Home Features Fun Facts about Tequila & Summer Tequila Cocktail Recipes

Fun Facts about Tequila & Summer Tequila Cocktail Recipes

The story of tequila has much in common with the story of Mexico itself — rooted in an ancient civilization, deeply impacted by European colonists and encompassing a multitude of oft-misunderstood expressions. Indeed, many people only think of tequila in connection with margaritas and Cinco de Mayo. (Which is often thought of as Mexico’s Independence Day — but actually commemorates the Mexican army’s victory at the Battle of Puebla).

But there’s so much more to the spirit of Mexico. July 24 is National Tequila Day, a perfect time to delve deeper into this spirit’s story, and learn a few cocktails while you’re at it. ¡Salud! And of course, enjoy responsibly.


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Fact: All Tequila is Mezcal, But Not All Mezcal is Tequila

Tequila and mezcal are produced from the agave plant, which is a member of the amaryllis family, along with the poinsettia. There are hundreds of agave species that can be used to make mezcal, however just one — the blue agave (pictured) — can be used to produce tequila. The difference in species, along with unique production methods and processes, account for the unique flavor profiles of each. Tequila’s flavors are fruit forward and mezcal has a distinctive smoky flavor.

Fact: Tequila is Not Stronger than Other Kinds of Spirits

Alcohol is alcohol, and affects the human body in a fairly standard way. According to medical experts, the urban legend of tequila’s strength probably persists because tequila has a distinctive taste — and is widely consumed in a shot (in other words, undiluted). Shots may make you drunk faster, but not any more intensely. Most commercially available tequilas and mezcals are 30-40% ABV (60-80 proof). Strong, cask-proof tequilas are available up to 55% ABV (110 proof), which is lower than some rums and neutral brandies.

Tequila 101: All About the Spirit

Fact: Tequila = Champagne

Legally, anyway. Just as sparkling wine can only legally be called Champagne if it’s made in the region of Champagne, France, tequila can only be called tequila if it is made in Mexico, according to international law. The Mexican government owns the rights to the name tequila, and every bottle made within the country must be labeled with a Norma Oficial Mexicana number that indicates the name and location of the producer. Furthermore, authentic agave tequila can only be produced in certain geographic areas called Denominaciónes de Origen (DO), namely Jalisco and parts of Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas.

Fact: Bats Like Tequila, Too

In fact, they’re important to its survival. The lesser long-nosed bat, which lives in Mexico and the southwest U.S., is primarily responsible for pollinating agave plants, including the blue agave, which is essential for making tequila. Here’s how it happens: The bats are attracted to the sweet smell of agave flowers, and they feed off of the plant’s nectar. As the bats feed, they become coated with pollen and proceed to carry it to different plants as they continue to range.

Recently, as growers try to boost productivity and profits, many agave growers have been cutting this natural cycle short by planting clones and harvesting agave earlier, processes which reduce the genetic diversity of the plants and take away a major source of nourishment for the bats.

Mexican ecologist Dr. Rodrigo A. Medellín, with support from several global conservation groups, warned authorities that reduced biodiversity posed a risk to the health of the agave plants, but it wasn’t until 2007-2008, when the agave was struck by a devastating disease called Tristeza y Muerte de Agave (TMA) that growers began to adjust their farming practices. At the peak of the TMA outbreak, nearly 25% of Mexico’s blue agave was destroyed, costing the country several hundred million dollars.

Today, Dr. Medellín is a leader in the movement to save the bats and implement sustainable farming practices in the tequila industry. TMA, which means “the wilting and death of agave,” still affects nearly 40 percent of blue agave plants – a situation which experts believe will affect tequila prices in years to come.

Tequila 101: All About the Spirit

Fact: Tequila is Available in Two Different Styles and Five Different Grades

There are two distinct styles of tequila out there – 100% agave tequila and regular tequila, formerly called mixto. The 100% agave tequila is 100% fermented from the juice of blue agave. In contrast, tequila/mixto can be fermented with as little as 51% blue agave juice. Each style of tequila is available in four different grades, according to how long it has been aged: Blanco (White) or Plata (Silver) is colorless raw tequila with little to no aging. Blanco tequila with a small amount of caramel coloring added is called Goldor Joven (Young).

