Tequila is a spirit commonly enjoyed neat in and around Mexico, and either as a shot, or mixed into cocktails everywhere else. Mexico understands tequila like nowhere else, mastering the spirit since it was first distilled in the 16th century. As a nod to National Tequila Day, we wanted to introduce you to tequila as though for the very first time.
What is tequila?
Tequila is a distilled spirit made from the blue agave plant, in one of five areas of Mexico. These five areas (Jalisco, Guanajuanto, Michoacan, Tamaulipas and Nayarit) form the Denomination of Origin Tequila (DOT) – though most tequila is made in Jalisco, home to the Mexican town of the spirit’s namesake.
As a distilled spirit made from agave, tequila is technically a mezcal. However, this does not mean that all mezcals are tequilas. The agave used to make mezcal can come from nine Mexican states, not five, and mezcal is typically made with baked agave – giving it a unique, smoky flavour.
Based on Mexican legislation, tequila must be made from at least 51% blue agave. It must also be aged for at least 14-21 days, made from 100% natural ingredients, and be a minimum of 38% ABV. If it doesn’t meet these requirements, it isn’t tequila.
What is tequila made of?
Tequila is made by distilling the fermented juices of the blue agave plant. After 6-10 years of growth, the plant is mature enough to be harvested – meaning that, unlike whisky, it is the plant cultivation that is the time-consuming part of the process, not ageing.
It is the white pineapple-like piñas that are needed to create tequila. These ripe hearts are quartered and slow roasted in traditional ‘hornos’ ovens or steam ‘autoclave’ ovens to convert their starches into fermentable sugar.
Once roasted, the piñas are pressed and shredded to release a sugary juice, known as ‘aguamiel’, which can be fermented with yeast. Fermentation typically takes 24-96 hours, depending on whether the liquid is kept in open or closed tanks made of wood or stainless steel.
How should tequila be made?
In the case of Milagro Silver, our tequila of choice, the distillation process is a carefully honed mix of the traditional and cutting edge. A 100% blue agave tequila, which already sets it apart from the competition, Milagro Silver only uses blue agave from the Jalisco Highlands – where the tequila story first began, and where the finest, sweetest blue agave in the world can be found.