Alcohol Education: 10 Mandatory Facts to Know About Tequila
Like vodka, over the years, tequila has earned a bad reputation. It’s no fault of the tireless tequila makers, it’s just that college-aged people really enjoy licking salt off their hands, taking a shot of cheap tequila, and following it by chewing on a lime wedge. Don’t tell us you’ve never done this. We know you have. But just because you had a really rough trip home from spring break because of all the tequila you imbibed in Cancun, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t rediscover this spirit as an adult. The market is full of high-quality, well-made, nuanced, delicious tequilas perfect for sipping or mixing with.
In an effort to ease your mind about a possible return to drinking tequila in a socially responsible way, we’ve decided to make a list of some of the most interesting, eye-opening, and downright crazy facts about Mexico’s native spirit. Check them all out below.
Photo: Joel Villanueva (Getty Images)
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Tequila must be made in and around the city of the same name.
Even if you make it exactly the same way, it’s not tequila if it isn’t made in the area around the city of Tequila (40 miles north of Guadalajara) in the state of Jalisco (as well as limited quantities in Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas). This is similar to other forms of alcohol like Cognac, Port, and Champagne.
Tequila can only be made from one kind of agave.
Tequila is a distilled spirit made from the agave plant. To be called a tequila, it must be made with blue Weber agave. The agave heart is steamed in ovens before being shredded or mashed and then distilled into what we know as tequila.
Tequila and mezcal are very similar.
You might be confused about these two Mexican spirits because they’re so similar. The big differences are the agave they’re made with and where they’re made. Mezcal can be made from any agave (up to 30 varieties), not just the blue agave. Mezcal can also be made anywhere in Mexico but is mostly produced in Oaxaca.
There’s shouldn’t be a worm in your tequila.
Even though you might have seen worms in a bottle of novelty tequila at a truck stop, you should know that most tequilas don’t (and shouldn’t) contain a worm. The worm (which was actually moth larvae) was part of a marketing campaign in the 1940s and '50s.
There’s a lot of tequila on the market.
There are more than 100 distilleries and over 1,000 different brands of tequila. So, in case you’ve been out of the tequila game for a while, there’s a lot more than Jose Cuervo and Patron.
The people who harvest agave for tequila are called 'jimadors.'
Not much has changed in the cultivation of agave in the last few centuries. The people who tend to and harvest tequila hearts are called "jimadors" and they do this with a tool called a “coa de jima” which translates to a “hoe for harvesting.” It’s a long wooden handle with a round, machete-like blade on the end.
It takes a long time to grow agave.
Unlike making whiskey, you can’t just get the ingredients together and make tequila. Blue agave plants take upwards of 12 years to mature before they’re able to be harvested for tequila. That’s a pretty long wait for a drink.
All tequila is mezcal, but not all mezcal is tequila.
Similar to the idea that all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon, mezcal (like whiskey) is an all-encompassing term. Therefore, tequila is technically a type of mezcal. While mezcal is…mezcal.
Tequila can be made into diamonds.
For some reason, physicists at the National Autonomous University of Mexico used tequila to make artificial diamonds. Who knows if they’re ever going to be available to buy, but we bet your girl would prefer one to a cubic zirconia.
There are many different types of tequila.
While there are two main categories (100 percent blue agave and tequila mixto), there are five types. They include blanco (or silver), gold (or joven), reposado, anejo, and extra anejo.