Ah tequila: friend to some, foe to many. Despite the bad rap that tequila has acquired due to shots and margaritas, I am here to tell you that this spirit has been overlooked for far too long. Tequila is by far my favourite of the hard liquors, so I'm going to try to win you over by showcasing the best side of tequila

What Is It?

Tequila is made from the agave plant—yes the same plant we get agave nectar from. Specifically, you're looking for blue Weber agave; make sure anything you buy says 100% Agave or 100% Blue Agave. And much like champagne can't be called champagne unless it's made in a specific region in France, tequila can't be called tequila unless it's made in Mexico. So it is possible to get tequila home grown but it will be called something else, like this Kilya Cactus Juice.

Here's a very quick breakdown of the tequila-making process: first, the farmers need to wait 12 years before harvesting the agave; then, the plant is roasted and mashed; the juice that comes out is fermented and distilled twice. Want more specifics? Here is a blog that goes through the steps more in depth. 

Now comes the fun stuff. There are four different types of tequila, which are distinguished by ageing time. Tequila is primarily aged in barrels that were previously used for ageing bourbon. This technique gives the tequila a more complex flavour profile and a wonderful, rich colour when aged for longer.

The first and most common type amongst college kids is called Blanco or Silver. These are clear in colour and aged for 0-2 months. The next step up is a Reposado—which is golden in colour and aged anywhere from 2-12 months. Then we have Añejo, which ranges from a deep golden to a dark brown colour and aged between 1-3 years. The newest of the types, only being classified in 2006, is the Extra-Añejo because who doesn't like being a little extra? Extra-Añejo products are a very dark brown and aged for more than 3 years. The barrels that tequilas are aged in are not airtight which means over time the Añejos and Extra-Añejos evaporate and the alcohol becomes very concentrated. To combat this, the distillers actually add water to dilute it.

Lastly, if you see anything called "Gold" tequila: THAT IS NOT A REAL THING because it's probably not 100% tequila. The gold colour comes from food colouring, although sometimes it's a mix of a Blanco and an Añejo. So by all means drink it, but look at the label and know what you're drinking first.

What Do I Do With It?

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As you can see, there is a huge variety of tequila out there due to the range of ageing times. This is a really great thing because it guarantees a brand for each person regardless of their price range.

In general, I would recommend doing shots with a Blanco because they are cheaper and cleaner in flavour. Reposados are great for cocktails because they add just a hint of something different and a complexity that isn't present in Blancos. My favourite at the moment is a favourite amongst many: the El Espolón Reposado. It is relatively inexpensive, yet smooth and a little sweet. Now if you're springing the big bucks on an Añejo or Extra-Añejo I would drink it straight or on the rocks like whisky or scotch; if I see you put these in a margarita I'll be very disappointed in you.

So there you go—a little sneak peak into the wonderful world of tequila. I hope this encourages you to explore outside of your comfort zone. Cheers.

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