What is Añejo Tequila?Tequila is usually reserved for shots while pre-gaming or at parties. And then añejo tequila joined the chat. Añejo tequila gives whiskey a run for its money with its amber-colored, smooth sipping characteristics. What is anejo tequila?
We’ll tell you. But first you need to learn the basics of tequila.
What is tequila?
Tequila is a distilled alcoholic spirit made from the agave tequilana species of agave, the only species of the agave plant permitted for tequila distillation. Always remember, all tequila is mezcal but not all mezcal is tequila.
Mezcal is also a distilled spirit but mezcal is distilled from any species of the agave plant.
How many types of tequila are there?
There are fives types of tequila:
- Blanco, silver, plata
- Joven, golden, oro
- Extra añejo
Before we get to añejo tequila, let’s review each type of tequila. You see, each has different aging processes.
Blanco (white) or silver tequilas aren’t typically aged. They are usually transparent in color but slightly aged blanco may have a green tinge to it due to the agave or may have a light amber color as some may be aged in oak or Holm oak barrels for up to two months. Blanco tequilas are frequently aged in stainless steel casks to allow for better oxidation. Agave plants take seven or more years to reach maturity and tequila experts say blanco tequila ages in the ground rather than the barrel.Some purists consider blanco tequila to be the truest expression of tequila as additives and other colorings are rarely added.
Next, we move on to…
Joven (young) or gold tequilas are blancos blended with unaged and aged tequilas. Commonly, jovens are unaged tequilas produced just as blancos are but they are mixed with additives like caramel coloring and others for flavor. Due to these additives, jovens often have a golden-colored hue and are also known as oro (gold).
Reposados (rested) are aged in oak barrels for two months to up to 364 days. They have a darker hue than blancos and jovens and develop a richer flavor due to aging in barrels. A reposado tequila must be matured in oak, Holm oak barrels, or vats called pipones for a minimum of two months. The sizes of these large vessels aren’t specified.
Some reposados are aged in casks so large it barely imparts any oak flavoring and so caramel is added to enhance the flavor. On the other hand, other reposados are aged in smaller casks (typically old bourbon barrels) for longer than the minimum 60 days and some have flavors closer to that of añejo tequilas in both age and character.
And last but not least we come to añejos.
Añejos roughly translates to “aged” or “mature.” Añejo tequilas are aged in sealed oak barrels or Holm oak casks for one to three years. These casks must have a maximum capacity of 600 liters. Sometimes (unfortunately) caramel and other additives are added to adjust the color and flavor. And that leads us to its parent tequila, extra añejo.
Extra añejos (sometimes labeled as “ultra aged”) are aged longer than thirty six months in sealed oak or Holm barrels. This is a new tequila category introduced in March 2006. Just like añejo tequila, extra añejos are aged in barrels with a maximum capacity of 600 litres for a minimum of three years.
The reason añejos and extra añejos have a higher price point? It takes about seven years for agave to fully mature for distillation and aging an añejo increases the time it’s in the production process. The longer a tequila ages, the less immediate return-on-investment a producer receives.
The History of Añejo Tequila
The history of añejo tequila is the history of tequila. Back in 1000 B.C., the Olmecs (a civilization in ancient Mexico) started fermenting agave and transforming it into a milky beverage called pulque. Eventually, the Aztecs adapted this into “pulque.” When the Spanish invaded the Aztecs, they appropriated pulque and started distilling tequila during a brandy shortage. This tequila is one of North America’s first indigenous distilled spirits. The first mass production tequila distillery was headed by the Marquis of Altamira, Don Pedro Sánchez de Tagle, and was located in what is now modern-day Jalisco.
In 1758, King Carlos IV of Spain granted the first commercial tequila license to the Cuervo family, specifically to Don Jose Antonio de Cuervo. His family founded the Taberno de Cuervo and began using the agave tequilana (blue agave) species to distill tequila, because it retains water. The first Vino Mezcal de Tequila de Jose Cuervo was made in 1795, and thus, the tequila industry was born. The official Cuervo distillery was founded in 1812 and passed down through the Cuervo family.
