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What Bartenders Should Know about Tequila

Tequila and bartenders is a good match. Since the 17th century, and now by Mexican law, all tequila comes from a certain area known as Tequila within the state of Jalisco. In this dry, volcanic soil of the Sierra Madre foothills, you can find the home of tequila's largest producers.

Tequila is produced from the heart of one species of agave plant, the Agave tequilana weber, or the blue variety. This heart is known as the piña, and it usually weighs between 80 and 150 pounds. The piña is steamed and shredded until the aguamiel (juice) runs off. This juice is then mixed with cane sugar and yeast and fermented for two to three days.

The fermented juice is double-distilled in traditional copper pot stills to 90 proof or higher. Tequila must contain a minimum of 51 percent distillate from the blue agave plant.

Types of tequila

Tequila comes in four categories:

  • Tequila Blanco (white, silver, or platinum tequila): This tequila comes fresh from the still and may be brought to commercial proof (salable proof or for sale commercially) with the addition of demineralized water.

  • Tequila Joven Abocado (gold tequila): This is silver tequila with added colorings and flavorings to mellow the flavor.

  • Tequila Reposado (“reposed” or “rested” tequila): This tequila is aged for two months to a year in oak tanks or barrels. Flavorings and coloring agents may be added, as well as demineralized water, to bring the tequila to commercial proof.

  • Añejo (aged tequila): This tequila is aged for at least one year in government-sealed oak barrels. Flavorings and coloring agents may be added, as well as demineralized water, to bring it to commercial proof. When tequilas of different ages are blended, the youngest age is designated.

Several tequila brands now offer flavored tequilas. Whether this trend catches on remains to be seen. Lemon, orange, and other citrus flavors are common, and you can also find such diverse flavors as chili pepper and chocolate if you're feeling adventurous.

Popular tequila brands

You're likely to find these brands at your local liquor store:

  • 901 Tequila: Justin Timberlake's line of ultra-premium tequila. Made from 100-percent blue weber agave and triple-distilled.

  • 1800 Tequila: 100-percent agave, double-distilled, and aged in French and American oak for six months.

  • Agavero: Named after the blue agave plant, this tequila is a blend of selective 100-percent blue agave Añejo and Reposado.

  • Agave Loco: A pepper-cured tequila.

  • Avión: Comes in Silver, Añejo, Reposado, and espresso.

  • Cabo Wabo: Sammy Hagar's tequila. It was introduced to the United States around 1996, without Van Halen.

  • Casamigos: A tequila inspired by George Clooney and friends, Casamigos comes in Blanco and Reposado.

  • Cazadores Tequila: 100-percent blue agave, this tequila rests for two months in new American white oak casks.

  • Chinaco: An ultra-premium tequila.

  • Corazon de Agave: An ultra-premium tequila.

  • Corzo Tequila: Comes in Añejo, Reposado, and Silver. Corzo uses more than twice the agave of other super-premium tequilas.

  • Don Julia: 100-percent blue agave tequila. Available in Blanco, Reposado, Anejo, 1942, and Real.

  • El Tesoro de Don Felipe: Estate-grown and bottled with no water added. Varieties include Añejo, Reposado, and Platinum.

  • Gran Centenario: Handcrafted from 100-percent blue agave, this ultra-premium tequila is available in these varieties: Plata (silver), Reposado, Añejo, and Extra-Añejo.

  • Herradura: The name is Spanish for “horseshoe.” It's available in Añejo, Reposado Gold, and Silver varieties.

  • Hotel California Tequila: An ultra-premium artisanal tequila. Comes in Blanco, Reposado, and Añejo.

  • Jose Cuervo: The world's oldest and largest tequila maker, and the oldest spirit company in North America. Available in these versions: Especial (Gold), Clasico, Tradicional, Black, and Reserva De La Familia.

  • Margaritaville Tequila: Premium 80-proof tequila that comes in Gold and Silver.

  • Milagro Tequila: Made using 100-percent estate-grown blue agave. Milagro makes a Silver, a Reposado, and an Añejo.

  • Paqui: Handcrafted in small batches.

  • Partida: An authentic estate-grown tequila, available in Añejo, Blanco, and Reposado.

  • Patrón: Available in Añejo, Silver, Reposado, Burdeos, and Gran Platinum versions, all containing 100-percent blue agave.

  • Pepe Lopez: Available in de Oro (gold) and Superior Silver (white) labels.

  • Revolucion Tequila Extra Añejo: 100-percent blue agave, distilled twice and aged in 10-year-old oak barrels for a minimum of 3 years.

  • Sauza: The first tequila exported to the United States. It's available in these versions: Tequila Blanco, Tequila Gold, Hacienda, Conmemorativo, Hornitos, and Tres Generaciones (available in Añejo, Reposado, and Plata).

  • Tarantula Tequila: Comes in Azul, Strawberry, Reposado, and Plata.

  • Two Fingers: Available in Gold, Limitado, and White. Named after a rogue entrepreneur, tequila producer, and occasional bandit from the Guadalajara area of Mexico who had only two fingers on his right hand (the index and thumb).

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