Agave is, all things considered, a weird plant. Just looking at it, spiky leaves, dangling tendrils, and long stalks, it looks like something from an alien landscape, but in actuality, it’s responsible for one of the most diverse ranges of distilled spirits on the market. Understanding these spirits can be tricky for the uninitiated.

The name for the group of spirits made from agave is mezcal. Things get confusing, however, because mezcal is also the legal definition for a group of spirits made in Oaxaca one of eight specific sites in Mexico.

Similar to the way that wine is defined regionally Mexican agave-based spirits are also legally defined according to their location in a system called a Denomination of Origin (DOMs). This is the legal classification that designates the eight regions where mezcal can be produced. This is also the leading difference among the remaining agave-based spirits.


Tequila is the most widely known form of mezcal. Tequila can only be made from a single species of agave: the Weber Blue agave (for some, it might be helpful to think of agave species the way one thinks of grape varietals in wine). Tequila can only be made in five registered  Denominations of Origin in the Mexican state of Jalisco. The production process for tequila doesn’t stray far from that of other mezcals, however, it’s important to note that not all tequilas imported into the Unites States are made from 100% agave. In order for a spirit to be labeled as tequila, it must be made from at least 51% agave, and the remaining 49% may be made from other spirits such as corn or sugar. True 100% agave tequila will always be labeled as such.


Mezcal is unique in that it can be made from any species of agave. It’s typically made by baking the corazóns or “hearts” of the agave, also known as the piña, in an underground pit which gives it a smoky flavor. After this, it’s crushed and left in a barrel to ferment with water before being distilled. Most of the mezcals imported in the United States are made in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. While it can be made from any species of agave, in practice over 90% of mezcal from this region is made from the agave species called Espadin.


Raicilla is an agave spirit made in Jalisco but using agave species other than Blue Weber. It is less smokey than many Mezcals and often has a very unique savory almost blue cheese flavor.


Bacanora is perhaps the agave spirit whose production has changed the least over the centuries. Bacanora is only derived from a wild species of mountain-growing agave called Pacifica (or traditionally Yaquiana). Once it’s been harvested, it’s cooked for two days in a pit with volcanic stones. The aroma is said to be unique because of the volcanic stones. It can only be produced in the Mexican state of Sonora.


Sotol is produced from the Dasylirion wheeleri, or Desert Spoon plant. In the most technical scientific terms, this plant isn’t related to agave, but because sotol has been grouped with mezcals for centuries in Mexican culture, we’ll include it in our list. It features a towering stalk that can grow over ten feet tall. The plant can be found all over northern Mexico and the southern United States, but true sotol can only be made in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The method of production follows that of other mezcals, with the exception that the agave heart is roasted in an above ground clay oven instead of an earthen pit. This causes sotol to lack the smoky flavors that are typically associated with other mezcals.


These spirits would traditionally be sipped out of small clay cups called “copitas,” but in America, they’re often served neat or on the rocks. Additionally, they are being used extensively in craft cocktails. Most mezcals, with the exception of tequila, do not have a traditional cocktail associated with them so they give bartenders a lot of room to experiment. 

The history of the Margarita is murky at best. Different stories have it originating in different bars from Baja or Juarez, Mexico to San Diego or La Jolla, California. The drink’s name is also under debate. Was it named for Hollywood actress Rita Hayworth or was it perhaps named for the daughter of the German ambassador? 

One thing that does seem clear is that it originated in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s at a time just after American prohibition in which many Americans had begun traveling to Mexico to consume alcohol. Historically in Mexico, tequila has always been sipped straight, and the Margarita is thought to have been invented for Americans who were more used to drinking mixed drinks.

Though there are now many different kinds of Margaritas, many with different fruits added in, we’ve come up with the best recipe we could find. Even though we may never know the exact origins of the Margarita, this recipe is very close to the original: quality tequila, an orange liquor, and tart fruit juice. Enjoy!

As you know, it’s spring which means that summer is right around the corner, and that means that it’s time for margaritas and tequila sunrises on the deck and by the pool!

I know that some of the people out there are going to say “But I don’t like tequila,” or “I don’t know what kind to buy”.” That’s understandable – there are so many types of tequila, it’s hard to know where to start.

Let’s start off with what it takes to be considered true tequila. The rules for making tequila are very similar to the rules for making bourbon. They both have strong ties to a specific region, and they both must be composed of a specific amount of a single fruit or grain. If these standards are not met you wind up with a completely different product with a different name and style. In the case of tequila, it’s made from 100% pure agave. But it cannot be just any agave. It has to be Weber blue agave from the territory of Tequila, Mexico. If it is not all of these things then the spirit that is being made is not considered to be tequila.

Jimadors are the Mexican farmers who harvest agave to turn into tequila.

There are a few different types of tequila, and for the purposes of this post, I’ll be using the Siembra tequila brand, especially their Azul and Valles lines as my example. Its tequilas are unique in that they are an estate brand, meaning that it was sourced from one location owned by the people producing the spirit. The spirit must also be processed and created on said land.

The first and most well know tequila type is Blanco. It is crystal clear in appearance and is the tequila most used for cocktails or mixed drinks. It is one of the most common forms of tequila due to having the least amount of aging done to it, as well as being one of the most popular for shots at bars and parties. As mentioned a second ago, the aging is minimal, if it’s even done at all. If it is aged at all it is less than two months otherwise, it’ll be into one of the other forms of tequila. The Blanco made by Siembra Azul is one of the smoothest that I’ve ever had. It’s crisp on the tongue with a note of citrus and pepper. The typical Blanco is a lot like a teenager; brash, full of themselves, with a bit of a fiery disposition. With higher end tequilas, the fire is comfortably mellowed, and the brashness turns to more flavor notes rather than a kick to the teeth. Siembra even makes another form of Blanco called Siembra Valles which is of an even higher quality and brings even more tasty flavors to the table.

Another common form of tequila is Reposado. This form of tequila is known for its yellowish tinge that can sometimes even be amber in color. It’s different from its Blanco companion in that it has been aged in oak barrels for a period of no less than two months but no more than twelve months. Reposado is a much more mellow tasting tequila. The wood aging is known as the “mellowing process” and it takes what was a young and fiery liquor and transforms it into a much more mature and flavorful spirit. It still has a slight kick of a classic Blanco, but it is easier to drink overall and very pleasant as a drink all by itself. The oak adds more flavors to the spirit than just the agave due to the absorption of the wood oils during the mellowing process. This process is much like the way oak aging affects wine. The Reposado made by Siembra Azul, for example, still has a little kick, but has many new flavors like spicy ginger and vanilla. Their Valles label also offers a Reposado and much like their Valles Blanco it is a step to the next level of quality tequila. It has a golden honey color which comes through beautifully on the palate with a bit of honey-like sweetness and mint. Reposado is still used in many of the same cocktails as the Blanco, but it will add a more mellow taste to them. It’s also very common to sip Reposado tequilas on their own.

The third type of tequila is Anejo. This is a much more mellow and distinctive style of tequila than the others. It’s the longest aged form of tequila, typically spending anywhere from twelve months up to about two years. Anejo is quite dark in color due to this longer aging process. Anejo is the most complex tasting form of tequila due to the absorption of so much more of the elements from the barrels it was aged or “mellowed” in. The Siembra Anejo for instance, has taste notes of cinnamon, tobacco, butterscotch, and a bit of honeyed sweetness. This form of tequila is what I like to refer to as the “single malt” of tequila in that it is a crime to mix this spirit with anything. Drink it straight in a tumbler or in a large snifter glass. It is meant to be enjoyed all by itself with nothing else to distract the drinker from the experience.