Few people who enjoy a cocktail once and awhile would deny that tequila is an essential and highly desired component of their drinks! Whether it’s a classic margarita on a Taco Tuesday or fun night out, a martini (shaken, not stirred, of course), or a Long Island Iced Tea if you’re feeling really ambitious, tequila is an absolute staple in our drink menus.
How do you make tequila? Typically, tequila production involves first harvesting the blue agave, then cooking the heart of the plant, called the piñas, then crushing the hearts, and lastly fermenting and distilling the combination of fiber and juice inside the plant. Some distilleries have modernized to make this process easier with technology like a mill or diffuser to extract sugar from the agave in the initial cooking process. Diffusers, while they make production quicker and more efficient, are seen as inferior or less authentic in production, so distilleries aren’t too transparent about using them, if they do. Anyway, it’s not an easy process to make tequila, and it can only be done in such a specific radius of Mexico, so think about that next time you’re sipping a margarita, thinking it’s such a common drink. A lot goes into producing the tequila within!
Also, there are different terms for tequila aged for different lengths of time – blancos or platos are tequilas bottled within two months, reposados have been aged from two months to a year, and añejos are the oldest, aged for one to three years in oak casks. Arta, a well-known organic tequila producer, even boasts an “extra añejo,” aged five years in two different types of oak barrels. Here are some of the best brands you should give a try and some facts behind their magic.
- 123 Organic Tequila – The brand 123 was founded by David Ravandi, and is produced northeast of Guadalajara, in Jalisco, Mexico. 123 uses a small-batch process and double-distills their tequila to get the purest agave flavor possible. They offer blends aged anywhere from under six months (blanco) to over two years (which they refer to as “bastardo”).
- Casa Noble Tequila – Casa Noble was founded by Jose “Pepe” Hermosillo, a dedicated tequila maker whose expertise shines through in all their products. Casa Noble offers triple distilled, certified organic, small batch tequilas. Their products have beautiful notes and flavors. For example, the reposado contains aromas of “vanilla, lemongrass and floral, balanced with flavors of sweet cooked agave and toasted oak.”
- Tres Agaves Organic Tequila – Boasting tequila actually hailing from Tequila Valley, Tres Agaves has all the variations of agave tequilas as well as some organic cocktail mixers, which is really fun. Their organic lime Margarita mix is gluten free, organic and sweetened only with agave nectar. They also have an organic Bloody Mary mix, strawberry Margarita mix, and cocktail-ready agave nectar.
- Arta Organic Tequila – Arta’s tequila is grown on a family-owned farm in Arenal, Mexico, about 15 minutes from the town of Tequila. They plant their agave by hand and offer an “extra añejo,” aged five years in different types of oak barrels. They also hand bottle their products in beautiful, artisan glass bottles. And they donate 1% of their profits to local charities. Pretty amazing that their products are organic and socially conscious.
- Dulce Vida Tequila – Dulce Vida Tequila comes from the Los Altos (highlands) region of Mexico. In addition to producing organic products, they perform a complete recapture of all production waste and methane gas, which is recycled and reused to create nutrient-rich soil and an energy source to fuel the production facility. They also offer fun cocktail mixes in addition to their blanco, reposado, añejo and extra añejo. With their low-carb grapefruit tequila, it’s easy to make a Paloma, by adding some club soda, lime soda and lime garnish. They even offer the récipe, and other récipes on their website!
- Tequila Alquimia – The story behind Tequila Alquimia is pretty socially as well as environmentally inspiring. The founder and president, Dr. Adolfo Murillo, received his Doctor of Optometry degree in the US before inheriting his dying father’s ranch in the area of Los Altos de Jalisco. His family persuaded him not to sell it, and they went on to do extensive research into agave growth and production in that region in order to begin harvesting some of the most robust agaves that had ever been grown. Adolfo used the modern science techniques he had learned in the US in combination with traditional agriculture to begin organic production. They have continued for over 25 years to train farmers across Mexico to produce in an environmentally friendly way. This has exponentially increased job opportunities in their town and moved the region in a positive environmental and agricultural direction. After their extensive tequila production process, including two distillations before it’s finalized, the tequila is bottled by hand.
It is pretty inspiring that in production processes, involvement of the local farming community and artisan expertise in designing of glass bottles, organic tequila companies can have such a positive and widespread impact. Just like other alcohols, different tequilas have very different notes and flavors; some are sweeter, some are spicier, some are smooth, some are smoky, some are better straight, and some are better mixed into cocktails. It’s worth trying some different brands aged for different amounts of time to get a sense of their varieties, and you can feel better about your environmental impact when you make the choice to try organic! Cheers!