What Is Tequila?

If you ask around, it turns out that many people don’t really like tequila.  My first time: I didn’t really like it either.  Of course, that is because I, like most people, was introduced to tequila as a shot of something brown that is sandwiched between a salt lick and a lime wedge. That golden liquid was bitter and herbal and not very tasty indeed. And it rarely feels right going down.


But I, like most people who didn’t like tequila the first time, was introduced to something that only remotely resembles actual tequila. This is a “mixto” tequila, which we will get into later, and is not really what tequila is supposed to be.

The recipe for real École emploi Bar à Montréal tequila dates back to the 16th century.  The spirit is distilled 100 percent from the blue agave plant.  Most importantly, of course, is that this plant is native to the city of Tequila between the Los Altos highlands and the West-central Mexican state of Jalisco; located about 40 miles northwest of Guadalajara.

Because true tequila can only be called such if the blue agave plant was grown and harvested from this region, tequila is very similar to wines like champagne (because this specific type of sparkling wine must be grown, harvested, and bottled in the French region of Champagne).

What is the OTHER STUFF?

So, if “real” tequila is distilled from the Tequila-native blue agave plant, what is the other stuff that people call tequila?  Well, in the spirits world, a liquor can only be considered a tequila if it is no less than 51 percent blue agave; the rest is a neutral spirit.  The distiller can choose what else they want to use as this “neutral” spirit—rice, potato, wheat, etc—to make a basic gold tequila.  

How Do You Tell The Difference?

There are four basic types of tequila:  mixto, blanco, reposado, and anejo.

  • Mixto is the bare minimum 51 percent distilled blue agave with 49 percent neutral spirit
  • Blanco is a clear liquid that is 100 percent blue agave bottled immediately after distillation
  • Reposado is a slightly colored liquid that is 100 percent blue agave bottled between 2 and 12 months (typically aged in a cask for 6 months)
  • Anejo can range in color but is typically dark; 100 percent blue agave bottled at least one year after distillation (and aged in casks).