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The Tequila Rule Book: understanding this beloved Mexican spirit

If tequila is still a relatively new addition to your home bar, fear not: we've recruited Tequila & Mezcal Fest founder Eduardo Gomez to break down some key facts on the Mexican agave-based spirit

Tequila isn't just for shots. It's a spirit with an incredible heritage and distinctive flavours and it can be as fine a spirit as whisky or rum when enjoyed correctly.

Tequila has come a long way over the past few years, in the UK and globally. Tequilas like Patrón are leading the way on showing premium expressions and how they mix well in a wide array of drinks, from the tequila & tonic to the iconic paloma and even as an alternative to whisky in the old fashioned. It has a fascinating provenance and the current UK bar scene, with its amazing varieties and cocktails, demonstrates these and keeps on exciting drinkers.

Knowledge of tequila is a bigger challenge as the spirit has such a rich history and tradition that consumers are only just starting to learn about. Therefore, occasions such as International Tequila Day and events like Tequila and Mezcal Fest are great opportunities to educate drinkers about the agave spirit.

So without further ado, here are seven things you need to know about tequila to truly open up your palate to this beautiful tipple.

1. Tequila is a distilled alcoholic drink made from the Weber blue agave plant

Other spirits such as mezcal, are produced from other varieties of agave.

2. Region determines authenticity

Like cognac or champagne, for tequila to be named tequila, it can only be produced in Mexico.

3. Tequila can be classified as 100% agave or mixtos

The former is entirely distilled from Weber Blue Agave and has a more up-front flavour, while in mixtos only 51% of the sugars came from the agave plant, the other 49% came from other sources like grain or sugar cane, therefore they have more subtle flavour profiles.

4. Tequila can be an aged, dark spirit

In fact, the most renowned white expression (referred to as silver or blanco) is simply the non-aged expression. Tequilas can be aged for a variable amount of time, from months to years, and in different barrels, thus developing complex flavour notes that can be likened to fine dark spirits such as whisky, bourbon or cognac. These aged tequilas come under different names, depending on the ageing period.

5. Arm yourself with a few key terms to identify different tequilas and sound like a real connoisseur

Reposado is aged from two and 12 months; añejo is tequila aged from one to two years; and extra añejo a minimum of two years. These are not to be confused with the first tequilas imported to Europe and the UK – the hugely popular gold variants – coloured with caramel which causes that horrible hangover the morning after.

The paloma cocktail, made with Patrón Silver tequila

6. Try to sip tequila neat, or on the rocks, exactly like we do in Mexico

Treat it like a whisky or rum. Pour it in a wine glass to really open the flavours up, nose it gently, sip it slowly and enjoy the earthy agave notes.

7. Forget the lime and salt

Tequila mixes incredibly well in cocktails. Dare to go beyond the popular – yet delicious – margarita to discover a whole new world of tequila cocktails. From the paloma (one of the most popular drinks in Mexico, made with tequila and pink grapefruit juice), to bloody marys and martinis, tequila is a perfect base for many cocktail styles. For example, try to swap whisky with aged tequila in and Old Fashioned for a surprisingly extraordinary mix.

Find out more about Tequila & Mezcal Fest at tequilafest.co.uk

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