farmer cutting tequila agave plants

What Is Tequila Made From? Your Expert Guide

Tequila is crafted from the blue agave plant, and the Mexican government places strict standards on what can be considered tequila and where this liquor is produced. Crafting tequila is often a long process, and there are a few different varieties of tequila and agave that are utilized to create differing flavors in this spirit.

Our article tells you more about what tequila is and what exactly it is made from in addition to answering your other important questions about this liquor.

Tequila: The Main Facts

Tequila is a distilled liquor created from agave, and the first instances of tequila are recorded as far back as the late 1500s. Tequila is created in Mexico, with the Mexican government only allowing certain regions to officially produce the liquor. Today, the majority of tequila is crafted in the Mexican city of Tequila and the region of Jalisco, in addition to areas in the states of Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas.

Technically, tequila is a type of mezcal, which is a smoky type of liquor crafted from cooked agave. However, tequila specifically utilizes the blue agave plant, something that gives the liquor its distinct appearance and taste. In general, tequila is found to have flavors of fruitiness, vanilla, and earthiness. There is a slight burning spice to it, and, depending on the manufacturing process, it may have other flavor notes or a lighter or bolder flavor.

Tequila is perceived as a classic liquor, and it is featured in many classic cocktail recipes, such as the margarita. This drink is sometimes thought of as a party drink, with tequila shots being incredibly popular at bars and clubs. Tequila is also sometimes enjoyed neat or on the rocks if you want to savor the individual and unique flavors present in this liquor.

What Is the Alcohol Content of Tequila?

The alcoholic content of tequila varies based on the type and production method of this liquor, though you can expect most tequilas to have a proof of between 80 and 100. This makes the ABV of tequila range between 40% and 50% ABV.

What Is Tequila Made From?

Tequila is made specifically from the blue agave plant, known scientifically as Agave tequilana. This plant is primarily grown in the Mexican state of Jalisco, and it is one of the state’s most important economic products. This plant is larger and has a blue-grey color, and the heart of the blue agave, known as the piña, is the part of the plant that is turned into tequila.

Tequila is generally not infused with any other ingredients, but it may be aged to create differing flavors. Typically, unaged tequilas are silver or clear in color, while aged tequilas take on a more golden color and a stronger, smoother flavor.

What Is the Primary Ingredient of Tequila?

The primary ingredient of tequila is blue agave. Specifically, the heart of the blue agave plant is the part that is roasted, turned into a pulp, and fermented before distillation to craft this liquor. Tequila rarely has other added ingredients or infusions.

How Is Tequila Made?

The process of making tequila is fairly straightforward, and this method is similar to other liquor-making methods that rely on fermentation and distillation. To start with, the heart of the blue agave plant will be harvested and removed sometime between the plant’s seventh to fourteenth year of growth. The heart will have its leaves removed before being heated.

Once roasted, the heart will be pressed or crushed in order to release the sugary liquid the heating produced, called aguamiel. The aguamiel will then be mixed with yeast and fermented, before being distilled into alcohol. After the distilling process is completed, tequila producers may choose to age their tequila.

This is typically done in oak barrels, and tequilas that have been aged longer tend to have a darker more golden color and a bolder, smoother flavor. Types of tequila include:

  • Blanco Tequila: Also known as silver tequila, this liquor is slightly sweet and typically used in cocktails
  • Reposado Tequila: Aged for at least two months, this tequila is more mellow than blanco tequila
  • Añejo Tequila: Aged for at least a year, a process that gives it a richer and smoother flavor, this liquor is best enjoyed neat or served over ice
  • Extra Añejo Tequila: Aged for at least three years, this tequila has a dark color and a smooth, bold flavor

How Is Tequila Distilled or Filtered?

Tequila is a distilled liquor, and this spirit is generally distilled twice to create the best-tasting product. The first distillation of tequila is typically done in column-stills and produces a liquid called ordinario.

The ordinario has an ABV of around 20%, and it will be distilled one more time to increase the ABV to around 40% or more, depending on the brand and distiller’s wishes.

Can You Make Tequila Yourself?

You cannot make tequila yourself at home, as you would need to grow and harvest blue agave to do so. Additionally, many state laws may outlaw the creation of liquor by yourself at home due to the dangers associated with this process, and the Mexican government states that only certain regions are certified to produce tequila.

Instead of attempting to make tequila yourself, find your favorite bottle at a local liquor store or online to enjoy this drink without the stress of creating it.

Tempting Tequila

full tequila shot glasses with lime

Tequila is one of those liquors that almost everybody has tried, and it has a strong reputation due to its bold flavor and somewhat burning aftertaste. Tequila is a staple in drinks like the margarita, and aged variations of tequila are sure to leave tequila enthusiasts with plenty of types of this liquor to try.

Once you figure out your favorite tequila, keep this agave-based liquor on your shelf so you can utilize it to craft your favorite drinks whenever the mood strikes.

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