Raise your shot glasses, UK tequila enthusiasts! As the popularity of this delightful Mexican spirit continues to soar, it’s time to take a closer look at the best tequila brands available in the United Kingdom. From the smoothest sippers to the most flavourful options, we’ve got you covered.
Crafty has been listening, and in this blog post, we are going to answer some of your most asked questions about this Mexican delight, including:
- How is tequila made?
- What Are the Different Types of Tequila?
- Which cocktails can be made using tequila?
- What is considered the best tequila?
- Which tequila brand is the smoothest?
- Which tequila has the best flavour?
- What is the most popular tequila?
- What is a top-shelf tequila?
- Is there a British tequila?
We hope you brought your pen and paper too. We’re also going all in to explain the best ways to enjoy your tequila, food pairings, best tequilas for all budgets, how to store and serve and even some celebrity endorsements.
So buckle up, connoisseurs. You’re in for a treat with this one!
Brief History of Tequila
Tequila traces its origins to the ancient Aztec civilisation, where it began as a fermented beverage called pulque, made from agave plant sap. The Spanish invasion introduced agave distillation, leading to the creation of mezcal and, eventually, the modern tequila we know today. The Cuervo and Sauza families pioneered commercial tequila production, with the latter identifying blue agave as the ideal plant for tequila production.
The birth of the margarita in 1936 further popularised tequila, solidifying its place in American drinking culture. In 1974, the Mexican government claimed “tequila” as its intellectual property, ensuring that the spirit is produced and aged in specific regions of Mexico and maintaining its unique identity.
Today, skilled bartenders continue to innovate and create new tequila-based cocktails, showcasing its versatility and timeless appeal. Establishments like Mayahuel Mexican Cocktail bar in London have emerged, offering contemporary tequila and mezcal experiences, while classic cocktails like the Oaxaca Old Fashioned remain popular.
As we appreciate tequila’s rich history and evolution, we can also look forward to exciting future innovations for this beloved spirit. Tequila’s unique journey through time has contributed to a truly remarkable and enjoyable drinking experience, whether it’s sipped straight, enjoyed in a classic margarita, or savoured in a reimagined cocktail creation.
How is tequila made?
The art of tequila production is a captivating journey, starting with the harvest of the blue agave plant. Then, skilled workers wield a special knife called a coa to carefully remove the leaves, revealing the treasured piña bulb hidden beneath. The magic continues as these piña bulbs are baked, traditionally in rock-lined pits or, more commonly today, in clay and brick ovens called hornos or sizeable stainless steel ovens. This crucial step releases the fermentable sugars, setting the stage for the tequila transformation.
The baked piñas are then shredded and crushed to extract the sweet mosto or agave juice. This can be done using modern industrial mechanical shredders or through the time-honoured technique of employing a tahona, a large stone wheel that gracefully pulverises the piña. As the mosto is combined with yeast and water, fermentation occurs in either stainless steel tanks or wooden barrels, transmuting the agave juice into ethyl alcohol and edging it closer to becoming a spirit.
The next stage is the mesmerising distillation process. Here, the agave juices are purified and blended, and the alcohol content is concentrated. Tequila typically undergoes two distillations, with the first producing a mysterious cloudy liquid called ordinario. The second distillation reveals the crystal-clear silver tequila, which is now primed for ageing and bottling.
Tequila’s final enchanting act is the ageing process. All tequila rests for at least 14 to 21 days, with silver or blanco tequila aged for the shortest time. Reposado tequila, meaning “rested,” is aged between two months to a year, while añejo, or “aged,” is matured for one to three years. Finally, extra añejo is aged for over three years, developing a rich, deep character. To create these aged wonders, the distilled blanco is placed in oak barrels, imparting a golden hue to the tequila. A fifth type, joven or oro, a blend of silver and reposado tequila, adds to the intriguing tapestry of tequila varieties.
Tequila is required to be composed of at least 51% Blue Weber Agave, with the remaining sugar permitted to come from non-agave sources like sugar cane, which is also grown in Mexico. Tequilas made entirely from Blue Weber Agave are labelled as such, while those made with less than 100% are referred to as “mixto”.
