In honour of one of our favourite days of the year, World Tequila Day (24th July), we've scoured the internet and our tequila friends to find out the top 10 things you probably didn't know about everyone's favourite happy spirit.
1) Tequila has a Denomination of Origin
Just like Champagne must be made in France, tequila must be made in Mexico - and almost all tequila is produced in the state of Jalisco. But Mexican law also allows tequila to be produced in certain municipalities like Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas.
2) All tequila is Mezcal, but not all Mezcal is tequila
Tequila can only be made from the blue agave, or agave tequila but mezcal can be made from over 30 varieties of agave (aka maguey) but most mezcals are made from agave espadin. Mezcal varietals also include the lesser-known but equally delicious Raicilla (ri-ciya). Sotol, a very up-and-coming Mexican spirit is also often included under the Mezcal umbrella however although it is produced in a very similar way, it’s not made from agave.
3) Harvesting tequila is HARD
The Mexican farmers who harvest agaves are called Jimadors - extremely talented men who have the skill of identifying which agave is ripe enough for harvest. The machete used to chop agave leaves is called a Coa - it has circular blades and only the ‘heart’ (or the piña) of the agave plant is used to make tequila - which can weigh anywhere from 80 to 200 pounds. The heart is stripped of its leaves by the Jimador and their Coa (check out this video of how quickly they strip and agave, it's serioous business) and then cooked to remove the sap - which is fermented and distilled.
4) Tequila making is over half a millennium old…
Some premium tequilas, such as Patrón, use the ‘Tahona’ process (a process which is more than half a millennium old, and named after the wheel used in the Nahuatl language of indigenous Aztecs) - which involves a 2-tonne volcanic stone wheel slowly crushing the shredded, cooked agave. The agave juice and fibres are then placed in pine wood casks for fermentation. During the distillation, the fermented ‘mosto’ (or basic liquid) is distilled once with the agave fibre and then again without. Then it is fine filtered and balanced to produced tequila. Then evert single part of the process afterwards including the crafting of the glass bottle, cork & label is done by hand meaning that no two bottles are quite the same. At Patrón, more than 60 hands will touch a single bottle before it is shipped. Now that is artisan.
5) Agave spirits have ancient & sacred roots
Another fermented drink that comes from the agave plant, which doesn’t fall under the Mezcal umbrella as it is not distilled - is Pulque. An ancient drink that predates the Spanish arrival in Mexico, there have been more than 400 divine begins tied to the drink - the tales mostly focus around Mayahuel, the goddess of the maguey, and it is thought that the aguamiel collected in the centre of the plant was her blood. In pre-Hispanic times, unless you were part of the ruling class, a new mother, or sick and elderly you couldn’t enjoy pulque, only being allowed a few sips during religious ceremonies - and there were serious punishments for getting drunk off the stuff.
6) Legend has it that it was discovered by accident… and that it was a gift from god
Legend has it that the Aztecs witnessed a lightning bold strike and agave and subsequently discovered a syrupy liquid oozing from it. They left it alone and then chose to drink it (?!) and found that it had fermented into a ‘powerful’ beverage which the Aztecs then believed was a gift from God.
7) Mexicans actually sip tequila…
Tequila for most people conjures up a memory of slinging back tequila shots swiftly followed by a suck of lime. But you won’t find many Mexicans disrespecting the agave spirit that way, as they consider tequila a sophisticated spirit that you sip to savour the flavour.
8) There are many different types of tequila…
The main two types of tequila are 100% Blue Agave Tequila and Tequila Mixto (mixed, made with 51% blue agave by law and ‘topped up’ with neutral grain spirit - these tend to be of lower quality). These, in turn, are divided into five types;
- Blanco - unnamed and in its purest form. These tequilas show off the talent and expertise of the distiller as there is no raging to hind behind - just the flavour of agave.
- Joven - this is a rare category of tequila, a Blanco that’s been blended with something (maybe something is colour, glycerin or another category of tequila like Añejo)
- Reposado - this is a Blanco tequila that's been aged for 2-12 months in oak (usually American Oak, ex Bourbon) barrels. This tequila is perfect for cocktails as the slight ageing softens it slightly.
- Añejo - a tequila aged for 1-3 years. A sipping tequila due to its premium nature and usually more expensive price tag. These tequilas combine the herbaceous flavours of agave but also rich vanilla and floral notes as well.
- Extra Añejo - a relatively new categorisation of tequila (which you can find out more about here) so it’s loosely regulated and producers can pretty much do what they like. So we definitely think this is one of the most exciting categories in the spirit world at the moment - one for true tequila aficionados.
9) Tequila is super good for you…
100% Blue Weber agave is low in sugar and calories - and has no carbohydrates and only 69 calories per ounce. Plus, it can help your digestive system and boost weight loss due to the agave plant playing host to agavin (which lowers blood sugar levels and help boost weight loss by keeping you fuller for longer) and inulin (which grows good bacteria, helping your stomach digest food).
10) … and no hangover?!
100% pure Blue Weber agave tequila is, well, pure agave, which means it doesn’t include sugars, corn syrups or congeners (chemical toxins that are produced during fermentation) which are the main culprits causing you your sore head in the morning.
What's your favourite tequila? Fancy turning up the agave dial a notch but not sure which tequila to choose? Get in touch and one of our Drinks Advisors will give you some recommendations.