What do they make tequila out of? From Agave to a Spirited Drink.

Tequila is one of the most popular alcoholic beverages in the world. Made from the blue agave plant, which is native to Mexico, tequila has a rich history that dates back to the 16th century. Today, tequila is enjoyed by people all over the world and is commonly used in cocktails and recipes. But what exactly is tequila and how is it made? In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about this spirited drink, from agave to a feel-good time!

The Origin of Tequila

Tequila is a traditional Mexican beverage that has been around for centuries. It is said that the Aztecs were the first to create a fermented beverage from the agave plant. Spanish conquistadors arrived in Mexico in the 16th century and brought with them the art of distillation, which they used to create the first tequilas.

What is Agave?

Agave is a succulent plant that is native to Mexico. It has been used for centuries to make various products, including rope, paper, and even needles. The agave plant is a slow-growing plant that can take anywhere from 8 to 12 years to mature. It is only at this point that the plant is ready to be used to make tequila.

Blue Agave Plant

The blue agave plant is the only type of agave that is used to make tequila. This plant is found in the region surrounding the city of Tequila, which is located in the Jalisco state of Mexico. The blue agave is known for its sweet flavor and distinctive aroma, which is why it is the preferred type of agave for tequila production.

The Process of Making Tequila

Harvesting the Blue Agave

The first step in making tequila is to harvest the blue agave plant. This is done by skilled workers who use a sharp tool called a ‘coa’ to remove the leaves from the plant. Once the leaves are removed, the core of the plant, known as the ‘piña’ is exposed. The piña can weigh anywhere from 40 to 200 pounds, depending on the size of the agave plant.

Cooking the Piñas

After the piñas have been harvested, they are cooked in a large oven, known as a ‘hornos’. The cooking process takes anywhere from 24 to 48 hours and is done to break down the complex carbohydrates in the piñas into simple sugars. Cooking the piñas also gives them the distinctive smoky flavor that is characteristic of tequila.

Crushing and Fermenting the Piñas

After the piñas have been cooked, they are crushed to extract the juice. This juice is then fermented in large tanks for several days to convert the sugars into alcohol. During the fermentation process, yeast is added to the juice to aid in the fermentation process.

Distilling the Fermented Juice

Once the juice has been fermented, it is then distilled to increase the alcohol content. This is typically done in two separate distillation processes. The first distillation produces a slightly alcohol-heavy liquid, known as ‘ordinario’. The second distillation produces the final tequila product, which can range in alcohol content from 35% to 55% alcohol by volume.

Varieties of Tequila

Blanco Tequila

Blanco tequila, also known as silver tequila, is a clear tequila that is bottled immediately after the distillation process. This type of tequila has a strong agave flavor and is typically used in cocktails and mixed drinks.

Reposado Tequila

Reposado tequila is aged for a minimum of 2 months and a maximum of 1 year in oak barrels. This type of tequila has a milder flavor and is often sipped on its own or used in more complex cocktails.

Añejo Tequila

Añejo tequila is aged for a minimum of 1 year and a maximum of 3 years in oak barrels. This type of tequila has a rich, smooth flavor and is often sipped on its own or used in high-end cocktails.


Tequila has a rich history and a complex process that goes into making it. From the harvesting of the blue agave plant to the final distillation process, each step is crucial in creating the perfect tequila. Whether you prefer it straight up, on the rocks, or in a cocktail, tequila is a versatile alcoholic beverage that can enhance any occasion.

Most Common Questions About Tequila

  • What is the difference between mezcal and tequila?

    Mezcal and tequila are both made from agave, but they are produced in different regions of Mexico and use different types of agave plants. Mezcal is typically smokier in flavor and can be made from a variety of agave species, while tequila is made only from blue agave and has a more subtle flavor.

  • Can tequila only be made in Mexico?

    Yes, by law, tequila can only be produced in certain regions of Mexico, including Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas.

  • What is the best way to drink tequila?

    The best way to drink tequila is a matter of personal preference. Some people prefer to sip it slowly, while others prefer to take it as a shot with salt and lime. Tequila can also be used in cocktails, such as margaritas and palomas.

  • What is the difference between 100% agave tequila and mixto tequila?

    100% agave tequila is made only from blue agave and contains no other sugars or additives. Mixto tequila, on the other hand, can contain up to 49% other sugars and additives.

  • What is the difference between blanco, reposado, and añejo tequila?

    Blanco tequila is bottled immediately after the distillation process and has a strong agave flavor. Reposado tequila is aged for a minimum of 2 months and a maximum of 1 year in oak barrels, while añejo tequila is aged for a minimum of 1 year and a maximum of 3 years in oak barrels. Reposado and añejo tequilas have a milder flavor and are often sipped on their own.


  • ‘Tequila.’ Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 21 June 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tequila.
  • ‘What Is Tequila and How Is It Made?’ The Spruce Eats, Dotdash, 30 Mar. 2021, www.thespruceeats.com/tequila-liquor-basics-759325.
  • ‘What Is Tequila Made From and How Is It Made?’ VinePair, 24 Mar. 2021, vinepair.com/articles/what-is-tequila-made-of/.

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