Production of tequila is limited to only five regions in Mexico, with a staggering 99% of it originating from Jalisco, where the town of Tequila is located. The tequila must be bottled at an alcohol content between 35% and 55% ABV.
What Are the Different Types of Tequila?
Tequila comes in five main types, each with its distinct characteristics:
Blanco tequila, occasionally called plata or silver tequila, may be aged in a barrel for a maximum of 60 days. More commonly, though, it moves directly from the still to a stainless steel tank and into the bottle. The lack of an ageing process is what gives blancos their transparent appearance (similar to mezcal) and a distinctively sharp bite that some may find a tad overwhelming. Nonetheless, this style showcases the true essence of agave.
While you’re free to enjoy any tequila style as you please, blancos are the ideal choice for cocktails. A quality blanco will elevate your margaritas and palomas, making them delightfully crisp and refreshing.
Reposado, translating to “rested,” is aged in a barrel for anywhere between 2 and 11 months. This tequila style is the most popular choice in Mexico. It boasts the distinct flavours of blue agave, subtle barrel notes, and a gentler finish on the palate than a blanco.
For those who prefer a smoother mixed drink with a rich flavour profile, reposado can be substituted for blanco in any cocktail recipe. Alternatively, you can choose a recipe specifically calling for reposado. A go-to drink for many occasions – including unwinding after a long day at work – starts with a base of reposado, basil, lemon and lime juice, topped off with a splash of mezcal for an extra kick.
Añejo, meaning “aged,” is aged for one to three years in oak barrels. While any wooden barrel can be utilised, ex-American whisky and French oak are the most popular choices. As a result, añejos often exhibit rich flavours such as vanilla, honey and brown sugar, which are typically associated with bourbon.
Aged tequilas are designed to be enjoyed neat, like a fine whiskey. Consider this: you wouldn’t mix a high-quality Macallan whisky with coke, would you? The same principle applies to ultra-premium tequila here. But, of course, a touch of water or a few ice cubes won’t hurt the experience.
Extra Añejo Tequila
The minimum ageing period for this type of tequila is three years, during which it may be stored in multiple barrels before being bottled. As a result, extra añejo is classified as an ultra-premium product, which is reflected in its price. Due to its extended ageing process, this “extra-aged” tequila has the most potent aromas and the deepest amber colour compared to other types. Its flavour is also the most complex, with notes reminiscent of barrel-aged whiskey and cognac.
This is a trendy new categorisation that has gained popularity in the VIP club circuit. Charcoal filtration is used to eliminate tannins from aged tequila. It is claimed that this process results in a smoother mouthfeel. However, it is a fact that the colour is eliminated, and the tequila, which was aged previously, regains its crystal-clear transparency, resembling a blanco. Whether it is a marketing or sales tactic or not is up to you to decide.
Which cocktails can be made using tequila?
Tequila’s versatility lends itself to a variety of cocktails, from classic margaritas to modern concoctions. Here are a few favourites:
- Margarita: A timeless blend of tequila, lime juice, and triple sec, served over ice with a salted rim.
- Paloma: A refreshing mix of tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and soda water, garnished with a lime wedge.
- Tequila Sunrise: A visually stunning combination of tequila, orange juice, and grenadine, served in a tall glass with ice.
- El Diablo: A devilishly delightful mix of reposado tequila, crème de cassis, ginger beer, and lime juice, garnished with a lime wedge.
- Matador: A bold blend of blanco tequila, pineapple juice, and lime juice, garnished with a pineapple wedge.
Quick-fire question time!
Here’s the part where we give you some quick answers to the most asked questions we hear about tequila.
What is considered the best tequila?
The “best” tequila can be pretty subjective, as personal taste and preferences play a significant role. However, some top contenders for the title include Clase Azul Reposado, Don Julio 1942, and Patrón Gran Piedra.
Which tequila brand is the smoothest?
For a silky-smooth tequila experience, look no further than Don Julio 1942. Aged for over two years in oak barrels, this ultra-premium añejo tequila is known for its exceptional smoothness and complex flavour profile, with notes of sweet vanilla, roasted agave, and dried fruit.
