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Don’t Shop For Tequila Again Until You Learn These 13 Terms

Perhaps you have, like me, stood in a liquor aisle and gazed at an array of tequilas on sale, wondering which was the best to buy. To the uninitiated, any tequila will do after thinking about cost, bottle size, and how you’ll drink it. It makes sense to want something tasty for a sipping drink, whereas one might be less discerning about a tequila bound for a blender as part of a margarita.

But there’s a lot more that goes into tequila than those simple initial factors. There’s a whole glossary of terms that insiders in the tequila-making industry and serious tequila-lovers use. We spoke with Antonio Rodriguez, who is the production manager for the storied tequila brand Patrón. Its tequila is made from blue agave in the Mexican region of Jalisco, and Antonio spoke to me from their production facilities, where he was on a break from overseeing the company’s time-honored process.

This, according to Antonio, is what everyone needs to know before they find themselves wandering in the tequila aisle.

  • 100% Agave Tequila: To Antonio, this is one of the biggest things to look for. “For good, high-quality, it has to be labeled ‘100% agave tequila,'” he said. All Patrón is labeled as such.
  • Tequila: Anything labeled just tequila is based 51% on agave, with the remaining alcoholic sugar coming from different sources. As a result, Antonio said, “the quality is very different.” Sometimes this is referred to as “mixto” tequila.
  • Silver: This refers to pure, un-aged tequila coming straight from the distilling process.
  • Reposado: This tequila is aged in barrels for at least two months.
  • Joven: This type of tequila is in between silver and reposado; it’s been aged for less than two months but includes a bit of aged tequila.
  • Añejo: Tequila aged for a year.
  • Extra Añejo: The extra designation is added when tequila is aged for three years.
  • The NOM Number: This is a number on bottles of Mexican-made tequilas, which allow drinkers to find out more about the production facility in which their product was made.

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