Many of us have wild stories involving tequila, the ultimate nighttime tipple, and most these can be traced back to downing shots of the spirit — usually followed by a lick of salt and bite of lime to reduce the burn. But as much as we love drinking it, there’s plenty that we don’t know about tequila. Here are our definitive answers to nine of the most frequently asked questions about tequila. And if reading about tequila works up a thirst, explore our range today and get it delivered to your doorstep in no time.
Originally hailing from the small town of Tequila, in a valley west of Guadalajara in Jalisco, Mexico, the spirit was initially an Aztec fermented drink known as pulque. The tequila we know and love was born in 1758 when the Cuervo family began specifically using blue agave to make the drink. They went on to become the first family of tequila production, with patriarch Jose Cuervo widely considered Father of Tequila. His eponymous brand of the drink is arguably the world’s most famous tequila. While tequila is almost always produced in Jalisco, Mexican law allows it to also be made in certain municipalities in the states of Tamaulipas, Nayarit, Michoacán, and Guanajuato. This differs from the rules governing a drink like champagne, which is made exclusively in the Champagne region of France.
Tequila is produced from the heart of the blue agave plant, known as the piña. After being harvested, the piña is roasted or steamed to release sugars, which are crushed to separate the juices. These are then fermented, distilled and aged before bottling.
Unlike the grains and fruits used to make other alcohols, the blue agave plant takes around eight years to reach full harvestable maturity. As a result, any growth issues can lead to tequila shortages further down the line, especially as blue agave requires very specific conditions to develop properly. These include regular sunlight, minimal water, and a need to remain above freezing temperatures. Once the agave is harvested, it takes a couple of weeks to actually make the tequila and age it. The length of the ageing process varies between producers and can take anywhere between two months and three years. The longer the tequila is aged, the more colour and tannins it will have.
Despite the fact that a tequila bottle must contain blue agave to be regarded as tequila, its blue agave content doesn’t have to be 100%. In fact, the cut-off point is 51% — bottles containing 51% to 99% blue agave are called ‘mixto’, and deemed inferior by tequila purists.
You may have heard of mezcal, another distilled beverage made in Mexico. Mezcal is the country’s national spirit, and is also produced from the agave plant. However, in spite of the similarities, it isn’t necessarily classed as tequila. Though tequila can only be made from the blue agave plant, mezcal may derive from over 30 different variations of agave. So, if mezcal is made from blue agave and originates from an approved region, then it counts as tequila. If not, it isn't.
Sales of tequila spiked in the 1950s after people started believing it to be a hallucinogen. However, they were simply confusing mezcal with mescaline, the psychoactive component of the peyote plant. Tequila contains no psychoactive properties.
Another tequila myth is that there are worms in the bottles. This started as a marketing ploy in the 1940s, when a number of brands claimed that worms in tequila had magical powers, improving the drinker’s virility as well as their fortunes. But this simply isn’t true — in fact, worms on an agave plant are considered an infestation, and a sign of poor quality ingredients.
While tequila is the main ingredient in cocktails like margaritas, it can also be enjoyed straight, just like a good whisky or vodka. Rather than simply slamming mixtos, sip a premium 100% blue agave well-aged tequila with a slice of lime. And if you’re wondering what you can mix tequila with, soft drinks like pineapple juice, soda and orange juice make delicious concoctions.
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