|One of the dangers of tequila–-lime hats! Photo by kire/flickr|
As spring begins to ramp up, there is a tendency for many to indulge in a fair amount of “adult” beverages as the weather gets warmer. Before you consume these libations (beer excluded for now), did you ever wonder what you were drinking and how it started? Probably not, but here’s your chance to be the life of the party and educate everyone on what they’re guzzling during those drinking games. Step up your game with this handy guide about tequila.
Tequila, ahh, tequila. What better beverage to start with that has caused so many a hangover, and so many an “oops!” moment. Tequila is made from the blue agave plant and was first produced near the town of Tequila in the Mexican state of Jalisco in the 16th century. Mexican law dictates that tequila can only be produced in the state of Jalisco, with some production being allowed in regions of the states of Michoacán, Nayarit, Guanajuato, and Tamaulipas.
|Agave field in Jalisco Photo by mickou/flickr|
The U.S. recognizes that tequila can only be produced in Mexico, but through an agreement with the Mexican government, bulk amounts can be bottled in the U.S. As a side-note, the U.S. regulations state that tequila can have up to 49% other liquids. That is why many recommend looking for the “100% agave” on the label. If it contains more than 51% agave and less than 100%, then some manufacturers will label it as “made from (or with) blue agave”. Only tequilas distilled with 100% agave can use the label “100% blue agave”.
Now, you’re at the super-bargain liquor store that has eight aisles of tequilas in various sizes and shapes, what is a man or woman to do? Usually the biggest confusion arises in what type of tequila you want to buy, or what you’re in the mood to do with it (if you catch my drift). Here’s a quick guide to the types of tequila:
Blanco, or white tequila is usually unaged, stored, and bottled right after distillation, or stored in stainless steel containers for up to four weeks. This is considered pure, unadulterated tequila.
Joven, or gold tequila is flavored with caramel, or other flavorings and is unaged. These are usually used for mixed drinks and are less expensive.
Reposado are tequilas aged in wooden barrels between two and eleven months. Sometimes they are aged in used bourbon or wine barrels and will take on flavors from those spirits.
|Looks like some good stuff Photo by rb3m/flickr|
Tequila Añejo are aged for at least one year and will take on an amber color during the process. These are typically smooth and rich, and thus more expensive.
Tequila Extra Añejo are a new category of tequilas started in 2006 and are labeled this when the spirit has been aged more than three years. They are complex and smooth.
|The “worm” Photo by nick see/flickr|
Any tequila discussion wouldn’t be finished without talking about the “worm”. The famous worms are not found in tequilas, but in mezcals, usually from Oaxaca. The worm is actually the larval form of a moth or the caterpillar of a butterfly that lives on the agave plant. It was an indication that the plant was infested. The worm, however, was simply a marketing gimmick in the 1950’s that damaged the reputation of mezcals to that of an inferior spirit. But mezcals are making a comeback, and many have been able to shake the image of the worm at the bottom of the bottle (the vast majority do not have a worm, but there continues to be a few holdouts that must think it’s charming, or they are marketing to frat houses).
|Tequila checkers Photo by gaelenh/flickr|
Your method of choice in the way you want to consume the tequila can vary about as much as the number of brands. If you’re in Mexico, the traditional way is neat, no salt or lime. If you’re outside of Mexico it could be from a lick of salt before the shot and then with the suck of a lime after. This has been erroneously termed a “Tequila Slammer”, when in actuality a “Tequila Slammer” is tequila mixed with a carbonated beverage in equal parts (just so you know). If you’re in Germany you may ask for a shot of gold tequila and get it accompanied by some cinnamon and a slice of orange. Oh, those Germans, always trying to be different. Tequila can also be used for checkers, placed on the body, or poured from the bottle directly into the mouth; whatever floats your boat.
In conclusion, when you buy that next bottle of tequila, check the label; or at least explain why your tequila is gold or silver to your buddy who’s trying to convince you to take another shot.
|Doesn’t that just say it all milesgehm/flickr|
Do you have a favorite tequila, drinking game, or tequila experience? Come on, we all need a good laugh now and then.