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Fields that form part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila Agave fields hill.jpg
Fields that form part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila
From left to right, examples of plata, reposado and anejo tequila 15-09-26-RalfR-WLC-0244.jpg
From left to right, examples of plata, reposado and añejo tequila
Frosty tequila shots Tequila.jpg
Frosty tequila shots
Tequila shots and Cancun surf Summer-Tequila shots.jpg
Tequila shots and Cancun surf

Tequila (Spanish pronunciation:  [teˈkila] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen )) is a regional distilled beverage and type of alcoholic drink made from the blue agave plant, primarily in the area surrounding the city of Tequila, 65 km (40 mi) northwest of Guadalajara, and in the Jaliscan Highlands ( Los Altos de Jalisco ) of the central western Mexican state of Jalisco. Aside from differences in region of origin, tequila is a type of mezcal (and the regions of production of the two drinks are overlapping). [1] The distinction is that tequila must use only blue agave plants rather than any type of agave. [1] Tequila is commonly served neat in Mexico and as a shot with salt and lime across the rest of the world.

Alcoholic drink Drink containing alcohol (ethanol) derived from fermentation of sugars

An alcoholic drink is a drink that contains ethanol, a type of alcohol produced by fermentation of grains, fruits, or other sources of sugar. Drinking alcohol plays an important social role in many cultures. Most countries have laws regulating the production, sale, and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Some countries ban such activities entirely, but alcoholic drinks are legal in most parts of the world. The global alcoholic drink industry exceeded $1 trillion in 2014.

<i>Agave tequilana</i> species of plant

Agave tequilana, commonly called blue agave or tequila agave, is an agave plant that is an important economic product of Jalisco, Mexico, due to its role as the base ingredient of tequila, a popular distilled beverage. The high production of sugars named agavins, mostly fructose, in the core of the plant is the main characteristic that makes it suitable for the preparation of alcoholic beverages.

Tequila, Jalisco Town & Municipality in Jalisco, Mexico

Santiago de Tequila is a Mexican town and municipality located in the state of Jalisco about 60 km from the city of Guadalajara. Tequila is best known as being the birthplace of the drink that bears its name, “tequila,” which is made from the blue agave plant, native to this area. The heart of the plant contains sugars and had been used by native peoples here to make a fermented drink. After the Spanish arrived, they took this fermented beverage and distilled it, producing the tequila known today. The popularity of the drink and the history behind it has made the town and the area surrounding it a World Heritage Site. It was also named a "Pueblo Mágico" in 2003 by the Mexican federal government. Tequila has also been famous for being the prime setting in the successful Televisa telenovela Destilando Amor, starring Angélica Rivera and Eduardo Yáñez.


The red volcanic soil in the region around the city of Tequila is particularly well suited to the growing of the blue agave, and more than 300 million of the plants are harvested there each year. [2] Agave grows differently depending on the region. Blue agaves grown in the highlands Los Altos region are larger in size and sweeter in aroma and taste. Agaves harvested in the lowlands, on the other hand, have a more herbaceous fragrance and flavor. [3]

Volcano A rupture in the crust of a planetary-mass object that allows hot lava, volcanic ash, and gases to escape from a magma chamber below the surface

A volcano is a rupture in the crust of a planetary-mass object, such as Earth, that allows hot lava, volcanic ash, and gases to escape from a magma chamber below the surface.

Mexican laws state that tequila can only be produced in the state of Jalisco and limited municipalities in the states of Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. [4] Tequila is recognized as a Mexican designation of origin product in more than 40 countries. [5] It is protected through NAFTA in Canada and the United States, [6] through bilateral agreements with individual countries such as Japan and Israel, [6] and has been a protected designation of origin product in the constituent countries of the European Union since 1997. [6]

Municipalities are the second-level administrative divisions of Mexico, where the first-level administrative division is the state. As of the establishment of two new municipalities in Chiapas in September 2017, there are 2,448 municipalities in Mexico, not including the 16 delegaciones of Mexico City. The internal political organization and their responsibilities are outlined in the 115th article of the 1917 Constitution and detailed in the constitutions of the states to which they belong.

Guanajuato State of Mexico

Guanajuato, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Guanajuato, is one of the 31 states which, with Mexico City, are the 32 federal entities of Mexico. It is divided into 46 municipalities and its capital city is Guanajuato. The largest city in the state is León.

Michoacán State of Mexico

Michoacán, formally Michoacán de Ocampo, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Michoacán de Ocampo, is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. The State is divided into 113 municipalities and its capital city is Morelia. The city was named after José María Morelos, one of the main heroes of the Mexican War of Independence.

Tequila can be produced between 35 and 55% alcohol content (70 and 110 U.S. proof). [7] Per U.S. law, tequila must contain at least 40% alcohol (80 U.S. proof) to be sold in the United States. [8]


Early history

A distillery oven loaded with agave pinas or "pineapples", the first step in the production of tequila post harvest. Tequila oven.jpg
A distillery oven loaded with agave piñas or "pineapples", the first step in the production of tequila post harvest.

