All About Tequila

Types of Tequila

Tequila can only be produced in Mexico and must comply with strict Mexican Government regulations. In order to satisfy an ever-growing demand and a multitude of consumer's preferences and tastes, tequila is produced in two general categories and four different types in each category. The two categories are defined by the percentage of juices coming from the blue agave:

Tequila 100% Agave. Must be made with 100% blue agave juices and must be bottled at the distillery in Mexico.

Tequila (Ordinary Tequila). Must be made with at least 51% blue agave juices. This tequila may be exported in bulk to be bottled in other countries following the NOM standard.

The NOM standard defines four types of tequila: Blanco Clear, fresh from the still tequila is called Blanco (white or silver). It has the true bouquet and flavor of the blue agave. It is usually strong and is traditionally enjoyed in a "caballito" (2 oz small glass). This is the traditional tequila that started it all.

Joven or Abocado Joven or young is Tequila Blanco mellowed by the addition of colorings and flavorings, caramel being the most common. It is also known as Extra or Gold. It is the tequila of choice for Margaritas.

Reposado Reposado or rested is Tequila Blanco that has been kept in white oak casks or vats called "pipones" for more than two months and up to one year. The oak barrels give Reposado a mellowed taste, pleasing bouquet, and its pale color. Reposados keep the blue agave taste and are gentler to the palate. These tequilas have experienced exponential demand and high prices.

Añejo Añejo is Tequila Blanco aged in white oak casks for more than a year. Maximum capacity of the casks should not exceed 600 liters (159 gallons). The amber color and woody flavor are picked up from the oak, and the oxidation that takes place through the porous wood develops the unique bouquet and taste. Some Añejos are aged for several years and enter into the big leagues of liquor both in taste and in price.

Reprinted from Vive Tequila

Tequila is aged in casks.


Agave. Plant with long spiny leaves of the lily family. There are more than 400 species, all native to North America and mostly to Mexico. Tequila is made exclusively from the agave azul that grows in semiarid soils and takes from 8 to 12 years to mature. Pulque is made from the maguey that grows in the cooler highlands and has become a hallmark of the Mexican countryside. Other agave is used to produce henequen (sisal).

Agave azul (Blue Agave). The specific variety of agave from which tequila is made. It grows in the Tequila Region. The correct name is Agave Azul Tequilana Weber.

Aguamiel. The sugary sap from the maguey that ferments into pulque.

Añejo. Tequila Blanco aged in oak barrels for more than a year. It has a golden amber color with a soft, smooth, complex flavor.

Autoclave. A large steam pressure cooker used to cook the agave piñas.

Barrica. Barrel mostly made of oak that previously held bourbon or whiskey.

Blanco. Clear, fresh from the still tequila is called Blanco (white or silver). It has the true bouquet and flavor of the blue agave.

Caballito. A two to three ounce glass 3 to 4 inches tall used in Mexico for tequila. The glass is slightly tapered making the mouth wider than the bottom, although it may be a perfect cylinder.

Cabeza. The first portion of distillate (heads), highest in alcohol and aldehydes, which is usually discarded. See also Corazon and Colas. Cactus. Drought resistant spiny plants with succulent stems like the saguaro, peyote and nopal (opuntia). No liquor is produced with any cactus plant.

Coa. A machete type tool used by the Jimador for harvesting agave.

Colas. The final portion of distillate containing the lowest alcohol and soapy flavors, usually recycled into another distillation.

Corazon. The “heart” of distillation containing the best flavors and aromas for tequila.

CRT. Tequila Regulatory Council (Consejo Regulador del Tequila), a private non-profit organization responsible for the regulation, verification, and quality certification of tequila.

Distillation. The process of purifying a liquid by successive evaporation and condensation. Tequila is made with double distillation, and some brands go through a third one to enhance purity.

Fabrica. A tequila distillery.

Fermentation. The formation of alcohol from sugars by the action of enzymes. In the tequila process the sugars come from the roasted agave piñas, and the enzymes is the yeast added to the sap or “mosto”. The yeast acts upon the sugars of the agave plant converting them into alcohol.

Gran Reposado. 100% Blue Agave tequila made in small batches and rested in wood barrels for twice as long as most Resposados.

Hijuelos. Offsprings of the agave plant, which are replanted and develop into mature agave plants. It is the preferred form of propagation for most agave plants.

Horno. The traditional oven used to cook agave piñas.

Jimador. The laborer who harvests agave. The jimador's task is a crucial one, since he decides when the plant is ready, usually 8 to 12 years after it is planted. He has to cut off all the spiny leaves to obtain an almost perfect core or piña.

Joven abocado. Joven or young is Tequila Blanco mellowed by the addition of colorings and flavorings, caramel being the most common. It is also known as Extra or Gold. Mostly used for Margaritas.

Los Altos. One of the major growing regions for Blue Agave, a mountainous area with rich red volcanic soil east of Guadalajara.

Madre. A mature or “Mother” agave plant from which hijuelos have been harvested.

Maguey. A Carib word encompassing agaves that are mostly used for pulque. It has become a hallmark of the Mexican countryside.

Mezcal (or mescal). All liquors distilled from any agave plant are mezcal, but only those made from the blue agave are branded as tequila. Tequila is mezcal produced in the Tequila Region.

Mosto. The unfermented juice extracted from the roasted agave piñas.

NOM. Norma Official Mexicana. The official Mexican standard or NOM defines tequila as the product of fermentation and distillation of the blue agave juices (mostos) obtained at the distillery from agave cores or piñas grown in the Tequila Region. It is assigned by the government to each tequila distillery, identifying which company made and bottled each brand of tequila.

