Tequila 101

More Than Margaritas

When we hear Tequila, thoughts turn toward beachy vacations, a party that was a bit too hearty, and rousing nights of karaoke.

But there’s also a rich and fascinating history with origins in Mesoamerican mythology along with a process honed over centuries by generations of dedicated maestro Tequileros (masters of Tequila). Tequila is a treasured (and trademarked) legacy of Mexico, and one of the most popular spirits in the world.


From the Heart of the Agave

Aztec legend holds that a passionate but tragic love between Mayahuel, a fertility goddess, and Ehecatl, the serpent god of wind, brought the maguey (agave), into existence. Agave proliferated across the land, a symbol of enduring love and critical resource providing food, sisal rope and the sugar-rich sap from the plant’s heart that is the soul of tequila.

All Tequila is Mezcal, but Not All Mezcal is Tequila

Pulque, an alcoholic beverage made from fermented agave, has existed for millennia. Sometime after Spanish colonization, likely the mid-1600s, illicit pulque distillation led to mezcal.

In 1795, Jose Cuervo released the first commercial Tequila. In 1974, the Mexican government took official ownership of the term Tequila, creating highly regulated standards. Myriad mezcals are made all over Mexico. As bourbon is a whiskey from Kentucky made of at least 51% corn, Tequila is a mezcal from the town of Tequila made of at least 51% blue agave. Tequila can be 100% blue agave, but any less than that and it’s labeled as Mixto, where the remaining percentage is a combination of sugars or other neutral spirits of lesser quality.

mezcal tequilas
tequila shot

What’s Your Tequila Style?

For aficionados of wine or whiskey, Tequila has much to offer. Variations in process yield rich and nuanced spirits that satisfy a range of purposes.

Tequila types include:

  • Tequila Blanco: Clear in color from being bottled shortly after distillation with minimal aging, it’s used in mixed drinks like margaritas where its sharper, spicier flavors stand up to the fresh ingredients.
  • Tequila Reposado: Aged or rested from 2-12 months in oak barrels, its flavor is smooth, taking on the oak’s vanilla and caramel notes. Reposado is great for sipping and mixed drinks alike.
  • Tequila Añejo: Aged 1-3 years in oak barrels (4+ years for Extra Añejo), the extended time imparts unmistakable richness and color. This is the good stuff you sip and savor like a rare whiskey or brandy.

Trend alert: Tequila Añejo Old Fashioned

Modern Meets Traditional

Juan Domingo Beckmann Legorreta, an 11th generation tequila producer, whose company Maestro Dobel Tequila, a family-owned, single-estate distillery in Jalisco, honors its heritage while also being at the forefront of Tequila innovation.

Blue agave can take up to 10 years to mature and if you’re in the 100% agave Tequila business there are no shortcuts. Agave piñas harvested at peak sugar and flavor are cooked in natural clay ovens then milled before fermentation. The resulting agave musts are filtered and slowly run through copper alembic stills twice before maestro Tequileros begin the aging and blending process.

tequila brands

In 2004, Dobel Diamante debuted as the first “Cristalino” style of Tequila, a 100% blue agave blend of Reposado, Añejo, and Extra Añejo. A proprietary filtration process bestows this richly complex Tequila with a crystal-clear body, making it a versatile choice, equally at home in a Paloma, Tequila Sunrise, Mexico Mule, on the rocks, straight, or with salt and lime.

For those seeking an elevated sipping experience, try Maestro Dobel Añejo, a classic aged Tequila with long notes of spiced, buttery caramel and a bright pineapple finish. Scotch fans will love it.

Barrel Select bottles of Maestro Dobel’s Diamante and Añejo chosen for their unique and traditional qualities after multiple samplings of Dobel’s portfolio of tequilas are available exclusively at Metropolitan Market.

Volcanic-rich soil and clay deposits provide an ideal environment for agave, and adherence to tradition has kept Mexico’s Tequila industry robust, but as you sip or mix your next cocktail, consider it a gift from the gods.