Tequila was first produced in the 16th century near the location of the city of Tequila, which was not officially established until 1666. A fermented beverage from the agave plant known as pulque was consumed in pre-Columbian central Mexico before European contact. When the Spanish conquistadors ran out of their own brandy, they began to distill agave to produce one of North America's first indigenous distilled spirits. [9]

<i>Pulque</i> Alcoholic beverage

Pulque['pulke] , or octli, is an alcoholic beverage made from the fermented sap of the maguey (agave) plant. It is traditional to central Mexico, where it has been produced for millennia. It has the color of milk, somewhat viscous consistency and a sour yeast-like taste.

The pre-Columbian history of the territory now comprising contemporary Mexico is known through the work of archaeologists and epigraphers, and through the accounts of the conquistadors, clergymen, and indigenous chroniclers of the immediate post-conquest period. While relatively few documents of the Mixtec and Aztec cultures of the Post-Classic period survived the Spanish conquest, more progress has been made in the area of Mayan archaeology and epigraphy.

Brandy spirit produced by distilling wine

Brandy is a spirit produced by distilling wine. Brandy generally contains 35–60% alcohol by volume and is typically drunk as an after-dinner digestif. Some brandies are aged in wooden casks. Others are coloured with caramel colouring to imitate the effect of aging, and some are produced using a combination of both aging and colouring. Varieties of wine brandy can be found across the winemaking world. Among the most renowned are Cognac and Armagnac from southwestern France.

Some 80 years later, around 1600, Don Pedro Sánchez de Tagle, the Marquis of Altamira, began mass-producing tequila at the first factory in the territory of modern-day Jalisco. By 1608, the colonial governor of Nueva Galicia had begun to tax his products. Spain's King Carlos IV granted the Cuervo family the first license to commercially make tequila.

Jalisco State of Mexico

Jalisco, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Jalisco, is one of the 31 states which, with Mexico City, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is located in Western Mexico and is bordered by six states which are Nayarit, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Michoacán and Colima. Jalisco is divided into 125 municipalities, and its capital city is Guadalajara. Jalisco is one of the most important states in Mexico because of its natural resources as well as its history. Many of the characteristic traits of Mexican culture, particularly outside Mexico City, are originally from Jalisco, such as mariachi, ranchera music, birria, tequila, jaripeo, etc., hence the state's motto: "Jalisco es México." Economically, it is ranked third in the country, with industries centered in the Guadalajara metropolitan area, the second largest metropolitan area in Mexico. The state is home to two significant indigenous populations, the Huichols and the Nahuas. There is also a significant foreign population, mostly retirees from the United States and Canada, living in the Lake Chapala and Puerto Vallarta areas.

Nueva Galicia Province & Indendancy in New Spain, Spain

Nuevo Reino de Galicia or simply Nueva Galicia was an autonomous kingdom of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. It was named after Galicia in Spain. Nueva Galicia's territory became the present-day Mexican states of Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Colima, Jalisco, Nayarit and Zacatecas.

Don Cenobio Sauza, founder of Sauza Tequila and Municipal President of the Village of Tequila from 1884–1885, was the first to export tequila to the United States, [10] and shortened the name from "Tequila Extract" to just "Tequila" for the American markets.[ citation needed ] Don Cenobio's grandson Don Francisco Javier gained international attention for insisting that "there cannot be tequila where there are no agaves!" His efforts led to the practice that real tequila can come only from the State of Jalisco.

Recent history

A tahona, large stone wheel, at the Hacienda Dona Engracia that was used to crush the pina. Large, modern distilleries commonly complete this process mechanically. Tequila factory.jpg
A tahona, large stone wheel, at the Hacienda Doña Engracia that was used to crush the piña. Large, modern distilleries commonly complete this process mechanically.

Although some tequilas have remained as family-owned brands, most well-known tequila brands are owned by large multinational corporations. However, over 100 distilleries make over 900 brands of tequila in Mexico and over 2,000 brand names have been registered (2009 statistics). Due to this, each bottle of tequila contains a serial number (NOM) depicting in which distillery the tequila was produced. Because only so many distilleries are used, multiple brands of tequila come from the same location. [11]

Production of tequila and agave in 2008: Dark green for tequila and light green for agave Produccion tequilera en Mexico (2008).png
Production of tequila and agave in 2008: Dark green for tequila and light green for agave

In 2003, Mexico issued a proposal that would require all Mexican-made tequila be bottled in Mexico before being exported to other countries. [12] The Mexican government said that bottling tequila in Mexico would guarantee its quality. [12] Liquor companies in the United States said Mexico just wanted to create bottling jobs in their own country, [12] and also claimed this rule would violate international trade agreements and was in discord with usual exporting practices worldwide. [13] The proposal might have resulted in the loss of jobs at plants in California, Arkansas, Missouri, and Kentucky, because Mexican tequila exported in bulk to the United States is bottled in those plants. [13] On January 17, 2006, the United States and Mexico signed an agreement allowing the continued bulk import of tequila into the United States. [13] [14] [15] The agreement also created a "tequila bottlers registry" to identify approved bottlers of tequila and created an agency to monitor the registry. [13]

