Tequila has a sharp, alcoholic taste with citrus and pepper overtones. If you aren't used to the sensation, it can cause a burning feeling in your throat on the way down. However, the flavor varies based on where the agave was cultivated, and the exact type of tequila in question.
This article is a brief guide to tequila—how it's made, what it tastes like, and how to drink it—to help you decide if it's a drink you might enjoy.
What is Tequila?
Tequila is a distilled liquor high in alcohol content made from the agave plant in Mexico. Only a few parts of Mexico are permitted to make the beverage. It is now considered one of the most popular spirits in the world.
While tequila is a critical ingredient in margaritas and tequila shots are popular, it is also used in a variety of other cocktail recipes.
How is Tequila Made?
Tequila is manufactured by distilling the Weber blue agave plant's fermenting juices. The plant resembles a giant aloe vera with spiky barbs on the tips and is a member of the lily family.
The plant develops a big bulb underground called pia, which resembles a white pineapple. The agave leaves are removed, the pias are quartered, and the starches are progressively transformed to sugars in steam or brick ovens.
The delicious liquid from the baked agave is extracted and fermented with yeast to convert the sugar to alcohol.
How would I describe the Taste of Tequila?
The most common and popular tequila forms will have the purest flavor, with an earthy, semi-sweet, unmistakably agave taste. You really do have to try it to truly grasp its flavor though; it's distinctive enough that you will know what I mean from your first sip.
Tequila's flavor also varies based on where the agave was cultivated, and the type of tequila. Tequila from the lowlands is fruity and earthy, whereas tequila from the highlands is brighter and greener. Tequila also develops oaky tastes to varying degrees as it ages in barrels.
Let's look at a few of the main types:
Blanco, aka silver tequila, is tequila that has not been aged. It is often spicier than its matured counterparts, with raw vegetal agave, green herbal flavors. Various citrus, black pepper, other spices, and even some natural sweetness are apparent from the agave blasting your palette.
Tequila Reposado on the other hand is matured in oak barrels for 2 to 12 months. It has a pleasant taste with oak, vanilla, and caramel aromas.
Tequila añejo is aged tequila, matured in oak barrels for one to four years. This gives it a fuller flavor, with stronger vanilla and cinnamon overtones. When sipped straight or on the rocks, añejo shines, allowing you to really taste the intricacies of its flavor.
Why Do People Like Tequila?
Tequila is popular during social gatherings, during Cinco de Mayo, or as an accompaniment to Mexican food. People tend to gravitate towards it as a party shot more than many other alcoholic beverages.
It's also pretty fashionable to be seen with a glass of tequila, or to pose with an agave-based alcohol for an Instagram-worthy image.
Who Generally Likes Tequila?
People tend to like tequila due to the variety of ways it can be consumed, as well as the high alcohol content of the drink. With tequila often being consumed as a party drink in the form of shots, one drink can be gone in seconds, resulting in an intoxicating effect.
But while tequila might evoke ideas of young enthusiasm and recklessness, that's not the only demographic of people who like tequila. It's consumed by all kinds of different people on different occasions.
In fact, tequila aficionados like to sip good quality tequila straight to savor its complex flavors and appreciate its varying styles—you won't find any shots of tequila or partying amongst these fans.
Who Might Not Like Tequila?
People who dislike the taste of hard liquor should stay away from any form of tequila. Others generally hate it for the funky, peppery taste, leaving them with an unpleasant aftertaste.
However, thanks to the particularly distinctive taste of tequila, many people who do not like tequila usually have a previous bad experience when they were drinking it.
Just because you don't enjoy your first sip, don't write off tequila forever. You can become accustomed to it with time, and learn to like it once you've figured out your preferred style. Tequila cocktails are a great place to start.
How is Tequila Usually Served?
Drinking Tequila Neat
Tequila is often served neat traditionally in Mexico. This means drinking the tequila with no extra components. It can be served cold to soften the edges or for a more conventional presentation at room temperature.
Lower-quality brands should be served cold since they are not as smooth to sip as higher-quality brands.
With Lime and Salt
Drinking tequila in the form of a shot with lime and salt entails licking your hand, dusting it with salt, and then holding a shot and lime in your hand. You lick the salt off your palm, take the shot quickly, and then bite into the lime.
The bitterness of the lime and salt in your mouth with the tequila makes the drink easier to drink by removing the roughness, but it also takes away part of the burning taste.
While this method of drinking tequila might be common in the US, it's not considered authentic—don't expect to see this at high-end establishments in Mexico!
In a Margarita
All kinds of tequila may all be used to make margaritas, each with its own distinct flavor. Margaritas are available in two varieties: frozen and on the rocks.
The best summer drink for lazing in the sun is a frozen margarita combined with all different kinds of fruit (in my humble opinion).
On the other hand, on the rocks refers to a drink that has been poured over ice cubes and served. Both can be garnished with a slice of lime and salt or sugar on the rim.
Other Tequila Cocktails
Beyond the popular Margarita, tequila is a versatile spirit that can be used in a variety of other excellent mixed drinks, like the Paloma and the Mexican mule.
Nonetheless, it's just as good in a sour cocktail from the 1920s, like the Tequila Sour, or a Bloody Maria (a tequila-inspired twist on the Bloody Mary).
There are so many incredible drinks you can make with tequila. The best thing to do is to experiment until you find your favorite!