Pronunciation: [teh-KEE-luh]

A colorless or pale straw-colored liquor made by fermenting and distilling the sweet sap of the agave plant. Tequila is made in and around the small town of Tequila, in Mexico's Jalisco province. In order to be classified as tequila, distilled spirits must be produced from blue agave plants grown in a precisely delineated area in the five Mexican states of Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacan, Mayarit and Tamaulipas. Tequilas labeled "100% Blue Agave" are considered the best. Mexican law states that tequila must be made with at least 51 percent blue agave; the remaining 49 percent is most commonly sugarcane, although other raw products may be used. Tequila is generally bottled at 80 proof although some of the aged versions are bottled at higher alcohol levels. There are four categories of tequila: blanco, joven, abocado and añejo. Tequila blanco (also known as white, silver or plata) is bottled soon after distillation. Its smooth, fresh flavor has an herbaceous, peppery quality. Tequila joven abocado (also called gold) is a tequila blanco with flavoring and coloring added; it doesn't have to be aged. Tequila reposado may also contain added flavoring and coloring and must be aged at least two months but can be aged for up to a year. The wood aging (usually in oak) endows reposados with hints of vanilla and spice and produces character more mellow than that of tequila blanco. Some reposados also use the word "gold" on their label, which gives the impression that golds have been aged, although there's no such legal requirement. Tequila añejo is aged for at least one year (and often two to three years). The smooth, elegant and complex flavor of the best añejos is often compared to that of fine cognacs.

From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

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