There’s just something about tequila that makes a person want to sing.
Without even trying, you can probably come up with a dozen or more songs with tequila in the title—and that’s not even counting the homages to its signature drink, the Margarita. Tequila Sunrise. Cheap Tequila. 3 Fingers of Tequila. Mexico, Tequila and Me. Straight Tequila Night. Tequila Loves Me.
You get the idea.
Tequila, that smoky, oaky elixir from the agave plant, is gluten-free, low in sugar and calories, and high on flavor…why wouldn’t it be the fastest growing spirit in the United States?
There are many types of tequila—making it both a versatile and confusing spirit behind the bar. Make sure your bar keeps know the difference between at least the five major types, and when and how to use them for maximum flavor.
Because Blanco tequila is not aged at all, it is defined by the natural, fruity, vivid flavors of the agave plant it’s made from. It’s best in cocktails where the mixers can smooth out and balance the flavor profiles, which some palettes find a bit harsh and fiery. Also called Silver, Plata, or White tequila.
Blanco tequila aged in oaken barrels for 2–12 months, pulling tannins from the wood to create warm caramel and honey flavors and a subtle, golden hue. The natural citrus and spice flavors round out, creating complex notes of chocolate, chiles, vanilla, and cinnamon. Also called “rested” tequila.
Resposado tequila aged 1–3 years in smaller (600 liter) barrels to maximize the liquid’s contact with the wood, creating a darker and richer spirit. Try adding Anejo to horchata to enjoy its distinct flavor notes of honey, coffee, and nuts. Also called “vintage” tequila.
Anejo tequila aged longer than 3 years, giving it the “peatiness” of fine whiskey or scotch. Although the spirit is cut with water to temper the proof, its extensive aging process makes it one of the more expensive varieties of tequila. Also called “ultra-aged” tequila.
Jovan tequila blends a small amount of aged tequila with blanco, thereby avoiding the added sugars and flavoring commonly found in some of the ultra-aged tequilas. Combining tequilas with different flavor palettes creates a subtle, interesting taste, but these hybrids are hard to find.
Tequila has the dubious distinction of being the spirit of choice for pounding back shots. However, industry trends are reflecting that consumers are reimagining tequila in different ways as well.
For example, a blanco tequila like Anteel’s Coconut Lime blended with mango or pineapple juice is a smooth, refreshing drink for summer. Add grapefruit, chopped strawberries, a few fresh basil leaves, and a sprinkle of smoked sea salt to your Reposado for an interesting spin on the Paloma.
Try approaching tequila cocktails from a culinary perspective. Combining them with other spirits and liqueurs with complimentary flavors, and rounding them out with fresh herbs, fruits, and even vegetables, can result in innovative, appealing, and delicious libations.
Building a tequila flight for sipping starting with a light and fruity blanco and ending with an ultra-aged, smoky blend can also be a different and engaging menu offering.
Whether you sip it neat, mix it into a cocktail, or down it as a shot, tequila has proven to be a versatile and flavorful liquor that remains in high demand.