The Tequila Regulatory Council of Mexico (TRCM) originally did not permit flavored tequila to carry the tequila name. [16] In 2004, the Council decided to allow flavored tequila to be called tequila, with the exception of 100% agave tequila, which still cannot be flavored. [16]

A new Norma Oficial Mexicana (NOM) for tequila (NOM-006-SCFI-2005) was issued in 2006, and among other changes, introduced a class of tequila called extra añejo or "ultra-aged" which must be aged a minimum of three years. [11]

A one-liter bottle of limited-edition premium tequila was sold for $225,000 in July 2006 in Tequila, Jalisco, by the company Tequila Ley .925. The bottle which contained the tequila was a two-kilo display of platinum and gold. The manufacturer received a certificate from The Guinness World Records for the most expensive bottle of tequila spirit ever sold. [17]

In June 2013, the ban on importation of premium (100% blue agave) tequila into China was lifted following a state visit to Mexico by President Xi Jinping. [5] [18] The entry of premium tequila into the country is expected to increase tequila exports by 20 percent within a decade (exports totaled 170 million liters in 2013). [18] Ramon Gonzalez, director of the Consejo Regulador del Tequila, estimates that each of the top 16 producers of tequila had invested up to $3 million to enter the Chinese market. [18] On 30 August 2013, the first 70,380 bottles of premium tequila from ten brands arrived in Shanghai. [5] The arrival happened during an event held at the House of Roosevelt, a well-known club located on The Bund– an area with a long tradition of importing alcoholic beverages in China. [5]

The latest version of the tequila standard (NOM-006-SCFI-2012) also updated the standard to specify that the silver class of tequila cannot contain additives, to allow the aging time for the ultra aged class to be displayed on the label, to prohibit the commercialization of bulk tequila through vending machines and required registering the agave during the calendar year of its plantation and required annual updates. [19]


A jimador or a worker who harvests the agaves and cuts off the sharp leaves El jimador.JPG
A jimador or a worker who harvests the agaves and cuts off the sharp leaves

Planting, tending, and harvesting the agave plant remains a manual effort, largely unchanged by modern farm machinery and relying on centuries-old know-how. The men who harvest it, the jimadores [ximaˈðoɾes] , have intimate knowledge of how the plants should be cultivated, passed down from generation to generation. [20]

By regularly trimming any quiotes [ˈkjotes] (a several-meter high stalk that grows from the center of the plant), the jimadores prevent the agave from flowering and dying early, allowing it to fully ripen. The jimadores must be able to tell when each plant is ready to be harvested, and using a special knife called a coa (with a circular blade on a long pole), carefully cut away the leaves from the piña (the succulent core of the plant). If harvested too late or too early, the piñas, which can average around 70 kg (150 lb) in the lowlands to 110 kg (240 lb) in the highlands, [21] will not have the right amount of carbohydrates for fermentation. [22]

After harvesting, the piñas [ˈpiɲas] are transported to ovens where they are slowly baked to break down their complex fructans into simple fructoses. Then, the baked piñas are either shredded or mashed under a large stone wheel called a tahona [taˈona] . The pulp fiber, or bagazo [baˈɣaso] , left behind is often reused as compost or animal feed, but can even be burnt as fuel or processed into paper. Some producers like to add a small amount of bagazo back into their fermentation tanks for a stronger agave flavor in the final product. [23]

The extracted agave juice is then poured into either large wooden or stainless steel vats for several days to ferment, resulting in a wort, or mosto [ˈmosto] , with low alcohol content. [24] This wort is then distilled once to produce what is called "ordinario [oɾðiˈnaɾjo] , and then a second time to produce clear "silver" tequila. Using at least two distillations is required by law. [25] A few producers such as Casa Noble (for their "Crystal" expression) and Corzo (for their añejo expression) have experimented with distilling the product a third time, but this has not caught on as a trend, and some have said it removes too much of the agave flavor from the tequila. [25] From there, the tequila is either bottled as silver tequila, or it is pumped into wooden barrels to age, where it develops a mellower flavor and amber color. [26]

The differences in taste between tequila made from lowland and highland agave plants can be noticeable. Plants grown in the highlands often yield sweeter and fruitier-tasting tequila, while lowland agaves give the tequila an earthier flavor. [27]


Unlike other tequila production steps, fermentation is one of the few steps out of the control of human beings. Fermentation is the conversion of sugars and carbohydrates to alcohol through yeast in anerobic conditions, meaning that oxygen is not present during the process. [28] Fermentation is also carried out in a non-aseptic environment which increases the bacterial activity of tequila. [29] The participation of microorganisms from the environment (yeasts and bacteria) makes fermentation a spontaneous process which gives rise to many byproducts that contribute to the flavor and aroma of tequila. [29]