Which tequila has the best flavour?
Again, this largely depends on personal preferences, but the Clase Azul Reposado is one of the most flavourful tequilas on the market. This high-quality tequila is aged for eight months in ex-bourbon barrels, resulting in a rich, velvety texture and a delightful harmony of sweet caramel, chocolate, and subtle spice.
What is the most popular tequila?
Jose Cuervo is undoubtedly one of the most popular tequila brands globally, and its wide range of offerings, from blanco to extra añejo, caters to different tastes and budgets. While it may not be the smoothest or most refined option, it remains a classic choice for many tequila aficionados.
What is a top-shelf tequila?
Top-shelf tequilas offer a superior sipping experience, often due to their exceptional quality, craftsmanship, and ageing process. Some examples include Don Julio 1942, Clase Azul Reposado, and Casa Noble Añejo.
Is there a British tequila?
While tequila must be produced in specific regions of Mexico to be classified as such, some UK-based whisky distilleries have ventured into creating agave-based spirits. One example is Ocho, a brand that collaborates with Mexican producers to craft small-batch, single-estate tequilas that highlight each agave harvest’s terroir and unique characteristics.
The Art of Sipping Tequila
How to properly taste and appreciate tequila
Tequila is no exception when it comes to enjoying the finer things in life. To truly appreciate the complex flavours of this spirit, pour a small amount into a snifter or a shot glass with a wide opening. Swirl gently, take a sniff, and let the aroma awaken your senses. Then, take a small sip, letting it linger on your tongue to fully absorb the nuances before swallowing. Remember, sipping tequila is about savouring every moment, not knocking back shots.
The ideal glassware for sipping tequila
While shot glasses might be the go-to for tequila, they’re not the best choice for sipping and appreciating its intricate flavours. Instead, opt for a snifter or a small wine glass with a tapered opening, which allows the aroma to concentrate and enhances the overall tasting experience.
Tequila and Food Pairings
Complementary flavours for different tequila types
Pairing tequila with the right food can elevate both the spirit and the dish. For blanco tequilas, try ceviche or fresh seafood with a squeeze of lime to complement the bright, citrusy notes. Reposado tequilas pair well with grilled meats and spicy dishes, as their sweeter, smoother profile stands up to bolder flavours. Añejo and extra añejo tequilas, with their rich, velvety character, are best enjoyed with indulgent desserts like dark chocolate or caramel flan.
Popular Mexican dishes to enjoy with tequila
There’s nothing like traditional Mexican cuisine to accompany your favourite tequila. From flavourful tacos and zesty guacamole to hearty enchiladas and tender carne asada, these dishes bring out the best in tequila, creating a symphony of flavours that dance on your palate.
Best Tequila Brands for Different Budgets
Premium tequila options
For those looking to indulge in tequila’s crème de la crème, consider splurging on ultra-premium options like Don Julio 1942, Clase Azul Reposado, Teremana Añejo or Blanco. These exquisite spirits are perfect for sipping straight or as the star ingredient in a top-notch cocktail.
Mid-range tequila favourites
If you’re after quality without breaking the bank, mid-range tequilas like Casamigos Reposado and El Jimador Añejo or Jalisco Reposado offer a balance of flavour, smoothness, and affordability. Ideal for both sipping and mixing, these tequilas provide a taste of luxury without the hefty price tag.
Budget-friendly tequila selections
For the budget-conscious tequila lover, brands like Jose Cuervo Especial, Espolòn Blanco, Tequila 38 Blanco or Reposado deliver respectable flavour profiles suitable for mixed drinks and casual sipping. While they might not boast the same complexity as their pricier counterparts, they’re perfect for those just dipping their toes into the tequila world.
Tequila Liqueurs: A Flavourful Adventure
For those with a taste for the adventurous, tequila liqueurs open up a whole new world of possibilities. At Crafty Connoisseur, you’ll find an enticing selection of flavours that add a delightful twist to the classic tequila experience. These liqueurs infuse the beloved spirit with unique notes and character, making them perfect for crafting innovative cocktails or simply sipping and savouring.
