Tequila is a colorless liquor made from the juices in the agave cactus. Although it has a very long history, it was first commercialized by Jose Cuervo 1795, and it only gained widespread popularity after the Mexican Revolution. Although the two are very similar, Tequila made from less than 50% blue agave, or from cacti other than agave, must be called Mezcal. The best tequila is made from 100% blue agave. Other varieties are called mixto. Tequila is often consumed neat, but it excels as a base for mixed cocktails.
Today, well after attaining worldwide acclaim, there are five categories of tequila available to buy:
Silver Tequila is clear, unaged and bottled after distillation. Silver tequila has been aged in a stainless steel tank for less than 60 days, and most are not aged at all.
Reposado Tequila is silver tequila that has been barrel-aged for 3 to 12 months. Higher-quality reposado tequila has been aged 9 to 12 months. Reposados have a robust flavor that makes them the most popular tequila in Mexico. They make for excellent sipping drinks.
Añejo tequilas are silver tequila aged in oak barrels for 1 to 3 years. Añejo, or "old" tequilas, are flavorful, robust and earthy. Sip añejo from a snifter to taste it at its best.
Extra Añejo tequila has been barrel-aged for over three years, but usually no longer than four.
Gold Tequila is silver tequila that has been sweetened with caramel and other flavors. Buy gold tequila if you plan on using it to mix cocktails.