During the fermentation process, inoculum is added to the batch to speed the rate of fermentation. When inoculum is added, fermentation can take approximately 20 hours to 3 days. If inoculum is not added, fermentation could take up to 7 days. The rate of fermentation is a key factor in the quality and flavor of tequila produced. Worts fermented slowly are best because the amount of organoleptic compounds produced are greater. The alcohol content at the end of fermentation lies between 4-9%. [29]

Organoleptic compounds

Tequila Fermentation Vessel in City of Tequila Museum TequilaFermentationVatMuseum.JPG
Tequila Fermentation Vessel in City of Tequila Museum

Organoleptic compounds enhance flavor and aroma. These include fusel oil, methanol, aldehydes, organic acids and esters. [29] Production of isoamyl and isobutyl alcohols begins after the sugar level is lowered substantially and continues for several hours after the alcoholic fermentation ends. In contrast, ethanol production begins in the first hours of the fermentation and ends with logarithmic yeast growth. The alcohol content in tequila is affected by three factors: the amount of isoamyl alcohol and isobutanol in the yeast strain, the carbon:nitrogen ratio (the higher the ratio, the more alcohol produced), and the temperature of fermentation.

The higher the temperature, the greater concentration of isobutyl and isoamyl alcohols produced. Although if temperatures are too high, this can cause the yeast to become less effective. Similarly, if the temperature is too low, the process occurs too slowly. [29] This can become a large issue in Central Mexico, most precisely the city of Tequila, Jalisco, where most tequila is processed. The average annual temperatures in the city of Tequila can reach 31C. For this reason, tequila producers often use large stainless steel tanks for fermentation. [28]


Organoleptic compounds are dependent on yeast. The role of yeast is to, through many enzymatic processes, turn sugars and carbohydrates into alcohol. There are two steps, first in aerobic conditions, yeast is doubled in colony size every four hours. This process goes on for 24–48 hours. Next, yeast turns acetaldehyde into ethyl alcohol which is known as one of the organoleptic compounds produced in fermentation. [28]

The two main categories of yeast used in tequila are commercial brewers yeast and yeast that comes from precultivated existing yeast that has been preserved. The use of either type of yeast can result in different end products of tequila. [28]


Alcohol content

Saccharomyces cerevisiae, under a microscope S cerevisiae under DIC microscopy.jpg
Saccharomyces cerevisiae , under a microscope

Tequila is a distilled beverage that is made from the fermentation of the sugars found from the blue agave plant once it has been cooked, the main sugar being fructose. [30] Through the fermentation process, many factors influence the higher alcohol content of tequila, which are molecules such as isobutyl alcohol and isoamyl alcohol, and ethanol. [30] These parameters include the type of yeast strain, the age of the agave plant itself, temperature, and the carbon/nitrogen ratio. However, the type of yeast strain used and the carbon/nitrogen factors have the biggest influence on the production of higher alcohols, this is not surprisingly as higher alcohol and ethanol production is an intrinsic property of the metabolism of each strain. [30] The type of yeast most commonly found in tequila is Saccharomyces cerevisiae , which contains many strains.[ citation needed ] For example, CF1 agaves, a type of yeast, produces much more ethanol than a strain of CF2, as the yeast's metabolism mechanisms differ from one another. [30] This factor may be influenced from different agricultural practices that occur to cultivate the different yeasts strains. It was found that the higher the carbon/ nitrogen ratio, the higher the production of higher alcohols such as isobutyl alcohol and isoamyl alcohol. A high ratio imparts that there is less nitrogen in the fermentation process, which results in deamination reactions of amino acids, leading to the synthesis of higher alcohols. [30] The Ehrlich pathway is the name for this process, where a-ceto acids are decarboxylated and transformed to aldehydes and to higher alcohols. The temperature of the fermentation process also greatly effects the alcohol content of the resulting product. For example, a study conducted by Pinal et al. found that cultivating two strains at a temperature of 35 degrees as compared to a temperature of 30 degrees produced more isoamyl alcohol. The higher temperature suggests that this is a much more optimal condition for the yeast to ferment the distilled beverage. [30] Lastly the age of the agave plant itself, the older the plant the greater the alcohol production. It was shown in a study that the concentration of amyl alcohol increased as the plant aged by a factor 30%. However, it is also found that there is a higher concentration of methanol found when using younger plants. This may be due to differences in agricultural practices that occur when taking care of plants of different ages.


