10 Terms Every Tequila Drinker Should Know

Tequila sales are booming and Mexico’s most famous spirit is now more popular than ever. But if you are someone who still just thinks of it as “that thing I used to shoot on spring break,” here are some terms that every tequila drinker should know.


First things first, what exactly is tequila? This spirit is a specific type of mezcal made from the blue agave plant and it is primarily produced in the area surrounding the city of Tequila, northwest of Guadalajara.


This is worth a mention just to make sure you’re clear on the differences. Tequila is a type of mezcal, much like how scotch and bourbon are types of whiskey. Mezcal is defined as any agave-based liquor, which includes, but is not limited to, tequila. In total, mezcal is made from more than 30 varieties of agave. While modern “tequila” didn’t come to be until the 1800s, mezcal dates back to the 1500s when it was made by brandy-obsessed Spanish conquistadors.

Jalisco is the central Western Mexican state where 80 percent of all blue agave is grown. While laws have been relaxed so that tequila can be made in other Mexican states that don’t include the actual town of Tequila, very few distilleries operate outside of Jalisco.

Tequila, along with all other mezcals, must be made from agave. This desert plant is native to northern Mexico and the southwestern United States and includes hundreds of varieties. Tequila, however, requires blue agave, which thrives in the rich, volcanic soil found in Jalisco. Blue agave is larger than most other varieties used for mezcal and its core possesses a higher concentration sugar, which makes it especially suitable for alcohol production.

Normas Oficial Mexicana (NOM)
Much like France’s appellation d’origine contrôlée, the Normas Oficial Mexicana (NOM) certifies that specific spirits meet the geographic and ingredient-based requirements of Tequila.

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