Nopal. Native to Mexico it is a member of the cactus family, and is commonly referred to as “prickly pear”. Nopal is a great source of vitamin C and extremely nutritious. Its fruit, known as “tuna”, is served with lime juice for breakfast or lunch.

Ordinario. The first run distillate when making tequila.

Piña. The pineapple-shaped heart of the agave plant. The average weight is 40 to 70 pounds, and can reach up to 200 pounds. Roughly speaking, seven kilos (15 lb.) of raw agave piñas are needed to produce one liter (one quart U.S.) of tequila. Piloncillo. Unrefined sugar made from dried sugarcane juice, used in production of tequila joven or abocado.

Pipon. Tank, usually made of oak, used for storing tequila. Pulque. Fermented Mexican drink, made from the maguey or Century plant. The maguey is milked daily by a tlachiquero to obtain the aguamiel sap using a gourd or acocote. Pulque is slightly foamy and mildly alcoholic.

Quiote. A once-in-a-lifetime stem that springs from all agave plants to produce seeds. It may reach 25 to 40 feet high so that the seeds grown at the top of the stem can scatter with the wind.

Resposado. Reposado or rested is Tequila Blanco that has been kept in white oak casks or vats called pipones for more than two months and up to one year. The oak barrels give Reposado a mellowed taste, pleasing bouquet, and its pale color.

Sangrita. A spicy and refreshing non-alcoholic chaser made of fresh orange juice, grenadine and chile piquãn. Sangrita is the Spanish diminutive for “blood” and is served in a “caballito”.

Tahona. The ancient traditional stone wheel used to crush and extract juice from cooked agave. It is still used to produce traditional tequila.

Tequila. Both the region and the town that gave the spirit of tequila its name.

Tepache. A Mexican drink made of the fermentation of pineapple juice. In some regions pulque is added.

Tequila Region. The “Denomination of Origin” law has defined the area in which the blue agave is grown. It includes the state of Jalisco and some regions in the states of Guanajuato, Nayarit, Michoacãn, and Tamaulipas.

Tesgñino. Mild alcoholic beverage of Central and Northern Mexico produced by the fermentation of corn. It is similar to beer with bits of corn and it is the traditional drink of the Tarahumaras or Rarramuri Indians.

Tuna. The fruit of the nopal. It is served chilled with lime juice.

Yeast. Consists largely of cells of a tiny fungus. It causes fermentation in alcoholic beverages and is used as leaven in baking. It is added to the tequila mosto to induce fermentation. The yeast acts upon the sugars of the agave plant converting them into alcohol.

Reprinted from Vive Tequila

Piñas, heart of the agave

Myths About Tequila

Tequila comes from the distillation of �pulque�. WRONG. Pulque comes from the fermentation of the sugary sap �aguamiel� obtained from the maguey or Century Plant (which is botanically related to the agave plant). Pulque is fine but it has nothing to do with tequila.

Tequila and mezcal are made from a cactus. WRONG. Cactus plants grow in the desert and are of a different genus than the agave. There is no known liquor obtained from the cactus.

Mezcal contains mescaline. WRONG. Neither tequila nor mezcal contains any mescaline or alkaloids at all. However, peyote (a variety of Cactus) contains mescaline, an alkaloid that produces hallucinations.

The worm is part of the tequila or mezcal process. This is a nice legend, but not true at all. The worm is placed in some mezcal bottles as a marketing gig. However the maguey grows worms that are a delicacy in Mexico fetching astronomical prices at luxury restaurants. The best known are “Gusanos de Maguey” and “Chinicuiles”.

Tequila has medicinal properties. There is no scientific evidence about any medicinal properties of the agave plant, mescal, or tequila. However if you drink a “caballito” every day, it will make you a happier person.

Reprinted from Vive Tequila

The Fabrica

Here's some interesting links.

Jose Cuervo Tequila

Casa Noble Tequila

Cabo Wabo Tequila

Patron Tequila

Tequila XQ

Tequila Espolon

Tukys Tequila

Los Cazadores Tequila

Compania de Arandas Tequilas

Tequila Aficionado Magazine

The Horno - steaming the pinas

A few facts about Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico.

Welcome to Tequila, Mexico

There are now more than 24 distilleries located in Tequila, Jalisco. This the home of Tequila Cuervo and Tequila Sauza, two of the big names in tequila production.

Tequila was founded in 1530 by a Spanish Conquistador, by the name of Capt. Cristobal de Onate.

Tequila means the rock that cuts; a phrase that originated from the fact that the town is surrounded by obisidian, the sharp rock created by hot lava.

For miles and miles around the city of Tequila one is able to see thousands and thousands of acres (hectares in Mexico) of the blue-green colored, spiny Maguey cactus from which Tequila is distilled. The maguey plant requires approximately 8 years to reach the level of maturity necessary to produce tequila.

Jimeador cutting pinas with the coa

Here's a great margarita recipe to try at home.

1. Fill shaker with broken cubed ice.
2. Squeeze four fresh lime wedges into shaker.
3. Add 2 oz. of your favorite tequila.
4. Add 1/2 oz. of Grand Marnier.
5. Add 1/2 to 1 oz. of "simple syrup" (more will make it sweeter) ***see below
6. Cover shaker tightly!
7. Shake vigorously.
8. Flip shaker in midair twice (three times if you're a pro).
9. Uncover shaker and savor the flavor!
10. Rub a cut lime around the outside rim of the glass.
11. Salt the outside only.
12. Add fresh ice to the glass.
13. Fill er up.
14. Squeeze in 1 lime wedge and toss rind over left shoulder.
15. Enjoy!

***simple syrup - add 1 1/2 cups of sugar to 1 quart of water - boil until clear and let cool.

Tequila is aged in casks, both BIG and small.
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