The best tequilas are made from 100% blue agave and handcrafted for your sipping pleasure. Why? Because in Mexico they prefer to sip their tequila, not shoot it. No one is stopping you from enjoying tequila anyway you want. But if your buying the good stuff we encourage you ––with a wink and a nod–– to sip it neat from a snifter, or a shot glass if absolutely necessary.
Much like a good whiskey or cognac, the goal of sipping tequila is to experience the notes and flavor, not to mask it or cover it up. Strive for more taste and less burn.
Main types of tequila Mexican Chaser What is Mixto?
In Mexico, not only do they only drink 100 percent agave tequila and mezcal, they don’t do a lot of shots. The only real “chaser” that Mexicans drink with tequila is sangrita, a sweet and spicy mixture of citrus juices, hot sauce, and sometimes tomato juice and/or Worcestershire.
Served in a small glass alongside tequila, sangrita takes its turn between sips of tequila, cleansing the palate and highlighting tequila’s peppery and citrusy taste.
If you’re looking to drink tequila in a cocktail, do as they do in Mexico – mix it with grapefruit soda (like Fresca or Squirt) to make a refreshing Paloma. Pretty simple.
Essentially, tequila divides into two categories: Those made for shots and cheap drinks; or as a craft spirit made for sipping and savoring.
What is Mixto?
It’s not what you want. Technically, tequila manufacturers can mix blue agave spirit with something cheaper, like cane sugar that’s been fermented and distilled into some lesser tequila spirit. Jose Cuervo Especial Silver and Gold are two of the most popular, with labels that read: “Made with Agave.”
Before 100% blue agave tequila gained popularity in the States, the vast majority of tequila consumed were mixto variety: a concoction made from only 51 percent blue weber agave and fortified with a big sugar boost among other things.
Back then, it was more about velocity than flavor or burn. The five alarm fire put out with a stale slice of lime.
American tequila culture has for decades become synonymous with a cheap shot. Alas, it has taken 20 years for the industry to rebuild tequila’s reputation into a world-class spirit and there is no turning back.
Buyer beware: If the label reads, “made with agave” instead of “made from 100% Blue Agave,” your likely buying a cheap tequila and all the headaches that come with it.
To be fair, drinking mixto does help reduce the strain on blue weber agave cultivation, especially during the lean years, so a really well-made one has a role to play. There will always be times when you can’t get the good stuff. Such is life.
When it comes to discovering the best tequila it is really about individual’s palate. But there are some things you need to consider.
Tequila’s history and identity is as rich and protected as that of Scotch, Champagne and Cognac. The Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT), ensures that tequila meets “approved” standards.
The approved percentage of blue weber agave (to be labelled “tequila”) has changed over time, from 70% agave in 1964 to 51% today, according to Difford’s Guide. Distillers use a variety of sugars to fill the remaining 49%, including high fructose corn syrup and cane sugar. Tequilas are not required to say “mixto” on the label.
About the Good Stuff...
All tequila begins with blanco, the unaged mother spirit that goes on to be classified by age.
Aging tequila in French Cognac and American bourbon barrels adds to their unique flavors and colors. There are three main types of tequila—blanco, reposado, and añejo, including two additional variations: joven and extra añejo.
Also known as silver tequila, blanco is the unaged expression of tequila distilled from the blue Weber agave and hailing from one of five western states in Mexico. Look for bottles that are labeled “100% blue agave.” Blanco tequilas are perfect candidates for Margaritas.
Blanco bottles labeled “joven” typically contain a small amount of aged tequila blended with unaged tequila.
Tequila reposado is tequila that is aged in American or European oak barrels for at least two months and up to a year. Reposado tequilas make for more dynamic, flavorful Margaritas.
Tequila añejo is tequila aged in American or European oak barrels for at least a year. (Some producers introduce other barrels into the aging and blending process as well.) Añejo tequilas are best for sipping neat or as an alternative base spirit in recipes that call for brown spirits like whiskey.
Rare extra añejo expressions are aged for at least three years.
Although an amber color can indicate the age of a tequila, don’t be fooled by mixto “made from agave” that are some times labeled “gold tequila” that are usually only part tequila, plus caramel coloring and artificial flavoring.