Most people who are even casual drinkers typically have a story about why they no longer drink tequila. For some of those people, the story is not even something that happened to them but an anecdote a friend passed on to them. With craft cocktails becoming all the rage not just in the big cities but small towns across the country, and the proliferation of Latin fusion restaurants, tequila is more popular than ever, and yet so many people still avoid it. A little tequila knowledge, however, can go a long way to enjoying it.
Tequila is actually one of the more regulated spirits in the world. By Mexican law, it can only come from five states in central Mexico, all centered around the state of Jalisco where the town of Tequila is located. The only plant that can be used in making tequila is the blue agave, and it must make up 51% of the finished product.
This sounds a little odd to most people, but 51% is a common threshold for defining many spirits. Rye Whiskey only needs to be 51% rye to qualify as such. The remaining balance is made up of what are called neutral grain spirits. However most of the higher quality tequilas that people are learning to enjoy are 100% blue agave.
100% blue agave tequilas come in four distinct classes that are legally defined by a group of Mexican politicians and several prominent distillers. Blanco - known as white or silver - tequilas are aged anywhere from zero to sixty days, Reposado - rested - tequilas are aged between 60 days and one year, Anjeo tequilas are aged between one and three years, and the ultra-premium category known as Extra Anejo is three years or older. All of these tequilas are rested in used American oak barrels that were primarily used before for whiskey
Tequila started becoming popular in the 1950's and 60's when people from the United States first started vacationing in Mexico. Tequila became an ambassador of sorts for the country, and that was when these rigorously defined categories were first created. Gold tequila is a separate category, and typically the one responsible for the bad experience many people remember. It is typically 51% agave and has several additives to ensure a uniform color and flavor.
Next time you find yourself out at a Latin fusion restaurant that has an extensive tequila list and a full margarita menu, take the time to reintroduce yourself to this southern spirit. It has come a long way from college parties and slammers at single's bars. And if anyone says it is not real tequila if there is no worm in the bottle, keep walking. They do not know what they are talking about.
Jack Terry is a freelance writer who has been covering the food and beverage industry for over 20 years. http://www.osorioslatinfusion.com