Updated April 15, 2011
Tammy P. asks Tim –
Warmer weather is here! Our pool cover is off and I am ready for pitcher margaritas. On a recent trip to Mexico, I've become intrigued with tequilas. Can you tell me more about the various types and what I should be using?
Tim responds –
I hope you had a great time in Mexico. The agave plant is a very interesting and unique plant that has given us the gift of tequila! One of the most important places to start when searching for the right tequila is to look on the label! Make sure it says "Made from 100% Agave." This ensures the quality of your tequila. The law allows products labeled tequila to be made from as little as 51% agave, with the rest coming from unspecified sugars (usually sugar cane).
There are four major categories of tequila:
1. Joven abogado - "Young and adulterated." This is typically not 100% agave tequila, yet very inexpensive.
2. Blanco - "Unaged tequila." Blanco means white and a true blanco is crystal clear, with no color at all. Some prefer blancos because they are clostest to the "pure" flavors of the agave plant.
3. Reposado - "Rested." These tequilas have been aged in oak barrels of any size for a minimum of two months and no more than one year. Aging mellows the tequila a bit and adds color and complexity.
4. Anejo - "Aged." Anejo tequilas must be aged for a minimum of 12 months in a barrel of certain size (typically 55 gallons barrels are best). The extra time and contact with wood imparts a stronger oak flavor in the tequila, deepens its color, and smooths it out considerably. Typically these are the more expensive tequilas considerting the time and storage space it takes to make anejo as much as it is a factor of quality.
Whatever your palate thirsts, whether it's blanco, reposado or anejo, drink passionately! With margaritas you don't always need to grab the more expensive tequila since it will be mixed with other ingredients, concealing some of its flavors.
Another good note is to skip the sweet and sour mix and opt for pure agave nectar and fresh limes to make your own margaritas. They're much more fresh and natural!
Cheers! Tim Brinkmann