Everything you need to know about ordering tequila

by Michael Alderete on 10/14/2003 · 1 comment

Rochelle and I have our Ph.D.s in tequila. Rochelle is even a Ninja Master. And by the end of the month, we’ll both be Demi-Gods. If I was going to distill down the things I’ve learned, I would pass along these three pieces of wisdom about selecting tequila to drink:

  1. If it isn’t 100% agave, it’s shit.

    By law, for a spirit to be called tequila, it must be at least 51% by volume made from fermented and distilled agave plants. The other 49% can be liquor made from any other sugar source, and is usually sugar cane. It’s that 49% that gives you the hella awful hangover — and it doesn’t make the tequila taste better, either.

    This adulterated “tequila” is called mixto. Any tequila that is 100% agave will say so on the bottle, prominently, because it’s a mark of quality. It tastes better, and it feels better the morning after. (Note: You need to see “100% agave” on the bottle, with your own eyes; many bartenders don’t know, or know wrong. We’ve actually been told “All tequilas are 100% agave. Trust me, I’m Mexican, I know.”)

    Those $2 tequila shooters the guys are doing at the next table over? The ones that are going to make them want to die the next morning? Mixto crap. And 999 times out of a thousand, it’s going to be Cuervo Gold, possibly the worst tequila that legally bears the name. Which brings us to…

  2. Avoid Jose Cuervo brand tequilas (unless you know what you’re doing).

    Jose Cuervo makes some very fine tequilas, in particular, their Reserva de Familia, and everything in the Gran Centenario line. But by sales volume, the vast majority of their tequila is mixto crap (see #1 above). It’s a rare bar that has the good stuff, and a very rare bar that doesn’t have the bad stuff.

    Worse, there’s standard and “premium” products under their brand. Cuervo Gold, you already know is mixto crap. Especial? Mixto crap. Cuervo 1800? Expensive mixto crap. You ask for a premium tequila, and a lot of bartenders are going to push 1800 at you. Your wallet’s lighter, but you’re still drinkin’ crap. Cuervo is ubiquitous and confusing, and therefore dangerous. Which brings us to…

  3. When in doubt, ask for Herradura.

    Herradura is the world’s largest brand of exclusively 100% agave tequilas. That is, Herradura is the largest brand of tequila that doesn’t have any mixto crap. While not as widely distributed as Cuervo, you can find Herradura in any bar with a decent tequila selection. If you order Herradura, you will always be drinking good tequila.

Now, this isn’t everything you might like to know about tequila, but it is enough to keep you from unknowingly ordering bad tequila ever again. If you want to learn more, come drink with us at Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant, the premier tequila bar on earth.

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