Everything You Need to Know About Tequila

Julia Millay Walsh
Today is a big day for tequila. If you're celebrating Cinco de Mayo, you're guaranteed to come across a margarita or a shot of tequila -- and if you do, cheers! Before you take a celebratory swig today, you should know how to prevent an untimely headache tomorrow. In fact, there are plenty of little-known facts to this Mexican libation you should brush up on, from what makes a bad tequila to what makes the best mixer. We asked tequila expert Justin Wilson, director of food and beverage at San Diego resort Rancho Valencia, all of our "burning" questions. Read below and thank us mañana. _1 "The difference between silver and gold is aging. The more you age a tequila, the darker it will get," Wilson says. "A silver tequila is a tequila that has not been aged in oak. (Blancos are bottled or stored immediately after distillation.)" A reposado, meaning 'rested,' has been aged in oak for two months, , but less than one year, Wilson tells us, while an añejo, meaning 'rested,' has aged for a minimum of a year, but less than three, and an extra añejo, meaning 'extra aged,' has aged a minimum of three years. _2 "A good tequila is a tequila made of 100-percent Weber Blue Agave, and it has no added sugars or extras, which give the infamous tequila hangover," Willson says. "What we think of as 'bad tequila' is what's called a mixto, which is 51-percent tequila distilled from Weber Blue Agave, and 49-percent sugar, molasses, food coloring, and other elements. We wouldn't call a bottle of wine with 49-percent food coloring and sugar water "wine," but technically Mexico still allows this to be called tequila." _3 "Drink 100-percent Weber Blue Agave tequilas," Wilson says. "Basically, drink the good stuff, and you will be alright." _4 "A sipping tequila is a new term used to describe old tequila -- barrel-aged tequila," Wilson says. "You generally want to use a blanco (not aged) tequila for mixing, but I've seen some reposados mixed. Mixing an añejo or extra añejo may not be blasphemous, but it would be wasteful." _5 "A sangrita rojo with a shot of blanco is the perfect mix." _6 "Simple. A good blanco, freshly squeezed lime juice, Cointreau -- one-third of each." _7 1. "Drinking only a pure tequila is less likely to give you a headache than most cocktails as there are no added sugars." 2. "Gold tequila is aged. All tequila is silver. Silver tequila was not invented by Patrón -- though they can be credited as the first to introduce 100-percent Weber Blue Agave to the U.S." 3. "A lime and a salt rim is a sign you are drinking bad tequila and is not complementary to the product. Salt and a lime are meant to mask the product. Try a proper sangrita. Come to the Pony Room to see it done right." _8
clase-azul-anejo-tequila-8 "Clase Azul is the highest-end tequila. 100% craft and small production."Clase Azul Tequila Añejo, $450, Tequila Superstore
deleon-tequila-extra-anejo "DeLeon is a wonderful product that is about half as much as Clase Azul."DeLeon Tequila Añejo, $150, Bottle Shop
1041734x "My all-time favorite (and an industry favorite) is Fortaleza, from the original family that owned Sauza (and sold it to the American distributor when they insisted on mass production."Fortaleza Añejo Tequila, $75, K&L Wines
Photographs: Courtesy of Rancho Valencia

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