If it weren’t for National Tequila Day, July 24 might be just another day.
In the Southwest, tequila is one of the most common yet mystified alcoholic beverages, surrounded by decades of mythology and legend.
So, in honor of the prestigious day, it seemed only fitting to give folks the real run down on everything tequila.
One of the most common myths surrounding tequila is that it is made from cactus juice, while it is in fact made from Blue Agave plants, which are native to Mexico and classified as a succulent.
Blue Agave plants take up to a decade to fully mature, and it is then that they are harvested and the plant’s pina hearts chopped open and steamed in a pressure cooker. The resulting juice is fermented, usually for several days before going through a distillation process. Once complete, the tequila is diluted with distilled water and then aged in a barrel. The amount of time the tequila is aged determines whether the tequila will be labeled as a Blanco, Reposado, or Anejo.
Like wine, the longer tequila is aged, the higher quality it is considered.
Blanco tequila, or white tequila, is generally aged for no more than 60 days, Reposado tequila is aged for two to 11 months, and Anejo tequila is aged for a minimum of one year, with the best Anejos aged for between 18 months and three years.
Extra Anejos are aged more than three years.
While Anejos are often considered the most prestigious, and usually the most expensive tequila, the wide variety of tequilas in Southern Arizona leaves room for choice and affordability.
“Age isn’t always a deciding factor,” said Blanco Tacos + Tequila Manager Bryan Lapham. “We find a lot times people stick to one tequila they like. It really comes down to personal preference.”
In a trip to Blanco on National Tequila Day, Lapham allowed for some samplings of some of the wide range of tequilas offered there to include Jose Cuervo Especial, Milagro Silver, Don Julio 1942, Sombra Agave De Oaxaca, and Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia.
Each had a unique flavor, but most memorable was the smoothness of the Milagro, which didn’t share the bite of others like the Jose Cuervo Reserva.
The Sombra Agave De Oaxaca also stood out for its non-traditional tequila flavor, boasting smoky hints thanks to the fact its initial preparation is performed in a slow burn over a fire pit.
While most tequilas are made with 100 percent Blue Agave, which is considered the preferred method, others – usually lower-end tequilas – are not. In order for tequila to qualify as tequila, however, it must implement at least 51 percent Blue Agave.
Other Tequila Facts
• Tequila was not always as revered as it currently is. In the 1800s, with the arrival of the railroad, European wine was easily transported across the country and took over as the popular drink. But in the 1930s, tequila saw a resurgence after it became notorious as an epidemic to fight the Spanish Flu epidemic that ran rampid in Northern Mexico at the time.
• Unlike popular myth, tequila and mescals are not hallucinogenic. According to Tequilarack.com, “This myth probably stems from the similarity between the words “Mezcal” and “mescaline,” Mescaline is an alkaloid that produces hallucinations and is found organically in the peyote, a variety of cactus. While drinking too much Tequila might seem to cause hallucinations to some people, alcohol is the sole intoxicant in Tequila.”
• Higher quality tequilas – those which use 100 percent Agave and no sugars prior to distillation – are more heavily regulated in Mexico, where a Tequila Regulatory Commission ensures quality.