5 Things You Definitely Want To Know About Tequila

things to know about tequila
5 Things You Don't Know About TequilaSarah Ceniceros

Tequila is one of the most popular spirits in the world. The global tequila market reached $13 billion in 2021 and is expected to be $27.7 billion by 2027, according to a report by Research and Markets. In my quest to learn more about tequila, I visited Guadalajara, Mexico, to get some insight on the distilling process and agave industry in general from Neil Grosscup, CEO and Master Blender of Tanteo Tequila.

Here are some things you probably didn't know about tequila—and it just scratches the surface. Be sure to check out some of our recs for the best mezcal and sipping tequila to add to your shopping cart.

Tequila is actually a type of mezcal.

With the growing popularity of mezcal in the U.S., you might think of mezcal as the new kid on the block. Thing is, tequila is actually a type of mezcal. Mezcal has been produced for centuries and is made from various types of agave, while tequila is made only from Blue Weber agave.

Tequila can only be produced in five states in Mexico.

"Tequila is one of many agave spirits native to Mexico," said Grosscup. "Only Mexican agaves from five states can be used to make tequila, and it needs to be distilled in a licensed distillery in those same five states." These states are Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. And, yes, there is a city named Tequila, which is where the spirit gets its name.

You won't find a worm in a bottle of tequila.

First, the worm you're thinking of is actually larva. Contrary to popular belief, you won't find a worm in a bottle of tequila. You may, however find larva in a bottle of mezcal, although that's still unlikely. There are many theories on why distillers started putting larva in mezcal (mostly for taste), but according to Heriberto Oviedo, the tequilier at the Ritz Carlton's Cantina Beach in Key Biscayne, Florida, brands today use the larva mostly for marketing purposes.

Not all tequila is made from 100 percent agave.

Yes, all tequila is made from agave, but the percentage of agave isn't always the same. "Pay attention to the details," said Grosscup. "If [the bottle] states tequila, but does not state '100 percent de agave tequila,' it is a mixto tequila." Mixto tequilas must be composed of at least 51 percent agave sugars, which means the rest can be made from other sugars.

If you don't want a mixto tequila, make sure the label doesn't say "made with 100 percent agave tequila"—this is not the same as 100 percent agave tequila, according to Grosscup. "One hundred percent agave tequilas can be infused with spices or produce, but only if the infusion process is post-distillation," he said.

Bats are important in the sustainability of tequila production.

"Agaves take six to eight years to mature and even longer when you let the plants flower," said Grosscup. Bats will naturally pollinate flowering agave plants, allowing them to reproduce via seeds, which enhances diversity. Agave can also reproduce asexually, creating hijuelos, or mini versions of themselves. With increasing demand for tequila, this form of reproduction is faster, but not necessarily sustainable as hijuelos have the same genetic makeup and may be more susceptible to disease.

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