What is tequila, exactly?
Tequila is made by fermenting and distilling the juice of the blue agave plant (which takes between 8 and 11 years to mature). To earn the name, tequila must be made in one of five specific regions of Mexico (the most widely known is the state of Jalisco, which is where the town of Tequila is located and where 90 percent of tequilas come from) according to very specific standards regulated by the Mexican government.
What’s the difference between cheap tequila and the good stuff?
Quality tequila is made from 100-percent agave. Anything less is considered a mixto, a mix of agave and sugar (it must be at least 51-percent agave to be called tequila). The high-end spirit might be high-priced, but you really will be able to taste the difference. Seriously.
Is drinking bad tequila more likely to result in a bad hangover?
In a word, yes. It often contains a higher percentage of methanol, a by-product of the tequila-making process, but quality tequila-makers distill it out. To keep your morning-after headache to a minimum, drink quality 100-percent agave tequila. And, of course, drink moderately.
4 Tequila Myths -- Busted
The agave plant is a cactus.
It’s actually a type of succulent plant related to the lily and amaryllis families, with spiky leaves and a juicy interior (like a pineapple).
Tequila comes with a worm.
True tequila never contains a worm at the bottom, although bottles of mezcal often have a worm (actually a larva). It’s not there to ick you out; worms feast on the agave plant, and when they die, they taste like agave and can enhance the flavor of the liquor.
“Silver” and “Gold” tequilas are superior.
Although some brands slap these labels on their bottles to justify higher prices, silver tequila is simply another name for blanco (colorless, unaged tequila). Gold tequila is usually clear and unaged but with added coloring.
You need salt and lemons.
You shouldn’t drink reposado (aged at least two months or as long as a year) or anejo (aged longer than one year and as many as 10) tequila that way. But since blanco tequila has more bite, the salt and lime or lemon combo will help you enjoy the flavors. Regardless, tequila should really be sipped, not shot.
[Nestperts] Gary Regan, cohost of ardentspirits.com; Marcello Mendoza, tequila expert at The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun; Laurence Kretchmer, author of The Mesa Grill Guide to Tequila.
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