Tequila is famous
around the world because of its unique taste and its aroma. It is
also the strongest alcohol mixed with another one to prepare “Margaritas”,
very popular martinis.
Tequila is an alcoholic drink made in Mexico, distilled
from fermented juices obtained from the hearts of the blue Agaves
plant called "agave tequilana" harvested in the area of
Tequila. This alcoholic drink is named after the city of Tequila
located in the state of Jalisco where production started more than
200 years ago.
Agave plants need about 10 years of culturing in order to mature
before being harvested.
The blue agaves (called Agave tequilana Weber) have a beautiful
blue/green color with thorny leaves with sharp heads and a big heart
(called piña which means pineapple because it looks
like a pineapple). These hearts are cut and roasted about 50 hours,
then crushed to obtain a juice that will be left to ferment and
Agaves landscapes have been classified in the world heritage list
The Mexican government controls the brand name "Tequila".
Everyone interested by its production has to conform to the strict
rules presented by the secretary of Economy (in the past, Secretary
of Industry and Trade) who delegated his to the "Consejo Regulador
del Tequila", CRT, a non-profit private organization located
in Guadalajara, (Jalisco). The state of Jalisco is in charge of
the enforcement of the law, the verification and certification of
the quality of tequila. This board supervises every aspect of the
production, from the culture of agaves to the bottling and labeling
to insure the authenticity of the product. Authentic Tequila has
to follow the NOM-006-SCFI-1994, which is a strict standard and
need to carry the official name or NOM (Norma Oficial Mexicana)
and the monogram of the Board "CRT" on the label. "Premium"
Tequila needs also to have "100% Agave" printed on the
label. Each distillery of approved Tequila gets its own NOM, which
means it is authentic. Because of the imitations, pay attention
to labels when buying Tequila.
The Aztecs were the first to appreciate the healing and aphrodisiac
properties of this drink. In the past, the indigenous populations
used the blue agaves to feed themselves, make clothes and paper.
But the plant was also a tool of torture : The sharp extremities
were driven into the flesh of their prisoners and the religious
pierced themselves as a way of paying a tribute to the Gods.
The history of Tequila really stated with the arrival of the Spanish
in the 16th century. With the imported ways of distilling, the "Conquistadors"
started to distill the Indian pulque and create this drink. They
knew that the blue agaves plant containing sugars could be fermented
and that a new drink would be appreciated by the native Indians.
They fermented and distilled the sweet sap of the blue agaves plant
and obtained an alcoholic drink with a new taste. For many years,
Tequila was a local drink with not a lot of orders. At the beginning
of the eighties, the famous "Herradura Reposado" was sold
mainly at the distillery of Amatitán with very little export
to Mexico City. But in the nineties,
it became fashionable to sip Tequila. The production rose and new
brands started. The market was full of promise. People asked for
more authentic, more traditional Tequila, meaning with 100% of blue
Starting in 2000, more brands arrived on the market and Tequila
became one of the three alcoholic drinks with the most sales in
the world. The production of blue agaves covers vast lands never
cultivated before. While traveling in the states of Jalisco
(Western part : Valley of Amatitán - Eastern part : Valley
of Los Altos) and through some cities of the states of Michoacán,
and Guanajuato, for as far as
you can see, there are nice hills covered with blue agaves.
The region of TEQUILA
In order to obtain the guaranteed denomination, the blue agaves
have to be cultivated in a well defined area : It is composed of
the state of Jalisco and some cities
in the states of Guanajuato,
and Tamaulipas, with a similar reddish volcanic soil and a similar
climate. The plant grows on high altitude of more than 1,500 m and
How the TEQUILA is made ?
Blue agave plants take 8 to 10 years to mature. The spikes are separated
from the heart by a "jimador" (agave harvester) who verify
the maturity of the plants.
The job of the "jimador" is crucial ; once he
decides that the plant is ready, he uses a specific long knife,
called a "coa" to cut off the spikes exposing the heart.
