (where 70% of tequila is made and home to the town Tequila), Michoacán, Guanajuato, Nayarit and Tamaulipas. It can only be made in Mexico as the agave plant tequila is extracted from is indigenous to specific regions of Mexico.

What is tequila spirit made from?

tequila spirit
Tequila is made from blue agave plants that can take anywhere between 6-12 years to mature depending on where they are planted. Usually after seven to ten years of growth, the agave plant is ready to be harvested. This process is still done by hand. The agave is then cooked, crushed, and fermented to extract the juices. The juice is then distilled and bottled or aged in oak barrels to create different flavours and aromas.

When can an alcoholic spirit be defined as tequila?

For an alcoholic spirit to be legally called 100% tequila, it must meet a few requirements. 
- It can only be made in the five Mexican states listed earlier. 
- It must be made with 100% blue agave.
- It must legally be distilled twice. 
- It must be made from a minimum of 51% blue agave, with the remainder to be made up of a neutral spirit made from cane sugar juice.
- Consejo Regulador del Tequila (CRT), or Tequila Regulatory Council, must approve it. 

What about the tequila spirit’s alcohol content?

ABV stands for Alcohol by Volume percentage, as in the percentage of the drink that contains alcohol. Tequila needs to be bottled at between 35% and 55% ABV but is usually sold at 35% – 38%. You'll find that different countries have different ABVs - the US market stipulates a minimum of 40%, South Africa 43% and Europe 37.5%.

What does tequila taste like?

Each tequila is slightly different. But generally speaking, tequila has a unique smooth, sweet and earthy flavour. This is all determined by where the agave is grown and the style in which it is processed. Tequila spirit made in the lowland areas tends to have more of a herbal, earthier taste, whereas you get a fruity, floral taste with a sweeter finish with tequila made in the highlands. Barrel ageing tequila will give the spirit an oaky, vanilla sort of flavour. Blanco tequilas tend to offer the purest tequila taste, with a semi-sweet, distinctive flavour.

Is tequila spirit the same as mezcal? 

No. Although mezcal is similar to tequila, as it's made from an agave plant, it's not the same as tequila. It can be made from many species of agave plant not just the blue agave like tequila is. Also, mezcal is produced using traditional methods, which include cooking the agave underground which creates a smokier flavour. Mezcal has become a popular ingredient in cocktails in the US and Europe, with people using it to create unique drinks like Mezcal Negronis and Mezcal Mules.

What are the five main different types of tequila spirit?

1. Blanco (silver /white)
The purest tequila, Blanco tequilas, are made of 100% blue agave. The taste is slightly sweet, and the colour is clear. This tequila is unaged and bottled after the second distillation. Occasionally it is rested for up to 8 weeks.

2. Gold (joven)
Often falling into the mixto category, this style of tequila gets its golden colour from additives such as grain alcohol and caramel colouring. It tastes similar to Blanco tequila but with hints of vanilla and spices.

3. Reposado
Reposado means “rested”. These tequilas are aged in oak barrels anywhere from two months to 1 year. It has a smooth flavour with notes of oak, vanilla and caramel and is best mixed in cocktails with grapefruit and lime.

4. Añejo
Añejo means "old" or "vintage." These are tequilas aged for at least one year, or between 1- 3 years and have had direct contact with oak containers. It has a rich taste with notes of vanilla and cinnamon.

5. Extra Añejo
This tequila has been ageing for three years or more with a maximum capacity of 600 litres per barrel. As it spends more time in contact with wood, it has a stronger aroma with more complex notes and a smoky flavour, like an aged whiskey or cognac. It’s the most expensive and rarest type of tequila.

Why is tequila spirit so popular right now?

It feels like tequila mania at the moment, with everyone drinking tequila just because. Any occasion seems to be a celebration and we love it. But why the hype? There are many reasons why tequila is a lot cooler than many other drinks. We should of course mention George Clooney, who founded Casamigos tequila and mezcal in 2013 with his business partner Rande Gerber which paved the way for other celebs like

Kendall Jenner, Justin Timberlake, and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson launched their own brands. Of course, this celebrity power has helped change tequila's reputation from the ultimate party shot to a spirit people want to explore and savour. And the sheer number of premium brands and unique flavours available to level up cocktails has made it a popular choice for sipping on at every special celebration or to gift to your loved ones. 

The Future of tequila spirit -

Tequila is not slowing down anytime soon. With the growing popularity in the category, you will start to see more than the beloved Margarita on the menu. With its versatility and complexity lending itself so well to cocktails, you will see more creative drinks in your favourite bar for you to try. 

Is tequila spirit a good gift?

Absolutely! We believe gifting a bottled drink as a gift is always a good idea, and tequila is the perfect choice for your tequila-loving friends or someone special who wants to try something new. Gifting a bottle of tequila is a great way to add a touch of Mexico to someone's at-home bar where they can enjoy it in many ways including neat or mixed into cocktails like a Tequila Sunrise or Paloma.  

What tequila should you buy?

Not sure where to start when choosing the right tequila? Planning a Cinco de Mayo party at home and want to stock up? Keen to perfect your margarita technique? Or maybe you know your way around tequila and want to try something different. Here's a rundown of some of the best tequilas available right now to help you decide what's right for you.

