Food

The Skinny on Tequila—and Two Virtuous Cocktails

The Skinny on Tequila—and Two Virtuous Cocktails

The Skinny
on Tequila—


and Two
Virtuous Cocktails

Tequila is the spirit of summertime. Some swear that the good stuff (in moderation) leaves them hangover-free. In case you missed it: On The goop Podcast, naturopathic doctor Nigma Talib said this could be because tequila (plain, without a mixer) is easier on the gut than wine, for example; there’s less sugar and the tequila doesn’t ferment in your gut in the same way wine does. Overdrinking anything is (to state the obvious) not going to turn out well, but for Talib, sipping a nice tequila on ice is a cleaner way of drinking.

Which bring us to: choosing which tequila to use. Certified organic is a plus, but conventional may not be a deal breaker for you. Either way, we look for tequila that is 100 percent blue agave. Anything labeled “mixto” probably has some undesirable sugar or additives thrown in, and that’s the stuff that can leave your head pounding the next morning.

Now: Do you sip the añejo and mix the blanco? Or is it the other way around? When do you call in mezcal?

Let’s break it down: First of all, there are five kinds of tequila (who knew?). Second, harvesting it involves jimadors (we’ll explain). And most important, we present a few refreshing and healthyish riffs on classic tequila drinks (emphasis on “ish”). Because what’s the point if we’re not having fun?

How Tequila
Is Made

  1. 1. Harvest

    The blue Weber agave must grow for eight to ten years before becoming a harvestable crop. It can only be harvested manually by a trained expert, called a jimador, with a technique that has been around for centuries. The jimadors remove the leaves of the agave, leaving the piña, the heart of the plant, which will then be used to make tequila.

    2. Cooking

    The piñas are steamed in brick ovens, which converts the complex carbohydrates from the plant into fermentable sugars.

    3. Extraction

    The cooked piñas are transported to a milling station where they are crushed, releasing the sugary juices that will then be fermented.

  2. 4. Fermentation

    It typically takes seven to twelve days for the crushed piñas to ferment and the yeast to develop.

    5. Distillation

    Once the fermentation process is complete, the fermented juice will be distilled by steam, usually twice, to produce a 55 percent or higher alcohol content. The more the liquid is distilled, the stronger it will be. (Blanco is about 55 percent.)

    6. Aging

    The tequila can be aged anywhere from three months to more than three years in different types of oak barrels to produce various types of tequilas.

  1. 1. Harvest

    The blue Weber agave must grow for eight to ten years before becoming a harvestable crop. It can only be harvested manually by a trained expert, called a jimador, with a technique that has been around for centuries. The jimadors remove the leaves of the agave, leaving the piña, the herat of the plant, which will then be used to make tequila.

  2. 2. Cooking

    The piñas are steamed in brick ovens, which converts the complex carbohydrates from the plant into fermentable sugars.

  3. 3. Extraction

    The cooked piñas are cooked are transported to a milling station where they are crushed, releasing the sugary juices that will then be fermented.

  4. 4. Fermentation

    It typically takes seven to twelve days for the crushed piñas to ferment and the yeast to develop.

  5. 5. Distillation

    Once the fermentation process is complete, the fermented juice will be distilled by steam, usually twice, to produce a 55 percent or higher alcohol content. The more the liquid is distilled, the stronger it will be. (Blanco is about 55 percent.)

  6. 6. Aging

    The tequila can be aged anywhere from three months to more than three years in different types of oak barrels to produce various types of tequilas.

The Different
Types of Tequila

  1. Blanco (Also Called Silver)

    This is the blue agave spirit in its purest form, and it’s also probably the most common. It’s unaged and bottled almost immediately after distillation. (If aged, it’s only done in stainless steel containers to maintain the clarity and clean flavor). It has a delicate fruity flavor that the plant is famous for, but it’s versatile enough for mixing into cocktails.

  2. Joven (Also Called Oro or Gold)

    Joven tequila is blanco tequila that has either been mixed with aged tequila or aged in barrels for a few weeks. The result is a smoother, more mellow spirit. Check the ingredients to make sure your joven tequila is made with 100 percent agave—some brands add sweeteners and food dyes.

  3. Reposado

    Reposado” means “rested,” so you can count on a richer, more robust flavor from this tequila, which gets aged in oak barrels for two months to a year. Its more sophisticated flavor still works great in cocktails, but it’s even better on the rocks or served neat.

  4. Añejo

    Añejo,” which means “vintage,” is aged for one to three years in oak barrels, and because of the long fermentation process, it develops an incredibly rich color and flavor. This is considered the best tequila for sipping.

  5. Extra Añejo

    This is the newest—and most expensive—tequila category. Extra añejo tequila is aged in barrels for at least three years. This results in a deep, dark golden color; incredibly complex notes of vanilla; and a distinctively oaky finish. This tequila should be sipped, not mixed.

What Is Mezcal?

Most people know that tequila and mezcal are somehow related but don’t know how. Tequila is a type of mezcal, but mezcal is not tequila. Tequila can be made only in specific regions of Mexico (primarily Jalisco), while mezcal can technically be made anywhere (though most is made in Oaxaca). Mezcal can be made from over thirty different types of agave, whereas tequila can be made of only a specific variety called blue Weber agave. The last key difference is in the style of cooking the agave prior to fermentation and distillation. For tequila, the agave is typically steamed in brick ovens, while for mezcal, the agave is cooked in underground pits lined with hot rocks that have been burning for over twenty hours, which is how mezcal gets its signature smoky flavor.

  • Carrot Orange Margarita

    Carrot Orange Margarita

    The unusual pairing of carrot juice with tequila piqued our interest when GP raved about a carrot juice margarita she had on a trip to Mexico a few years back. Turns out, it’s pretty damn good.

    GET RECIPE

  • Kombucha Paloma

    Kombucha Paloma

    We love the funk and spice the ginger-lemon kombucha adds to this paloma. It’s perfect paired with the sweet-tart grapefruit and lime. You could use blanco tequila here, but the reposado lends delicate caramel notes that make this cocktail just…beyond.

    GET RECIPE

You may also like