The hearts or piñas (Spanish for pineapple) can
weigh 20 to 35 kg in average and up to 80 kg. You can see the "piñas"
(see picture in the margin) when all the spikes (pencas)
have been cut away.
piñas are brought to the distillery and cut in half
before being cooked. The modern distilleries use big steam ovens
to raise the production and save energy. Cooking time, depending
on the oven, is 24 to 48 hours at 55°C, and then there is a
cooling time. An average of 7kg of blue agave hearts are needed
to make 1 liter of tequila.
The baked "piñas" are crushed in a grinding
mill and the juice is squeezed to extract the sugar from the fibers,
and then placed in barrels, for fermentation, of 5000 up to 50000
liters. Some distilleries use the traditional method to make Tequila.
With this traditional method, the hearts are crushed on a stone
disk with a large stone wheel called a "tahona".
The fibers are taken apart in the wooden barrel to raise the fermentation
and bring an extra taste. The juice is brought to a fermentation
tank and yeast is added.
Each producer keeps secret the component of the yeast. During the
fermentation, yeast interacts with the sugars of the agave and is
transformed in alcohol. The fermentation process lasts 30 to 48
hours. The obtained juice is called : "mosto". The time
of fermentation could be longer depending on the distilleries and
the added catalysts.
a time of rest, the "piñas" are distilled
twice in traditional copper alembics or stainless steel tanks. The
first distillation produces a low-grade alcohol (about 20 to 30°C)
and the second one produces a colorless hot produce that will be
blended later before the bottling. The produce is Tequila (with
up to 55°C of alcohol). Depending on the aging process, every
kind of Tequila will be classified and its color will change with
Differents types of Tequila
Tequila must be produced only in Mexico
in the region of Tequila and has to conform to the strict rules
of the Mexican government.
In order to satisfy a rising request as well as the preferences
and tastes of the consumers, Tequila is produced in 2 general categories
and 4 different types : the 2 categories are defined by the percentage
of juice coming from the blue agave :
Category "Tequila 100% agave". It needs
to be made from 100% blue agave and bottled in the Mexican distillery.
It could be "Blanco, Reposado or Añejo".
Category "Tequila". It has to be made
from at least 51% blue agave juice. It could be bulk exported and
bottled in other countries that follow the NOM standard. It could
be "Blanco, Or, Reposado or Añejo".
The NOM standard defines 4 types of tequila :
It is basic tequila. Clear and transparent, fresh and young, it
is called Blanco (blanco or silver). It is bottled right after the
distillation process. It has the aroma and savor of the blue agave.
It is strong and usually drunk in a small glass called the "caballito".
Oro or gold
It is the basic tequila with coloring and caramel aromas. It is
amber-colored and very fragrant. It is the best tequila for frozen
It is the Blanco that stayed in white oak barrels called "pipones"
for 2 months and to up to 1 year. The oak barrels give it a sweeter
taste, a pleasant aroma as well as a pale color. The Reposado keeps
the taste of agave and is sweeter to the palate. These tequilas
are in big request and are expensive.
It is the Blanco that aged in white oak barrels for more than one
year. The maximal capacity of each barrel can’t go over 600
liters. The amber color and the wooded aroma come from the oak,
and the oxidation through the porous wood develops a unique perfume.
Since 2006, there is a new appellation : extra-Añejo that
aged in smaller tanks for at least 3 years. Be aware of the prices
chapter : economy (international market of Tequila)
confuse tequila and mezcal
Mexican common saying : Para todo mal, mezcal
(for all hardships, mezcal).
Para todo bien, también (for
well being, also).
Mezcal is part of the Mexican culture. It is a popular proverb,
a social icon, and a "toast"; there is always mezcal,
or tequila for that matter.