Sip your way through the best tequila brands -
1. Don Julio Blanco Tequila
If you love the flavour of blue agave, pick up a bottle of Don Julio Blanco Tequila. It's great for mixing up Palomas.

2. Don Julio Reposado Tequila
Do you love tequila to be rich with a smooth finish? Don Julio Reposado Tequila is for you.

3. Don Julio Añejo Tequila
Do you like to drink tequila neat or on the rocks? If yes, a bottle of Don Julio Añejo Tequila will be right up your street.

4. Don Julio 1942 Tequila
This is a great gift if you have a big budget and are looking for something exceptional to gift for a milestone birthday or wedding. This liquid gold is worth every penny.

5. Casamigos Reposado Tequila
This is an excellent, easy, sippable tequila - smooth with a hint of caramel, buttery vanilla, and a full-bodied smokey finish. This one's a real treat if you love your tequila neat or mixed into spicy margaritas. 

6. Casamigos Añejo Tequila
Treat yourself or someone special to a nice bottle of Casamigos Añejo Tequila if you're all about aged tequilas. You can use it to make a twist on an old favourite: an Añejo Old Fashioned.

7. Casamigos Blanco Tequila 
If you're all about fruity tequila with notes of vanilla and grapefruit, you'll love Casamigos Blanco Tequila.

So, now you know all about tequila and have picked your next bottle, here are the top 5 favourite tequila cocktail recipes that are easy to recreate at home.
  
1. Don Limonada Cocktail Recipe
Fresh lemon meets the taste of sweet agave. If you're looking for a simple tequila cocktail where tequila takes centre stage, this is it. 

Ingredients:
- 50ml Don Julio Blanco Tequila
- 15ml agave syrup
- 1 lemon cut into pieces
- 50ml sparkling water
- A small handful of mint
- Ice
- Fresh mint (garnish)

Method:
Add ingredients to a shaker. Muddle and then add ice and shake. Pour into a rocks glass and top up with sparkling water. Garnish with a mint sprig.

2. Añejo Old Fashioned Cocktail Recipe
A unique Mexican take on an iconic cocktail, the Añejo Old Fashioned is guaranteed to create a stir with your guests. From the notes of dried fruit and vanilla in the tequila to the aromatic spice of the bitters, it's packed with the warm flavours of chiller seasons. 

Ingredients:
- 50ml Don Julio Añejo Tequila
- 10ml  simple syrup (1:1 water:sugar)
- 2 dashes of grapefruit bitters
- Ice
- Orange peel or lemon peel (garnish)

Method:
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass over ice. Stir until thoroughly chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over a large-format ice cube. Garnish with an orange peel.

3. Don Reposado Paloma Cocktail Recipe

Don Reposado
This one's for your tequila cocktail-loving friends who prefer their tequila aged. The Reposado Paloma cocktail combines tequila with sour citrus and a drop of sweet agave nectar for a delicious-tasting cocktail. 

Ingredients:
- 50ml Don Julio Reposado Tequila
- 15ml lime juice
- 15ml agave honey
- Top Grapefruit soda
- Salt, sugar & house-ground chilli
- 2 large ice cubes
- Half salt & chilli rim with grapefruit slice (garnish)
 
Method:
Combine the tequila, lime and juice and agave. Shake well and then strain into a tall glass. Add ice, top off with grapefruit soda, and stir. Garnish with grapefruit and coriander.

4. Don Repo Tommy’s Margarita Cocktail Recipe
The tequila cocktail, above all tequila cocktails. The Don Repo Margarita cocktail is an easy-to-make tequila drink to sip with friends.
 
Ingredients:
- 50ml Don Julio Reposado Tequila
- 20ml lime
- 20ml homemade curaçao*
- (10ml agave syrup if you have a sweet tooth)
- Finely crushed chilli flakes & salt
- Lime wheel (garnish)
To make a curaçao, combine 1 part orange liqueur and 1 part agave syrup.

Method:
Prepare a rocks glass with half a rim of crushed chilli flake/salt mix. Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake well. Strain into a glass over fresh ice and garnish with a lime wheel.

5. Batanga Cocktail Recipe
If you want to try something a bit different, then this Mexican classic is for you!

Ingredients:
- 50ml Don Julio Blanco
- 15ml Lime
- 10ml Agave
- Top with coke
- Salt rim (garnish)

Method:
Add tequila, lime and agave in a tall glass and give a quick stir. Add lots of ice and top with coke and a lime wedge then enjoy.

What food goes well with tequila?

Tequila can be easily paired with white meat and goes perfectly with bold citrusy, spicy dishes like chicken fajitas with a side of chunky guacamole. This is because the flavour combination of the white meat and sauce is enhanced when accompanied by tequila. Nachos are also a great choice, as the saltiness from the nachos complements the balanced sweetness of most tequila cocktails.

So, there you have it. Tequila is a delicious, versatile alcoholic spirit that has been around for years! We are so happy everyone is sipping it more so now than ever due to the endless celebrity brands, new flavours and fancy tequila cocktails you can whip up with it. Share this article with all the tequila lovers in your life or check out our other tequila articles. Salud!