Just Add Tequila: A Beginner’s Tequila Primer

Summer is just around the corner. Soon, we’ll be swimming, boating, grilling, hiking, and my favorite warm-weather activity: drinking tequila. I’m a good Kentucky boy who drinks bourbon most of the time, but I like to switch it up with tequila pretty regularly. If you’re new to tequila, summer is the perfect time to give it a try.  

There are a few things to look for in your tequila. First and foremost, it should be 100% Blue Weber Agave. Some brands will use deceptive phrases like “made with agave,” so be sure you see “100%” on the label. Additionally, the best tequilas cook their agave in a brick oven, not an autoclave (large steel container), and they use copper pot-stills, not traditional column stills. There are many parts to the tequila-making process, and if you have the time to do the research, in my opinion, these points are critical. There are a variety of tequila styles, and there’s something suitable for most situations.

Blanco (“White”)

I reach for blanco when I want something lighter, like a tonic and lime, a Mexican Mule with ginger beer, or a well-made paloma. Unaged blanco tequila makes a great replacement for boring vodka.

Reposado (“Rested”)

Reposado tequila, to me, might be the perfect spirit. I like to make margaritas with reposado, real lime juice, and orange liqueur (the secret ingredient of a great margarita.) I also like a splash of mezcal (tequila’s older, cooler sibling) to add some earth and smoke. A reposado can spend as little as two months and up to nearly 12 months aging in a used bourbon barrel. Time in the barrel grants the spirit some color, warm vanilla notes, light barrel character, and overall, more flavor than blanco, but it’s still light enough as to not be overpowering.

Añejo (“Vintage”)

Añejo is still my favorite style of tequila, and the first I tried. It’s aged in used whiskey barrels for a minimum of one year and up to as much as three years. The undeniable bourbon barrel notes that it adds to the fresh agave and fruity tequila is delicious. An extra añejo is aged at least three years, but sometimes you can find five, six, even ten-year-old añejo. Extra añejo is usually smooth and delicious, but pricey. I enjoy añejo or reposado tequilas neat, just like my whiskey. With pure tequila, I can savor the subtle flavors and the ease of drinking.

One of my favorite parts of being a tequila drinker is that unlike great bourbons, great tequilas are typically always available on the shelf. No lotteries, raffles, standing in line, or trying to find it on the secondary market. If we finish a bottle of great tequila, replacing it is as easy as a trip to Liquor Barn or Party Mart.

So, put on your shorts and flip-flops, grab a glass of great tequila, and enjoy your summer!

Brad Williams
Liquor Barn
Bourbon Master
Vice President – Purchasing & Product Development

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