Tequila sometimes gets a bad rap, especially among those who took too many shots of some less-than-great stuff in college. But the spirit, which is distilled from agave, is actually quite delicious when imbibed correctly—and it tastes even better if you’re educated about what you’re drinking. So, to help you become a more enlightened tequila drinker, we enlisted Jose “Pepe” Hermosillo, founder of Casa Noble, and Tom Koerner from tequila bar Las Perlas Austin to help break down the most important things to know about tequila.
Tequila Is One of the Most Regulated Spirits in the World
There are a lot of rules about what constitutes an official tequila: It must be made with at least 51 percent blue Weber agave—though most truly great tequilas are made with 100 percent—and it can only be produced in a certain region, giving it a denomination of origin just like Cognac. It can be produced in the Mexican state of Jalisco, as well as parts of four other Mexican states. Be sure to read the label carefully when purchasing a bottle and look for a CRT (Consejo Regulador del Tequila) sticker to know it’s genuine. “If suddenly you get a tequila from China, it’s not tequila,” Hermosillo says.
There Are Two Categories of Tequila (But Only One Is Good)
There are two main categorizations of tequila: 100 percent blue Weber agave and tequila mixto (mixed). “100 percent comes strictly from blue agave,” Hermosillo explains. “And mixto is 51/49. That means 51 percent of the sugars come from the agave and 49 percent of the sugars come from other sources. I highly recommend people picking 100 percent blue agave because that’s true tequila. And that’s very easy to distinguish because it will say on the label. If it doesn’t say on the label and it only says ‘tequila,’ that’s a mixto.”
There Are Four Main Types of Tequila
Learning the differences between the four main types of tequila can help you determine which bottle to order. There’s blanco (or silver), reposado, añejo and extra añejo, and they’re essentially defined by how long they are aged. Blanco is a favorite amongst drinkers since it’s typically not aged and reflects the natural flavor of the spirit, but Hermosillo recommends starting with reposado, which is aged in wood barrels for less than one year. “That gives somebody, if they’re not a big tequila drinker, the ability to come into the category with something that is easier to enjoy,” he says. “Añejo is very good for bourbon and whiskey drinkers. It really depends on your palate what you want to go to, but when you’re being initiated into tequila, reposado is a good starter.”