A few weeks ago George Clooney announced he’s launching a tequila brand called Casamigos Tequila. He’s partnering with restaurateur Rande Gerber, who happens to be husband to supermodel Cindy Crawford. This got us to thinking about the lyrics to the Joe Nichols song (She can handle any Champagne brunch/Bridal shower with Bacardi punch/Jell-o shooters full of Smirnoff…But tequila makes her clothes fall off). Okay, no disrobing for George, but the power of tequila can make a girl do strange things.
In a lot of ways tequila resembles wine. Not the least of which is what happens after you open the bottle. Like wine, tequila loses its zest when it’s exposed to the air. An opened bottle may last longer than its vinous counterpart, but it’s best to drink it up within a month or two.
And we’re sure you know the concept that Champagne is a type of sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wines are Champagne. Same principle applies to tequila. Tequila is a type of mezcal, but mezcals aren’t tequilas. Mezcal can be made from five different varieties of the agave plant. Tequila is made only from the blue agave (which, by the way, is a succulent, not a cactus).
Tequila has way more cachet than mezcal…and the prices to prove it. After tequila is fermented, it – by law – has to be distilled twice. Most mezcal only gets one distillation. Given the huge popularity of tequila, mezcal producers are getting smart and starting to produce premium products too.
Right now there are about 1,000 brands of tequila made. If you’re looking for a premium product, make sure the label says “100% blue agave.” If it doesn’t, it can have up to 49% added coloring and flavoring ingredients – usually caramel and sometimes oak essence. These blended tequilas are known as mixtos. Cuervo Gold is an example, which is still one of the world’s best selling tequilas.
All tequila starts out clear right after distillation. If it’s bottled immediately in this form, it’s called blanco or plata (white or silver). Some people think it’s harsh…and others think it is more robust with more of the agave flavor. Our opinion is that it makes the best Margaritas.
The color of other 100% agave tequilas comes from aging in oak barrels. The longer the aging, the darker the color and the more the wood affects the flavor. Reposado (rested) tequila is aged from two months to one year. Añejo (aged or old) tequila is aged from one year to ten. All types of tequila have about the same amount of alcohol – around 38-40% (76-80 proof).
And what about the worm? No Mexican-bottled tequila has a worm. Some – but not all – mezcals have a worm in the bottle. It started out as a marketing ploy in the 1940s to try to get some attention. Guess it worked.