As far back as the first century AD, Tequila liquor, in some form or the other, has been made from the local
agave plant. The name Tequila derives from the name Ticuilas, which referred to a local Indian tribe discovered by
the Spanish who landed in Mexico back in the sixteenth century.
Nowadays, authentic tequila liquor is made only from a species of agave called the Blue Agave plant, and
primarily only in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Mezcal, which is similar, may be made from any of several agave
The plant is matured for a decade or more, then stripped of its flower and grown fat, then diced. The pieces are
baked in steam ovens to convert plant starches into sugars, which are part of the extracted juice. Mezcal, by
contrast, is baked in charcoal ovens, giving it a more full-bodied flavor. The liquid is fermented, then
The result is generally around fifty five percent ABV or alcohol by volume. The other key figure to watch for is
the percent of agave. The finest tequilas are fermented 100% agave juice while others may be diluted by as much as
half. The latter is called a mixto, which may or may not be noted on the bottle. However, 100% pure will be labeled
The spirit itself is a pure, clear liquid with colored tequilas acquiring their amber or yellowish cast
predominantly from added caramel. That additive is not necessarily a sign of poorer quality and a small quantity of
the tint may be the result of aging in oak casks, which, like whiskey and other liquors, lends overtones to the
Nevertheless, and unlike whiskey, scotch or bourbon, long-term aging is not generally done and neither is it a
mark of excellence. Aging tequilas more than a few years causes the vegetal flavors to become overwhelmed. Many
high quality tequilas actually see much less, a few months at most, some going straight into the bottle. Silver or
Blanco tequilas will usually age no more than sixty days and that in stainless steel barrels. However, they are
often intended to be used in mixed drinks only.
The casks used, not surprisingly, have an influence on the flavor of the final output. Many use once-used
Bourbon casks, which are typically American Oak, sometimes charred on the inside. Others may use casks used to age
sherry, which produces a slightly different result.
The careful spectator can readily make out all these notes in fine tequila, since there is little else to mask
the aromas. Some tequilas, though, have been pre-blended with fruits, sherry or even prune concentrate, making it
harder to detect some of the subtleties.
There is also no crime in using even the finest tequila to make a cocktail. After all, the point is to enjoy and
how better to make a great mixed drink than starting with the finest ingredients?