How is Tequila Made?
If you love to make tequila cocktails or margaritas or are intrigued about the rich histories of liquors, then knowing more about tequila is essential. Where did the drink get such a name? The alcohol acquired its name from the town of Tequila, near Guadalajara. The very first place to be distilled.
What is Tequila?
Tequila is an irresistible, distilled spirit. It is fancied throughout the world with its superior taste, high production regulations, and sweet-smelling finesse, giving it a special charm.
To give this alcohol the accolades it deserves, it would be good to learn what goes on until it reaches the liquor stores; how it is made. What type of agave is used to make tequila? Keep reading to find out how this amazing alcohol is made.
What type of Agave is Used to Make Tequila?
The sensational blue agave plant is used to make the best tequila. Agave produces high levels of fructose and sugars known as agavins which propels the fermentation process during production. The Agave plant burgeons in Mexico since it requires rich sandy soil. They are grown in Mexico mainly to produce tequila and mezcal.
After about seven to fourteen years of age, flowers sprout on top of the succulent plant. An indication of peak maturity to ensure nice perfection.
Even though some brands of tequila remain family-owned, the best brands belong to large multinational corporations. Owing to that, each tequila bottle has a serial number (NOM).
What is a NOM? A short form of Norma Official Mexicana. The body foresees all the activities and processes related to the production, supply, marketing, and marketing information related to agave and the business practices related to Tequila.
How Tequila is Made?
Unlike other spirits that can use a combination of base ingredients, tequila is solely made from the blue agave plant. The blue agave plant is native to Mexico. That is why tequila can only be distilled in Mexico. Any spirit made outside of Jalisco and the surrounding municipalities is called mezcal.
There are distinct steps in the process of tequila production:
The first step in the tequila-making process is the harvesting of the blue agave plant. Workers get into the agave fields with a machete and do away with the leaves and thorns of the plant. They will continuously do this until they reach the plant’s heart. They will then remove the heart of the plant, which can weigh several pounds. Everything is entirely done using the hands, incorporating the same techniques used hundreds of years back.
BAKING THE AGAVE
After harvesting, the heart of the plant is cooked in a huge oven. Traditional methods use a stone oven. Today’s producers have gone a step higher and use either clay/brick or stainless steel ovens. The oven steam roasts the plant rather than heat roasting it. After the process, the plant significantly reduces in size and looks caramelized. Baking the plant aids in the preparation of its sugars for the fermentation process. The whole process takes approximately 48 hours.
The juices in the agave plant are now ready to be extracted. Mostly, tequila distilleries use mechanical shredders to pulverize and separate the sweet juice from the agave fibers. All types of alcohol must undergo the fermentation process. During the fermentation process, yeast is introduced to the juice to eat the sugar of the agave plant in the fermentation tasks. As the yeast eats up the sugars, alcohol is formed. On average, the fermentation process takes between four to six days.
Distillation is the process where alcohol undergoes concentration through evaporation. The fermented residue has 4-10% alcohol content. The intent is to reach a concentration of 55% after distillation. The tequila regulations require the alcohol to undergo distillation twice for the best sanitary and health purposes. Most distillers purpose to achieve an excellent bottling strength of 45%. As much as some spirits can be distilled thrice or even four times, tequila is only distilled twice to maintain the rich flavor profile.
AGING THE TEQUILA
It is the ultimate important step in the whole process. Aging occurs in used barrels. Aging plays a crucial role in adding unique flavors to tequila. The aging process is what makes aged tequila have that caramel or golden color. However, the process depends on the type of tequila. For tequila Blanco, this step will be entirely skipped.
DIFFERENT KINDS OF TEQUILA
There are different types of tequila brands:
- Blanco: Also called the silver tequila. It’s commonly used for shots and mixed drinks. Boasts the purest taste among all the other types since it is never aged at all.
- Joven: Tequila Joven is made from a combination of tequilas, the aged (five-year aged or so) and unaged tequilas. The result is a sensational taste unique from the other types. Typically, golden in color
- Reposado: This type of tequila aged for a minimum of two months and not longer than 364 days. Any additional day longer, it becomes a different type of tequila. It can be used in shots and mixed drinks. Typically, light golden or almost yellow in color.
- Anejo: Tequila Anejo is aged for a maximum of three years and a minimum of one year. Three years is the usual time frame for aging tequila; anything more than that is rare. Anejo is typically served neat in small glasses made for sipping but can be used in smoky and dark cocktails. The color ranges from light amber to dark amber.
- Extra Anejo: This is the rarest and, on average, the costliest type of tequila. It must be aged for three years or longer. The longer the aging, the darker and rarer the tequila becomes. Its color is brown; however, with some hints of gold and amber in it. It is enjoyed as it is because of its rare nature.
The notable difference among all these types is their color, determined by their age. Their colors range from clear, golden to dark caramel. The older the tequila, the darker its color, and the smoother it gets.
There are different tequila varieties and brands available today. To maintain the high standards of every tequila, NOM has put in place very strict control measures. What is a NOM? It is the regulatory council that ensures each bottle of tequila that leaves Mexico has the best standards. It is such a brave move since the quality of tequila never changes. Now that you are well versed with everything about tequila try out some new tequilas!