Skip Nav
Chrissy Teigen
Chrissy Teigen's Chicken Pot Pie Soup Belongs in the Soup Hall of Fame
You Will Never Look at Oreos the Same Way Again After Reading These Facts
Food Video
Break Off a Piece of This Giant Cake-Filled Kit Kat Bar!

How to Choose a Good Tequila

Tequila 101: A Basic Primer

From margaritas to body shots, tequila has played an unforgettable role in America's drinking history. But let's face it: how much do you really know about this spirit? I'll be the first one to admit: I knew nada.

Thankfully, Ryan Fitzgerald, tequila expert and bar manager at Beretta, led me through a crash course on tequila, complete with flight tastings and all. Two hours later, I felt equipped with all the knowledge I needed to dive right into tequila appreciation: where it comes from, the way it's made, and how to taste it.

  • Tequila must come from one of five regions within Mexico: parts of Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, Tamaulipas, and the predominant region, Jalisco.
  • There are exceptions, but as a general rule of thumb, most of the quality tequilas out there are made of 100 percent blue agave and will say so on the label. Those that don't specify this may contain other fermentable sugars, such as corn syrup, in addition to agave.
  • Tequila is technically a mezcal, a distilled alcoholic beverage derived from the maguey plant. Not all mezcals are tequilas.
  • Tequila is made by harvesting the blue agave plant, then cooking the heart of the agave in an oven or autoclave. A pulp is created, and the agave fibers are then separated from their juice. The hearts are then fermented (with or without the fibers). At this point, the fermented mix is distilled twice, maybe more (at least once in a copper pot still). Each distillation increases the alcohol content of the tequila. Then the tequila is aged in oak barrels for varying lengths of time.
  • To properly smell tequila without getting a whiff that's overpowered by alcohol, stick your nose into the glass, but breathe in (and out) through your mouth.
  • Tequila has four classifications based on age: blanco, which is aged in oak for zero to two months; reposado, which is aged two to 12 months; añejo, which is aged 12 months to three years and has a restricted barrel size; and the newest category, extra añejo, which is aged more than three years and has a maximum oak barrel size of 600 liters. As tequila ages, it becomes oakier and more mellow in flavor.

Do you consider yourself as well-educated about tequila as you are other spirits?

Join The Conversation
Nancy-Einhart Nancy-Einhart 5 years
I feel like I know 100% more about tequila than I ever did now.
Elimtz Elimtz 5 years
"the Central American spirit"- last I checked, Mexico is in North America. And for the liquor to be called Tequila, it has to come from Jalisco. (just like champagne can only come from Champagne. No offense to your Tequila expert, but you should perhaps get your info from from a certified Tequilero, I heard they have a Tequilera now too.
How Chefs Roast Potatoes
How Chefs Cook Steak
How to Roast Potatoes Fast
Easy Queso Recipe
From Our Partners
Latest Food
All the Latest From Ryan Reynolds