Reposado tequila ages for two months or longer in large wooden tanks or small barrels called barricas. Añejo (Aged) tequila ages in barrels up to 600 L for at least 1 year, and Extra Añejo (Extra Aged) tequila ages in barrels for at least 3 years.

Fact: “Salt” and “No Salt” are Just the Beginning

Remember when there were only two kinds of margaritas: salt and no salt? Well, that school of thought is about as outdated as poodle skirts. According to a market survey by Brown-Forman, one of the wine and spirits companies in the U.S., millennials nowadays like trying new flavors to keep their taste buds guessing, with 84 percent of survey respondents proclaiming their interest in trying new types of margaritas. Ready to give it a shot yourself? Try some of our fun recipes below.


Perfect Margarita

Let’s start with this classic. This recipe and the three that follow are courtesy of one of the Garden State’s own tequila experts: Johnny Fernandez, owner of Villa Tequila Bar & Cocina in Roselle. Fernandez is in the early stages of developing his own tequila brand tied to his clothing line, Johnny Tequila Goods. Co. (Tip: For extra summer fun, serve in mason jars).

Ingredients:

1¾ oz tequila (try el Jimador)
¾ oz Bols triple sec
¾ oz freshly squeezed lime juice
1 oz simple syrup
1 oz freshly squeezed orange juice
Coarse salt (optional)
Lime wedge, for garnish

Method:

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Cover and shake vigorously, then strain and serve over ice in a 16-oz mason jar rimmed with coarse salt (if desired), and garnish with a lime wedge.


Coco Loco

Ingredients:

1 oz 1800 Coconut Tequila
½ oz Malibu rum
1 oz pomegranate juice
1¼ oz fresh pineapple juice
Maraschino cherries, for garnish

Method:

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Cover and shake vigorously, then strain and serve over ice in a 12-oz mason jar rimmed with coarse salt (if desired), and garnish with cherries.


Blue Agave Margarita

Tequila 101: All About the Spirit“This one has a blue color that pops,” Fernandez said of this recipe. “It’s one of my most popular margaritas.”

Ingredients:

1¾ el Jimador tequila
¾ oz Bols Blue Curacao
½ oz agave sweetener
¾ oz freshly squeezed lime juice
Splash of sour mix
Freshly squeezed orange juice
Lemon wedge, for garnish

Method:

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Cover and shake vigorously, then strain and serve over ice in a 16-oz mason jar. Garnish with a lemon wedge.


Green Marketa Cooler

Ingredients:

2 lime wedges
2 slices jalapeño pepper
1 oz freshly squeezed orange juice
2 slices cucumber
1 oz simple syrup (or more, to taste)
1½ oz Pueblo Viejo tequila

Method:

In a cocktail shaker, muddle together lime wedges, jalapeño pepper, cucumber and a small amount of simple syrup. Add the tequila, orange juice, and simple syrup. Cover and shake vigorously, then serve over ice in a 12-oz mason jar.


Black Raspberry Margarita

Tequila 101: All About the SpiritRecipe courtesy of the Brown-Forman Corporation.

Ingredients:

1½ oz el Jimador Tequila
½oz Bols Triple Sec
3 oz Sour Mix
½ oz Chambord Liquor
Lime wedge or blackberries, for garnish

Method:

In a shaker filled with ice, add ingredients and shake to mix. Pour into margarita glass rimmed with salt (optional). Garnish with a lime or blackberry.


Bubble-Rita

The addition of sparkling wine to this margarita turns this cocktail into a party in a glass. It’s perfect for hanging out with friends or celebrating the end of a work week. (Recipe courtesy of the Brown-Forman Corporation.)

Ingredients:

1½ oz el Jimador Tequila
½ oz Bols Triple Sec
3 oz Sour Mix
187ml Korbel
Coarse salt (optional)
Lime wedge, for garnish

Method:

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add ingredients and shake to mix. Pour into margarita glass rimmed with salt (optional). Float the Korbel on top of the drink and garnish with lime wedge.

Looking to step up your kitchen game? Click Here to see Best of NJ’s Top Recipes & Kitchen Tips!


Sources:
Hero (Top) Feature Image: ©Brent Hofacker/Adobe Stock
Additional Images (in Order) Courtesy:
jcfotografo / Adobe Stock
Oscar Castañón Barragán / Flickr
Viktorija / Adobe Stock
Kamil Ćwiklewski / Adobe Stock
el Jimador / Brown-Forman Corporation