Tequila Facts for Bartenders

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Tequila Facts for Bartenders

Tequila Facts for Bartenders

In the aftermath of any wild party, one word repeats itself over and over. Tequila. Tequila. Tequila. This spirit is arguably Mexico’s greatest export. It has been fuelling wild revels since it was first concocted in the 15th century. It also features in a range of timeless cocktails. The margarita, in particular, is unimaginable without this particularly potent and playful spirit.


Tequila can only be produced its region of origin. This is confined to the town of Tequila and its surrounding areas in Jalisco State, Mexico. The first tequila version emerged through the efforts of the Aztecs, who first fermented and distilled the juice of the blue agave plant. This precursor was called “pulque.” It was later appropriated by the Spanish Conquistadors, who needed a substitute for the brandy that they had run out of. It was a family recipe until Don Pedro Sanchez de Tagle of Jalisco decided to mass produce the drink for commercial consumption, giving rise to today’s globally-loved version of tequila.

The Tequila Spectrum

Tequila can be divided into two main categories. The first is made of 100% agave juice and includes brands like Milagro, Dos Manos and Margaritaville. If it’s not made with 100% agave, it’s referred to as “mixtos.” This should contain no less than 51% agave, with the remainder consisting of sugars from other natural ingredients.

The spectrum starts with Blanco or silver tequila. This is an un-aged spirit that is usually bottled immediately after distillation. Young or “oro”/gold tequila is made up of a blend between silver and aged tequila. Resposado tequila (“resposado” is the Spanish term for “rested”) is aged for a minimum of two months but cannot be stored in barrels for longer than one year. Anejo or “vintage” tequila has been aged for longer at a minimum of one year. Extra-anejo tequila is usually matured for over three years.

Silver tequilas have sharper flavours and work perfectly in cocktails. Aged varieties are smoother, sweeter and boast a bit more complexity in flavour. Often, aged tequilas have notes of wood and spice. It’s important to note that most Mexican tequila bottles do not contain worms. This fallacy actually originated as a 1940s marketing stunt, and is certainly not employed today.

How to Enjoy Tequila

Most people outside of Mexico prefer their tequila as a straight shot, with the usual accompaniments of lemon and salt. However, inside Mexico, it’s a different story entirely. Most Mexicans prefer their tequila served straight with orange juice, tomato juice and even chillies as chasers. Another popular local way to drink tequila is in the form of a “Bandera.” It consists of three shots, which include lime juice, silver tequila and sangrita. These three drinks make the colours of the Mexican flag – green, white and red – hence the name, “Bandera,” which is Spanish for “flag.”

Tequila cocktails should always be served in the signature “caballito glass.” This glass is shaped like two conjoined bowls, and is the traditional serving vessel for the old-style margarita. It is often rimmed with sugar or salt.

As summer approaches, bartenders are often inundated with requests for margaritas and tequila shots. Other popular concoctions include the Tequila Sunrise, the Matador and the Paloma.