A variety of tequila colors Santera Tequila.jpeg
A variety of tequila colors

Tequila comes in an abundant array of colors that ranges from a simple clear distilled beverage to a dark amber brown. The color of the tequila varies greatly on the aging process and the type of wood used for storage. [31] The white version of tequila, known as silver tequila or blanco, is the product obtained without a or with very short aging process. As well, the spirit must contain between 38-55% alcohol content, which is fermented from a wort, which contains no less than 51% sugars from the agave plant. [31] Consuming silver tequila provides for the purest form as little aging has occurred. What is known as gold, joven or oro tequila is usually silver tequila with the addition of grain alcohols and caramel color, [31] however, some higher end gold tequilas may be a blend of silver and reposado. Rested (reposado) or aged tequila (añejo) are aged in wooden containers. [31] The aging process can last between two months and three years and can create or enhance flavors and aromas. The aging process generally imparts a golden color. [31]

Flavor and aroma

There are more than 300 known compounds in tequila, many of which are produced during the fermentation process, the raw material used, and to a lesser degree, during the maturation. [32] The components that make up tequila do not act individually to give tequila its distinctive flavor and aroma, but rather, depends on the interaction and quantity of each volatile compound. [33] The volatile compounds responsible for the flavor and aroma profiles of the tequila are put into a category called organoleptic compounds and are known to increase in concentration with a slower fermentation process. [34] The organoleptic compounds produced during fermentation include higher order alcohols, methanol, esters, carbonyls, terpenes, and furans. [33]

Higher order alcohols have a strong aroma, and the quantity present in each tequila depends on the carbon:nitrogen ratio and temperature during the cooking and fermentation processes. [34] Some of the most common alcohols present other than ethanol are: isoamyl alcohol, isobutanol, and 1-propanol. [33] Methanol is thought to be mainly generated through hydrolysis of methylated pectin which is naturally present in the agave plant, but there has been speculations that it is also partly produced from the enzymatic reactions of yeast strains containing pectin methyl esterase enzyme which break up the methoxyl group from the pectin. [33] Nearly 50 different esters identified in tequila which together give rise to the fruit like flavors and smell. [33] One of the most abundant esters is ethyl acetate which is synthesized during fermentation by the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, using alcohol transferase enzyme which links acetic acid to ethanol. [33]

In general, the longer the controlled fermentation period, the higher yield of esters produced. [34] During the fermentation process, ethanol is oxidized and one of the main compounds produced are acetaldehydes, which adds the flavor necessary for the final product of tequila. [33] For example, isovalderaldehyde seems to produce a sweet, cocoa, and chocolate-like flavor. 2 and 3-methylbutanal produce a malty flavor. [35] The agave plant contains many phenolics such as vanillin and syringaldehydes which presents a strong and fruity or herbal aroma. It also contains eugenol which can deliver a hint of spicy flavor to the tequila. [32] Since the production of tequila involves heating, Maillard browning reactions occur, and furans are produced during the thermal degradation of sugar. [36] The most prominent furanic compounds include 2-furaldehyde and 5-methylfuraldehyde, [36] which can contribute to the smoky flavor of tequila. [34] Guaiacol also seems to contribute to Tequila's smoky flavor. Beta-demascenone contributes to the woody, floral taste of tequila. [35]

Volatile compounds that contribute to the overall taste and aroma of tequila can be quantitatively assessed and evaluated by gas chromatography. [33] Discrimination tests such as duo-trio and triangle tests are also used to evaluate the quality of the tequila. [32]



Barrel room for aged (anejo) tequila EL TEQUILA.jpg
Barrel room for aged (añejo) tequila

If silver or white tequila is the desired final product, distillation is the final process it undergoes. Rested (Reposado) or aged (Añejo) tequila must be matured in 200-liter (or larger) white oak barrels for at least 2 months for the former, and 12 months for the latter. There are, however, more than 50 different companies producing tequila in the Mexican province of Jalisco, with different maturation times according to the variety of tequila and desired quality of the final product.

All companies producing tequila have their aging processes regulated and fiscalized by the Mexican government.


The maturation process causes four main chemical transformations to the tequila compounds: (1) decreasing of fusel oils by the char in barrels, which acts as an adsorbing agent. (2) extraction of complex wood constituents by tequila, yielding specific aroma and flavor to the final product. (3) reactions among the components of tequila, creating new chemical compounds and (4) oxidation of the original contents of tequila and of those extracted from wood. The final result of these changes are increased concentrations of acids, esters and aldehydes and a decrease in fusel oil concentration. [29]

Tequila being rested or aged in oak barrels Tequila-barrel.JPG
Tequila being rested or aged in oak barrels

Reposado may be rested in oak barrels or casks as large as 20,000 liters (5,280 gallons), allowing for richer and more complex flavors. The preferred oak comes from the US, France, or Canada, and is usually white oak. Some companies char the wood to impart a smoky flavor, or use barrels previously used with different kinds of alcohol (e.g. whiskey or wine). Some reposados can also be aged in new wood barrels to achieve the same woody flavor and smoothness, but in less time. [37]

Añejos are often rested in barrels previously used to rest reposados. The barrels cannot be more than 600 liters (158 gallons), and most are in the 200-liter (52-gallon) range. Many of the barrels used are from whiskey distilleries in the US or Canada, and Jack Daniels barrels are especially popular. [26] This treatment creates many of the aspects of the dark color and more complex flavors of the añejo tequila. After aging of at least one year, the añejo can be removed from the wood barrels and placed in stainless steel tanks to reduce the amount of evaporation that can occur in the barrels. [37]

