To the surprise of many, tequila is much more than just a clear spirit with a unique taste and fun ritual. Tequila is one of the most diverse spirits out there. It can be aged or not, sipped or used in cocktails and it doesn’t even have to be 100% blue agave. Come and discover the five types of tequila below…
The five types of tequila
There are five types of tequila which either come under ‘100% blue agave’ or not, to which it’s just labelled ‘tequila’ and can be bottled outside of Mexico.
- Blanco tequila
- Reposado tequila
- Añejo tequila
- Extra añejo tequila
- Joven tequila
Have more tequila queries? Everything you've ever wanted to know about tequila can be found on our 'what is tequila' page here.
Blanco tequila (silver / plata)
Blanco is the clear, colourless version of tequila and is probably the most consumed and bought. Most people will recognise tequila in this style. Blanco tequila is the quickest type to produce because of the ageing period. Upon distillation, it can either be bottled immediately or after three weeks, hence the lack of colour. The taste of blanco is said to be the closest to the blue agave plant and is popular for use in cocktails. It can be bought to sip but its distinct flavour means it’s easy to balance in cocktails and doesn’t easily overpower.
Best cocktails: Tequila Sunrise, Paloma, Margarita, Batanga
Flavour profile: fiery, ethanol, citrus
Meaning ‘rested’ in English, reposado tequila is aged for a minimum of two months before bottling. Oak barrels are used to age the spirit, which is where the deep golden colour comes from. Reposado tequilas are not quite as dark as the aged tequilas, but certainly more so than joven tequilas.
In terms of flavour, the idea is to age the spirit a little, whilst still retaining those youthful, raw blue agave notes. There's still an ‘ethanol bite’ but it lives nicely alongside the woody undertones. Tequila distillers may also use oak barrels previously used for maturing wine and whiskey. Subtle notes from the previously aged alcohol seeps into the tequila, adding more flavour. This is why reposado is a good sipping tequila to try out. It’s much more palatable to drink straight than a blanco and holds more notes to discover. Reposado tequila can still be used to put a twist on some classic tequila cocktails, like the margarita, but it's a must-try for those who love sipping a complex spirit.
Best cocktails: Margarita
Flavour profile: oak, honey, spice
Añejo tequila is a style that is aged much longer than the previous two, hence its Spanish namesake. This is a much darker-coloured tequila and perhaps not well-known to many people. In fact, its dark brown colour would mean you’d be forgiven for thinking it was whiskey or dark rum, at first glance. This is due to its much longer ageing period of up to three years. Consequently, the more bitter and ethanol flavours of tequila are lost and replaced by sweeter, more intense notes. Añejo is a perfect sipping tequila and is heavily encouraged to be served neat with ice. Cocktail recipes could be adapted to suit this deep-flavoured spirit, however. Recipes that call for a dark spirit, like whiskey, could be well-substituted with añejo.
Best cocktails: Moscow Mule (replace the vodka), El Diablo, Batanga
Flavour profile: coffee, oak, caramel
Ever thought about how is tequila made? Check out this blog to find out more.
Extra añejo tequila
An extra añejo is the most aged and darkest a tequila can get. A newcomer to the tequila scene, extra añejo was created in 2006 and is enjoying success. Aged for over three years, extra añejo possess a phenomenal range of rich flavours to enjoy. The flavours savoured in a regular añejo are intensified and more developed, making extra añejo great for sipping. However, adding this style to cocktails isn’t recommended, due to the risk of creating an unbalanced cocktail.
Flavour profile: smoke, oak, honey
Learn more about flavours and tasting tequila here.
Joven tequila (gold / oro)
This a curious style within the tequila world as, technically, this has to be split into ‘joven tequila’ and ‘gold tequila’.
A joven tequila is a 100% blue agave tequila. It’s gold in colour and is created by mixing blanco tequila with an aged tequila, both being 100% blue agave. This is, therefore, counted as a 100% blue agave tequila. Jovens can be great in cocktails, especially those with bold citrus notes.
Best cocktails: Paloma, El Diablo, Margarita
Flavour profile: fiery, slightly woody, citrus
A gold tequila is the ‘black sheep’ of the tequila world. It’s a ‘mixto’ tequila, meaning it’s not purely made from blue agave sugars. Legally, only 51% of the sugar content has to be from the blue agave when making mixto tequila. Additionally, other ingredients are added to gold tequila like additives, colourings, sugar, extracts and glycerine. Gold tequila is not part of the aged tequilas and its golden hue is totally down to colourings. Generally, they are a lower quality and often ask a lower retail price too. If you want to avoid a sure-fire tequila hangover, avoid the gold.
What is cristalino tequila?
A cristalino tequila is when an aged tequila is filtered again to remove the colour from it. The result is a clear sipping tequila with the same notes and characteristics as a regular aged tequila. Añejos are most often filtered like this and it’s purely a stylistic choice.
Discover the highland and lowland tequila for yourself on our EBS Tequila and Mezcal Expedition.
Master each style of tequila behind the bar and check out our EBS Bartender Courses here.