6 Essential Types of Tequila for Sipping and Shots
It’s time to get to know Tequila.
As the most popular spirit in Mexico, and the world, it’s easy to assume that you already know everything there is to know about Tequila. But like wine, Tequila comes in many varieties, each with its own characteristics and nuances.
Don’t worry—we’re not going to quiz you on your knowledge of agave distillates (though we will be happy if that happens). Instead, we’ll give you some handy info on these six main types of Tequila so that when someone orders a margarita at your favourite restaurant or bar—or offers you one at theirs—you can impress them with your expertise!
First things first: what makes a Tequila?
Tequila can only be made from 100 percent blue agave plant produced in Jalisco, Mexico, and a few other specific places outside the state.
Mexico is a country of maguey, from the best known, the blue used forTequila, to endemic species that you probably have not heard of. In fact, there are about 160 species of agave in Mexico.
The maguey plant is one of the most important plants in Mexico. It has been used by the indigenous peoples since time immemorial. Its leaves are used to make paper, its sap is fermented to make pulque and mezcal, its heart yields a sweet juice that is distilled into Tequila and other spirits.
1. Silver Tequila (Tequila Blanco, Plata, or White)
Silver Tequila – otherwise known as Tequila Blanco – is the most popular type of Tequila around the world. It’s also the cheapest, so it makes sense that many people turn to it as their first choice when they’re looking to get into Tequila.
Silver Tequilas are double distilled and are light, crisp, and smooth but not too sweet or spicy. They have a distinct flavour profile that’s well-suited for mixing with citrus juices like grapefruit or lime (think margaritas!) and other ingredients like salt or sugar.
The price range for silver Tequilas is pretty wide—you can find bottles from as little as £20 up to £100+—but most fall somewhere between those extremes, making them an affordable option for beginners who don’t want to spend too much money on their first round of drinks made with this agave spirit.
Best Cocktails for Silver Tequilas: Margaritas, spicy cocktails such as Bloody Maria (Tequila-based Bloody Mary), and infusions.
2. Gold Tequila (Joven Abocado)
Gold Tequila refers to the golden colour, not the ageing process. Added flavour and colouring process mellows out the flavour and the smoother it becomes. It has a sweeter taste than silver, with hints of vanilla and caramel. If you’re looking for something smooth and easy to drink, this is a good choice!
Gold Tequilas are often used in mixing cocktails—the sweetness pairs well with lime juice and makes them taste refreshingly light compared to other liquors on their own. They’re also great in cocktails like Acapulco or Palomas (with grapefruit soda).
Best Cocktails for Gold Tequilas: Brave Bull (Tequila-based Black Russian), with mixes and juices, layered shooters.
Reposado Tequila is aged for between two and twelve months. The name means “rested.” Ageing gives it a golden color as well as a smoother taste that is often described as vanilla-like or with honey characters.
You don’t have to be an expert to tell the difference between reposados and blancos or anejos; they’ll look just like their younger counterparts, but may be darker in color (golden brown) and a rich warmth to cocktails. But also perfect for sipping.
Best Cocktails for Reposado: Margarita and straight-up for sipping.
An Añejo, or aged Tequila, is aged in oak barrels for a minimum of one year. However, it can be aged for much longer—up to five years in wood barrels. Not only does this process give the Tequila flavour and colour, but it also softens the burn from alcohol by removing some of its harsher components.
Añejos are typically dark brown to amber coloured with a smooth taste that may be lighter than Reposado since they are less oxidised (meaning they have less exposure to air). In fact, many people consider them closer to sipping Scotch whisky than drinking tequila!
Best Cocktails for Añejo: Sip as you would a fine Cognac or whisky.
Pulque is a traditional, naturally fermented beverage made from the juice of the agave plant. It’s also known as “the beer of the Aztecs,” and it’s been produced since at least as far back as 1450 CE. The fermentation process separates pulque from other types of alcoholic beverages; unlike Tequila or mezcal, pulque isn’t distilled—it’s simply allowed to ferment until it reaches around 4-6% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Since pulque isn’t distilled into something stronger like Tequila or Mezcal, its taste may be closer to that of beer than any other spirit you’ve tried before: it has hints of sweetness and yeastiness on top of an earthy flavour similar to that found in many beers. If you’re curious about trying something new but aren’t sure where your palate lies on the spectrum between sweet drinks and dry ones, this would be a great place for you to experiment if you can find it outside Mexico.
Best Cocktails for Pulque: Add nuts, spices, chiles, or fruits.
Mezcal is a spirit made from agave and other plants. While Tequila is primarily produced in the state of Jalisco, Mezcal is made from several varieties of agave and can be found throughout Mexico. Quality small-batch producers are found in Oaxaca state.
Production methods can be quite different from Tequila’s: unlike copper pots or industrial ovens, Mezcal uses an earthen pit to cook the plant. This method has a significant impact on the taste of the finished product, making it more smoky and complex than Tequila.
Best Cocktails for Mezcal: The Pan-Am (with bourbon and Angostura bitters). Or simply enjoy each sip neat.
Tequila comes in many styles and flavours to suit your mood.
In a nutshell, Tequila is a distilled beverage made from the blue agave plant. It can be enjoyed on its own or combined with other ingredients to make cocktails.
Most famously, the Classic Margarita.
There are many different types of Tequila, but they can be categorised into five categories: Blanco (or white), Reposado (rested), Añejo (aged), extra Añejo and mixto. And are the same way Mezcal is categorised.
These types will vary in colour and flavour profile – for cheaper Gold Tequila, it can have added colouring. For sipping, the colour is indicative of how long the Tequila has been aged in oak barrels.
The longer it ages, the smoother it will become until all of its characteristics have melded together over time to form a unique taste for that specific brand and type of bottle design; this is why you’ll notice some bottles are darker than others even though they all come from the same distilleries.
The VIDA take on Tequila and Mezcal:
As you get to know Tequila, think about the kind of qualities you prefer in your drink. Then ask questions, try different kinds, and make your voice heard.
If there’s not one out there that suits your taste, keep looking! That’s the beauty of this spirit—it’s all about freedom of expression.
But remember, with alcohol the best way to understand what you are drinking is go slow and pay attention!
Three Essential Tequila to try with VIDA:
1. Best for Cocktails: Silver Tequila (Tequila Blanco)
3. Best for Sipping and Cocktails: Mezcal