Is Tequila Your Drink of Choice? It's Time to Learn About Its 3 Types

We also answer the age-old question, "What's the difference between tequila and mezcal?" and offer tequila recipes to try.

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Whether it's Cinco de Mayo, National Tequila Day (July 24), Taco Tuesday, or just a Wednesday, any day's a good day to learn once and for all about the different types of tequila. They're all deliciously refreshing in a summer cocktail or on their own, but each has a unique personality and flavor profile.

Read on to learn all about tequila: where it comes from, how it's certified, its three types, and how it's different from mezcal. Then put your newfound knowledge to work behind the bar by trying our recipes (cocktail and otherwise) that feature tequila.

What Is Tequila?

To begin, tequila is produced from the fermented sap of blue agave plants grown exclusively in one of five Mexican states: Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. As a rule of thumb, look for tequila bottles labeled "100% Blue Agave." With that certification, you'll be sure the tequila was distilled entirely from the plant and not mixed with other ingredients, like sugarcane.

Types of Tequila

While all tequila comes from the blue agave plant, its taste differs according to how long it's been aged. We break down tequila's three main types, how they taste, and most importantly, how and with what to use them.

Blanco Tequila

Blanco—available in silver or white—comes straight from the sill. It's a pure blue agave spirit that's bottled directly after the distillation process, which removes cloudiness and makes the spirit perfectly clear.

Blanco's flavor is bright, clean, and grassy with notes of agave. It works well in tequila cocktails—like a paloma or a basic margarita—and pairs well with citrus fruits, fish, root vegetables, and even desserts.

Note: Gold or Joven tequila is actually just Blanco tequila with added coloring and flavoring.

Reposado Tequila

Reposado is made when Blanco tequila is aged anywhere from 2 to 11 months in oak barrels. This aging process allows the spirit to mellow and take on a deeper, more complex character.

Reposado has a softer, smoother, more aromatic flavor than Blanco and often takes on vanilla or caramel flavors from the oak aging. Pair it with meat, fruit, and spicy foods.

Añejo Tequila

The most aromatic of the three tequila styles, Añejo has the least bite. It must be aged for more than a year in the same barrel (which must be less than 600 liters) and its quality is strictly controlled. If aged longer than three years, it's known as Extra Añejo.

Añejo is a highly complex, richly perfumed spirit thanks to the super smooth character the extended aging process gives it. Pair it with heavier meats and other rich foods. We recommend sipping it on its own rather than serving it in a cocktail.

Tequila vs. Mezcal

Mezcal is also an agave spirit, but its origin and processes differ from tequila's. It can be made from a variety of species of agave, not just blue agave. It can be made anywhere in Mexico, while tequila is limited to a specified area (similar to how Champagne must come from the Champagne region in France, otherwise it's just sparkling wine).

When making tequila, the agave piñas are steamed in ovens but, for mezcal, piñas are smoked in earthen pits with lava rocks. This gives mezcal a far smokier profile than tequila, but an unaged mezcal also possesses some of the grassy notes of a Blanco tequila.

Mezcal can be aged in oak barrels just like tequila, resulting in a Reposado and Añejo version of the initially distilled juice. Mezcal is customarily served with salt and an orange slice but also pairs well with charcuterie, aged cheeses, chocolate, and fish.

Tequila Mixed Drinks to Try

Put your new knowledge to good use and try one (or all!) of these irresistible tequila cocktails and mixed drinks. For a smoky kick, swap the tequila for mezcal.

Basic Margarita

Cadillac Margarita Easy Tequila Cocktail Recipe
Jonelle Weaver / The Image Bank / Getty Images

Avoid the sour mix at the grocery store and craft your own margaritas at home by following our easy steps. For sweetness, this one features Cointreau, a French orange liqueur, along with a silver tequila.

Ranch Water

Ranch water cocktails
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This healthier version of a classic margarita has just three ingredients: tequila, fresh lime juice, and Topo Chico, a popular Mexican sparkling mineral water brand that's key to making this cocktail so refreshing. With no sweetening agent, this less-sweet alternative also has fewer calories.


Greg DuPree

Aptly named after the Spanish word for "dove," this is a kinder, gentler version of the classic margarita. With grapefruit juice as a sweetener and some of the tequila replaced with club soda, this tamer adaptation is every bit as delicious.

Gingery Cider with Tequila

Apple cider cocktails - Gingery Cider with Tequila
Emma Darvick

"Fall flavors with a kick" best describes this apple cider-based cocktail. Hints of ginger, lemon, and mint muddle with agave to make this autumnal classic really zing.

Partida Passion Fruit Cocktail

Getty Images

This fruity tequila cocktail evokes flavors of the tropics with ruby red grapefruit, lime, and passion fruit. Colorful and refreshing, save yourself some trouble and mix this by the pitcher.

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