Every distilled drink from agave is a "mezcal", but takes
the name of tequila if twice distilled and the agave comes from
the designed area of Jalisco and its suburbs. Every other one is
a "mezcal". The most famous mezcal is distilled from a
variety of agave cultivated in the state of Oaxaca.
The finest comes from a wild agave known as "papalomé",
which is a very strong alcohol.
to drink Tequila ?
Tequila is a fine and complex drink and has to be sipped slowly.
It should be served at room temperature even if some like it frozen.
"Blanco" and "Reposado" could be served with
"sangrita" made with tomato and orange juice, salt and
chile. Añejo is preferably served in a small glass to conserve
the full aroma. Some add lime. It is a question of taste but choose
the right "tequila" for your martini and savor it.
When ordering, ask for “un” tequila. It will be served
in a small specific glass (caballito).
A few recipes :
Margarita is a great martini. You have to prepare it the right way.
Avoid bottled lemon juice, too bitter or too sweet. Use fresh squeezed
lime. For sure, the small limes found in Mexico have an unrivalled
5 cl of Tequila
then 3 cl of Triple sec
2 cl lime juice
If you wish a lighter Margarita :
4 cl of Tequila
then 2 cl of Triple sec
1/2 lime juice
Combine the ingredients in a shaker* with ice cubes (or crushed
ice) and pour it in a martini glass. You could salt the rim of the
glass by running a lime wedge on the edge of the glass before pressing
it against salt.
You could substitute triple sec with Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Napoleon
Mandarin or Midori.
*haut gobelet surmonté d'un couvercle à deux fonctions
principales: mélanger, rafraîchir et parfois filtrer.
You can also drink pure tequila or mix it with a soda.
You can also drink tequila with a glass of sangrita. Sangrita is
a spiced mixture non-alcoholic made of orange juice, grenadine syrup
and "chile piquín" or a mixture of different chiles.
Sangrita, short in Spanish for “blood”, is served in
a "caballito." Already made bottles can be found in Mexico
and the USA but it is better to make your own Sangrita.
4 cups of fresh orange juice
1/4 to 1/2 cup of lime juice
1 tablespoon of grenadine syrup
1 tablespoon of salt
1/4 table spoon of chile piquín
You can change the quantities to adjust to your taste. You can add
fresh tomato juice (to make it redder), try chile de arbol (long,
thin and red... hot...) or Tabasco. You may also add black pepper.
cl of ice-cold tequila
12 cl of orange juice
1 little bit of grenadine syrup
Combine tequila and ice in a shaker. For orange
juice in a high glass, and then add the iced-cold tequila slowly
tilting the glass to have a layered effect. Add grenadine on top.
Garnish with an orange slice. Instead of iced-cold tequila, you
could use ice cubes.
Vampiro (Bloody Mary)
3 cl of Tequila
1 glass of tomato juice
Add salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce to taste.
Garnish with a lemon slice, celery stalk.
Blanco 100% agave is excellent for a Vampiro. It is the drink of
choice after a hangover. You can try Clamato instead of tomato juice
or half and half. You can also squeeze half a lemon to add flavor.
3 cl of Tequila
2 cl lime juice
Pour tequila and lime juice in a small glass. Add salt, pepper,
Maggi sauce and Worcestershire sauce to taste. Mix the ingredients.
Add 1/2 chile "serrano" and 1 or 2 ice cubes. Use Blanco
or Tequila Reposado.
3 cl of Tequila Reposado
3 cl of Blanco
3 cl of Clamato juice
Combine the ingredients in a glass. Add ½ tablespoon of Tabasco
sauce and the juice of half a lime. Mix the contents and add crushed
ice and salt to taste.
6 cl of Tequila
½ lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar
Mix the ingredients with crushed ice and pour the mixture in a martini
glass. Garnish with a red cherry.
Use Añejo for a better taste.
Tequila añejo is for a slow tasting with nothing added. Some
even think that using it in a martini is wasting.
Mezcal can be drunk with an orange slice and salt of gusano.
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