Threats to quality

TMA (tristeza y muerte de agave — "agave depression and death") is a blight that has reduced the production of the agave grown to produce tequila. This has resulted in lower production and higher prices throughout the early 21st century, and due to the long maturation of the plant, will likely continue to affect prices for years to come. [38]

"Tequila worm" misconception

A young agave plant Agave tequilana0.jpg
A young agave plant

Only certain mezcals , usually from the state of Oaxaca, are ever sold con gusano (with worm). They are added as a marketing gimmick [39] and are not traditional. The tequila regulatory council does not allow gusanos or scorpions (which are sometimes also added to mezcals) to be included in tequila bottles. [39] The worm is actually the larval form of the moth Hypopta agavis , which lives on the agave plant. Finding one in the plant during processing indicates an infestation and, correspondingly, a lower-quality product. However, this misconception continues, despite effort and marketing to represent tequila as a premium liquor—similar to the way Cognac is viewed in relation to other brandies. [40] [41]

Norma Oficial Mexicana

The Norma Oficial Mexicana (NOM) applies to all processes and activities related to the supply of agave, production, bottling, marketing, information, and business practices linked to the distilled alcoholic beverage known as tequila. Tequila must be produced using agave of the species Tequilana Weber Blue variety, grown in the federal states and municipalities indicated in the Declaration.

Furthermore, the NOM establishes the technical specifications and legal requirements for the protection of the Appellation of Origin of "Tequila" in accordance with the current General Declaration of Protection of the Appellation of Origin of "Tequila", the Law, the Industrial Property Law, the Federal Consumer Protection Law and other related legal provisions. [42]

All authentic, regulated tequilas will have a NOM identifier on the bottle. The important laws since 1990 were NOM-006-SCFI-1993, the later updates NOM-006-SCFI-1994 and NOM-006-SCFI-2005 and the most recent revision published on December 13, 2012, NOM-006-SCFI-2012.

The number after NOM is the distillery number, assigned by the government. NOM does not indicate the location of the distillery, merely the parent company or, in the case where a company leases space in a plant, the physical plant where the tequila was manufactured.

Storage condition

Unlike wine that contains tannins which may change over time, even in a bottle if proper storage conditions are not met, spirituous liquors like tequila do not change much once they are bottled. [43] Since tequila is a distilled liquor, it does not require strict storage conditions like wine does, and the same goes with most other distilled spirits such as whiskey, rum, or vodka. [43] Furthermore, because the characteristics and certain quality (flavor, aroma, color, etc.) of the tequila are determined during the aging process inside wood barrels, the quality of the tequila should remain relatively constant after they are bottled. [43] To maintain the quality of tequila, at least three conditions should be met: constant and moderate temperature (60 to 65 °F), no exposure to direct sunlight, and maintenance of proper seal of the bottle. Also, storage conditions will have more effect on the taste of aged tequila rather than the un-aged tequila, due to tannins and other compounds introduced into the spirit from the aging barrel. [43] For instance, if stored in improper conditions, the dark and more complex flavors of the añejo tequila are more likely to be tainted than the blanco or the silver tequila. [43]

Once the bottle is opened, the tequila will be subject to oxidation which will continue to happen even if no more oxygen is introduced. In addition, if the bottle has more room for air, the process of oxidation occurs faster on the liquor remaining inside the bottle. [44] Therefore, it may be the best to consume the tequila within one or two years after opening. [43] For the most part, the change in quality of tequila is due to extreme conditions of improper storage, not due to oxidation. [44]


Tequilas of various styles Tequilas.JPG
Tequilas of various styles

The two basic categories of tequila are mixtos and 100% agave. Mixtos use no less than 51% agave, with other sugars making up the remainder. Mixtos use both glucose and fructose sugars.

Tequila is usually bottled in one of four categories: [11]

With 100% agave tequila, blanco or plata is harsher with the bold flavors of the distilled agave up front, while reposado and añejo are smoother, subtler, and more complex. As with other spirits aged in casks, tequila takes on the flavors of the wood, while the harshness of the alcohol mellows. The major flavor distinction with 100% agave tequila is the base ingredient, which is more vegetal than grain spirits (and often more complex).


The Consejo Regulador del Tequila (Tequila Regulatory Council) reported 1377 registered brands from 150 producers for the year 2013. [45]


Salt and lime Limones con sal..JPG
Salt and lime

In Mexico, the most traditional way to drink tequila is neat, without lime and salt. It is popular in some regions to drink fine tequila with a side of sangrita—a sweet, sour, and spicy drink typically made from orange juice, grenadine (or tomato juice), and hot chilli. Equal-sized shots of tequila and sangrita are sipped alternately, without salt or lime. [46] Another popular drink in Mexico is the bandera (flag, in Spanish), named after the Flag of Mexico, it consists of three shot glasses, filled with lime juice (for the green), white tequila, and sangrita (for the red).

