Tequila is a distilled alcohol made from the heart of the Weber blue agave. It is a variety of mezcal, which is a class of liquors made from agave plants. The name comes from the town of Tequila in Mexico, and the liquor can only be produced in one of five regions of Mexico to be considered tequila.
To make tequila, the leaves of the blue agave are removed to reveal the heart, or piña. The hearts are roasted or steamed to break down the starch prior to fermentation. They are then crushed to yield a juice that is left to ferment for several days. The fermentation yields a product with a relatively low alcohol content (~6%), and this fermented product must be distilled to concentrate the alcohol. The distillate must be aged for at least 14 days, and it may be aged longer depending on the desired final characteristics.
Depending on the specifications of different countries' regulating authorities, tequila generally contains at least around 35-40% alcohol by volume. At least 51% of the fermented sugars must come from the blue agave; lower quality tequilas may supplement the remainder with other sugars such as molasses or corn syrup. Tequila is generally characterized as earthy, although the exact flavor profile will depend on its aging.
The following are the different types of tequila by age:
- Blanco: Clear liquor aged only to the minimum requirement.
- Joven or oro: Lightly colored mixture of white and aged tequila
- Reposado: Aged in oak barrels for at least two months
- Añejo: Aged in barrels for at least a year
- Extra añejo: Aged in barrels for at least three years
Like other hard liquors, tequila may be consumed on its own or as a component of mixed drinks; well-known tequila drinks include the margarita and the tequila sunrise. It is also used in both savory and sweet cooking. It is often paired with lime.