Guey Hot & Spicy Tequila sets the stage with a fiery kick that awakens the senses, adding a bold edge to your favourite drinks. For a sweeter indulgence, the smooth and luscious Chocolate Cream tequila liqueur is a real treat, marrying the rich warmth of chocolate with the boldness of tequila.
If fruity notes are more your style, Mex Mango Cream and Mex Strawberry Cream bring a vibrant burst of tropical and berry flavours to the table. These refreshing tequila liqueurs are perfect for creating sunny cocktails or enjoying chilled on a warm summer evening. And keep an eye out for the up-and-coming Mex Passionfruit liqueur, soon to make waves in the tequila world with its exotic and captivating taste.
Dive into the world of tequila liqueurs and let your taste buds embark on an unforgettable journey. These flavourful concoctions are sure to delight both tequila enthusiasts and newcomers alike, proving that tequila truly has something for everyone.
How to Store and Serve Tequila
Ideal storage conditions for preserving flavour
To keep your tequila tasting its best, store bottles in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight and temperature fluctuations. While tequila doesn’t age once bottled, proper storage ensures its flavours remain vibrant and authentic to their original profile.
Recommended serving temperatures
For the best tasting experience, serve tequila at room temperature. Chilling tequila can dull its flavours, masking the subtleties that make each type unique. If you prefer your tequila on the rocks, add a single ice cube to gently chill it without compromising its taste.
Celebrity Tequila Brands
Teremana by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Teremana tequila brand boasts small-batch, sustainably-produced tequilas that aim to unite people. Made from 100% blue agave, Teremana offers blanco and reposado tequilas, focusing on highlighting the agave plant’s natural flavours.
Casamigos by George Clooney
Casamigos, co-founded by George Clooney, has become a household name in the tequila world, known for its smooth, easy-drinking profile. The brand offers a range of tequilas, including blanco, reposado, and añejo, all crafted with a focus on quality and consistency.
818 Reposado Tequila by Kendall Jenner
Garnering the prestigious title of Best Reposado at The World Tequila Awards, Kendall Jenner’s 818 Tequila has taken the American market by storm and is now making its UK debut! This medium-bodied, rich and golden tequila offers a velvety finish and an unwavering dedication to authenticity.
Skillfully crafted, 818 Reposado is made from agaves hand-selected by experienced jimador farmers and roasted in time-honoured brick ovens for 40 hours. Following traditional pot still distillation, the tequila is aged for two years in White Oak barrels, imparting a luxurious oaked vanilla flavour.
Joining the ranks of successful ‘celebrity tequilas’, 818 is the brainchild of fashion icon and socialite Kendall Jenner, making it a must-try for tequila aficionados and trendsetters alike.
Prospero Blanco Tequila by Rita Ora
A delightful collaboration between Mexico’s esteemed master distiller Stella Anguiano and internationally acclaimed pop singer Rita Ora brings us the exquisite Tequila Próspero Blanco. Crafted from 100% blue agave grown in the volcanic soil of the Tequila Valley, this tequila is as unique as its creators and available only in limited quantities worldwide.
Próspero Blanco has earned prestigious accolades, scoring 93/100 points at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge and 94/100 points at Distiller.com. Its tasting notes reveal a clear color, with an aroma that features agave, black pepper, and citrus. On the palate, it presents a delightful blend of peppery, citrus, and agave flavors, culminating in a long-lasting, aromatic finish. This exceptional tequila is a must-try for enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike.
Tequila has come a long way from the Jalisco highlands to the UK bar cart. However, its rich history, diverse flavour profiles, and endless cocktail possibilities continue to captivate spirit enthusiasts.
As the tequila renaissance continues, the United Kingdom embraces this captivating spirit with open arms. With a wealth of options available, from top-shelf sippers to budget-friendly favourites, there’s something for every palate and occasion. So, whether you’re a seasoned tequila connoisseur or a curious newcomer, it’s time to explore the best brands available in the UK, raise a glass, and say “Salud!” to the remarkable world of tequila.