Outside Mexico, a single shot of tequila is often served with salt and a slice of lime. This is called tequila cruda and is sometimes referred to as "training wheels", "lick-sip-suck", or "lick-shoot-suck" (referring to the way in which the combination of ingredients is imbibed). The drinkers moisten the back of their hands below the index finger (usually by licking) and pour on the salt. Then the salt is licked off the hand, the tequila is drunk, and the fruit slice is quickly bitten. Groups of drinkers often do this simultaneously. Drinking tequila in this way is often erroneously called a Tequila Slammer, [47] which is in fact a mix of tequila and carbonated drink. Though the traditional Mexican shot is tequila by itself, lime is the fruit of choice when a chaser must be used. [48] The salt is believed to lessen the "burn" of the tequila and the sour fruit balances and enhances the flavor. In Germany and some other countries, tequila oro (gold) is often consumed with cinnamon on a slice of orange after, while tequila blanco (white) is consumed with salt and lime.

Bandera of Mexican tequila Bandera of Mexican Tequila.jpg
Bandera of Mexican tequila

If the bottle of tequila does not state on the label that it is manufactured from 100% blue agave (no sugars added), then, by default, that tequila is a mixto (manufactured from at least 51% blue agave). Some tequila distilleries label their tequila as "made with blue agave" or "made from blue agave". However, the Tequila Regulatory Council has stated only tequilas distilled with 100% agave can be designated as "100% agave". [49]

Some distillers of lower-quality tequila have marketed their product to be served "ice-cold chilled" when used as a shot. Chilling any alcohol can be used to reduce the smell or flavors associated with a lower-quality product. Any alcoholic product, when served as a chilled shot, may be more palatable to the consumer.

Many of the higher-quality, 100% agave tequilas do not impart significant alcohol burn, [50] and drinking them with salt and lime is likely to remove much of the flavor. These tequilas are usually sipped from a snifter glass rather than a shot glass, and savoured instead of quickly gulped. Doing so allows the taster to detect subtler fragrances and flavors that would otherwise be missed. [51]

Tequila glasses

A margarita glass Margarita glass 300x441.jpg
A margarita glass

When served neat (without any additional ingredients), tequila is most often served in a narrow shot glass called a caballito (little horse, in Spanish), [52] but can often be found in anything from a snifter to a tumbler.

The Consejo Regulador del Tequila approved an "official tequila glass" in 2002 called the Ouverture Tequila glass, made by Riedel. [53]

The margarita glass, frequently rimmed with salt or sugar, is a staple for the entire genre of tequila-based mixed drinks, including the margarita.


A variety of cocktails are made with tequila, including the margarita, a cocktail that helped make tequila popular in the United States. The traditional margarita uses tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice, [54] though many variations exist. A popular cocktail in Mexico is the Paloma. Also, a number of martini variants involve tequila, and a large number of tequila drinks are made by adding fruit juice. These include the Tequila Sunrise and the Matador. Sodas and other carbonated drinks are a common mixer, as in the Tequila Slammer. Other popular cocktails are the Acapulco cocktail, [55] Bloody Aztec Chimayó Cocktail, Mexican martini, Mojito Blanco and Vampiro.

Regulation outside of Mexico


Under Canadian regulations (C.R.C., c.870, section B.02.90), a product sold as tequila must be "Tequila manufactured in Mexico as Tequila in accordance with the laws of Mexico applicable in respect of Tequila for consumption in Mexico", except that it may be diluted with water for bottling in Canada. [56]

United States

Similar to the law of Canada, the U.S. law (27 CFR 5.22 (g)) says that tequila must be "manufactured in Mexico in compliance with the laws of Mexico regulating the manufacture of Tequila for consumption in that country". However, Tequila cannot be sold in the U.S. at under 40% alcohol concentration (80 U.S. proof). [8]

See also

Related Research Articles

Mezcal is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from any type of agave. The word mezcal comes from Nahuatl mexcalli[meʃˈkalːi]metl[met͡ɬ] and ixcalli[iʃˈkalːi] which means "oven-cooked agave".

Jose Cuervo is a brand of tequila. It is the best-selling tequila in the world, with a 35.1% market share of the tequila sector worldwide and a 33.66% share of the US tequila sector as of July 2013. As of 2012, Jose Cuervo sells 3.5 million cases of tequila in the US annually, and a fifth of the world's tequila by volume.

Dos Lunas Tequila

Dos Lunas is a line of 100% blue agave tequilas produced in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, by Dos Lunas Spirits, LLC, headquartered in El Paso, Texas. The brand has the first triple-distilled silver tequila, a month aged Reposado, 18 month aged Añejo and 10 year old Extra Añejo.

Casa Noble

Casa Noble is a brand of premium 100% blue agave tequila produced by the Casa Noble Tequila Company. It is a CCOF certified organic tequila. Casa Noble is distributed in the United States by Constellation Brands Inc. The tequila is made from estate-grown agaves cooked in traditional stone ovens; these are naturally fermented and distilled three times. Casa Noble Reposado and Añejo are aged in White French Oak.


Tequila El Espolòn is a brand of tequila from Campari America. The tequila is produced by the San Nicolas Distillery in the Los Altos (Highlands) region of Jalisco, Mexico, famous for its cultivation of agave plants.

Norma Oficial Mexicana

The Norma Oficial Mexicana, abbreviated NOM, is the name of each of a series of official, compulsory standards and regulations for diverse activities in Mexico. They are more commonly referred to as NOMs or normas.

Don Julio company

Don Julio is a brand of tequila produced in Mexico. It is the largest brand in value and eighth largest in volume. It is distilled, manufactured, bottled, sold, and distributed by Tequila Don Julio, S.A. de C.V. from its corporate facility in the Colonia El Chichimeco district, in the city of Atotonilco El Alto, Jalisco, Mexico. It is distributed in the United States by Diageo, under licensing from its patent holder, Tequila Don Julio, Sociedad Anónima de Capital Variable, Jalisco, Mexico, but it is sold worldwide.

This glossary of winemaking terms lists some of terms and definitions involved in making wine, fruit wine, and mead.

Sauza Tequila company

Sauza Tequila Import Company is a producer of tequila located in Tequila, a municipality of the state of Jalisco, Mexico. It was founded in 1873 when Don Cenobio Sauza started La Perseverancia distillery. Sauza Tequila Import Company is owned by Beam Suntory, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Their products include: Sauza, Conmemorativo, Hornitos, Tres Generaciones.

Sol de Mexico is a brand of 100% blue agave tequila produced by Productos Regionales de Atotonilco, S.A. de C.V. This brand has over 50 years history.


Lunazul Tequila is a 100% blue agave tequila produced by the Tierra de Agaves company.

Voodoo Tiki

Voodoo Tiki is a brand of tequila, produced by Voodoo Tiki Tequila Corporation, made of 100% blue agave, and available in the US other several other Countries including, Canada, The Caribbean, Australia, Belgium and the Netherlands.

DeLeón Tequila

DeLeón Tequila is a brand of the alcoholic beverage tequila. It is certified as 100% blue weber agave tequila. DeLeón is produced in the town of Purísima del Rincón in the Mexican state of Guanajuato. The city name literally translates to "Purest of the Corner" and the town is named after the Immaculate Conception.

Yeast in winemaking

The role of yeast in winemaking is the most important element that distinguishes wine from grape juice. In the absence of oxygen, yeast converts the sugars of wine grapes into alcohol and carbon dioxide through the process of fermentation. The more sugars in the grapes, the higher the potential alcohol level of the wine if the yeast are allowed to carry out fermentation to dryness. Sometimes winemakers will stop fermentation early in order to leave some residual sugars and sweetness in the wine such as with dessert wines. This can be achieved by dropping fermentation temperatures to the point where the yeast are inactive, sterile filtering the wine to remove the yeast or fortification with brandy or neutral spirits to kill off the yeast cells. If fermentation is unintentionally stopped, such as when the yeasts become exhausted of available nutrients and the wine has not yet reached dryness, this is considered a stuck fermentation.

Tres Agaves

Tres Agaves is a brand of Tequila produced in the town of Tequila located in Jalisco, Mexico.

Tequila Herradura

Tequila Herradura is a tequila distiller located in Amatitán, Jalisco, Mexico. It was formally founded in 1870 by Félix López and the business remained in the family for over 125 years. Today it is owned by US beverage maker Brown-Forman, but the tequila is still made in the same place and facilities under a Mexican subsidiary. Tequila products sold under the Herradura name are 100% agave. The company makes other tequila products such as El Jimador, which is the best selling tequila in Mexico, as well as New Mix, a tequila and grapefruit soda beverage. Since its acquisition by Brown-Forman, Herradura has had a number of promotional efforts in Mexico and the United States, including inviting artists to use tequila barrels at the bases for art pieces, which are then displayed and auctioned off for charity.

Arette (tequila) brand of tequila

Arette is a brand of Tequila produced by Tequila ARETTE de Jalisco founded in the 1900s by the Orendain family and run by Eduardo and Jaime Orendain since 1976. The name of the brand comes from ARETE which was the name of the horse that under Humberto Mariles won 1 bronze and 2 Gold Olympic medals in Jumping. The brand was introduced in 1986 to commemorate this event, which so far are the only Gold medals for Mexico in this discipline

Campeon is an award winning tequila produced from Blue Agave grown in the Eastern Highlands of Jalisco in Mexico. Campeon has received several medals in the 2011 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Maestro Dobel Tequila

Maestro Dobel Diamond Tequila is a blended tequila produced by Proximo Spirits. It is the first ever multi-aged clear tequila.

Santera Tequila brand of tequila

Santera Tequila is a brand of tequila 100% blue weber agave tequila produced and bottled in Jalisco, Mexico.


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