Quickly following in the footsteps of the Cuervo family, the Sauza family made their own mark in the tequila industry. Don Cenobio Sauza realized that the blue agave was the best species of agave plant for tequila production.
Then, during the Prohibition period, tequila became the popular drink for desperate Americans needing alcohol. Bathtub gin wasn’t their cup of tea-quila, so tequila became their drink of choice.
Mexico, realizing tequila’s potential and importance to their country, hastily took ownership of the name “tequila” and declared it as intellectual property in 1974. Along with this, the law designated specific tequila-making regions in Mexico and prohibiting production of tequila outside of Mexico.
Which añejo tequilas come recommended by Taster’s Club?
TASTER’S PICK – EL AFAN EXTRA AÑEJO TEQUILA
El Afan Extra Añejo tequila is a must-try high-quality sipper. Well-balanced and deeply rich in flavor and color, it tastes of roasted agave mixed with blackberries and smokey oak overtones. This isn’t a tequila to mix into a cocktail as we highly recommend tasting it neat. It perfectly complements chocolate desserts and coffee.
About the distillery: El Afan distillery was co-founded by Chris Anderson and Onie Castaneda. It’s headquartered in El Paso, Texas. El Afan literally means “desire” and is an El Paso bar scene staple. All tequilas are crafted in the heart of El Salto, Jalisco, Mexico. They offer four high-quality tequilas including a blanco, reposado, añego, and extra añejo. Their rich and smooth tequilas are consistent gold medalists in various spirit competitions.
BUDGET PICK – 1800 AÑEJO
The 1800 añejo is a reasonably priced tequila, over delivering in every possible way. This añejo is aged in American oak casks for 12 months, with a portion of the alcohol aged for an additional two years. The palate is rich and round, full of caramel, citrus, and sweet spicy flavors. To seal their spot in the top añejo tequilas of all time, it’s a 2021 winner of the New York International Spirits Awards Competition.
About the distillery: 1800 añejo tequila is produced at La Rojeña Distillery, owned by the Beckmann family (the owners of Jose Cuervo). La Rojeña is the oldest active distillery in Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico. In 1921, when Jose Cuervo died, management of the distillery was taken over by administrators Juan Beckmann Gallardo and Juan Beckmann Vidal before eventually passing to the Cuervo Heirs. After 200 years, Cuervo’s heirs still own and operate the distillery, winning multiple awards for all of their tequilas.
How to Drink Añejo Tequila
Just like bourbon, you can drink añejo tequila any way you like, but we prefer it neat.
Know what you’re drinking:
- Puro tequilas are 100% agave tequilas
- Mixto tequilas are 51% agave with 49% sugar
We’re going to talk about puro tequilas because they are best for sipping and savoring. No lime or salt is necessary as you don’t want to mask the flavor. Ideally, you want to use a copita glass (tulip-shaped) which focuses the aromas up to the nose.
We recommend the following method for drinking finer tequilas:
- Pour 2 ounces of tequila into a copita.
- After every sip or two, dip a wedge of lime into a little salt and suck on it.
- That’s it!
That’s the Mexican method for drinking tequila.
And that brings us to our next section…
Añejo Tequila Cocktails
What would an article about añejo tequila be without modern twists on classic cocktail recipes?
The Paloma might just edge out the margarita for being the most popular mixed drink in Mexico.
- 1 chilled bottle grapefruit soda, such as Squirt
- 1 1/2 to 2 ounces blanco tequila (or mezcal)
- 1/4 to 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice, depending on sweetness of soda
- 2 tablespoons crunchy salt and 1 lime wedge, for rimming (optional)
- 1 lime wedge, for garnish (optional)
For the spicy rimming variation:
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or 1 tablespoon Tajín
1. Add salt to a small plate. (For the spicy variation, mix 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or 1 tablespoon Tajín with the salt.) Rub a lime wedge on the rim of the glass, and dip rim in salt.
2. Fill your glass with ice. Add grapefruit soda to fill 1/3 of the way up, and then pour in tequila and lime juice. Top with more grapefruit soda.
3. Stir gently, garnish with lime wedge, then serve immediately with extra grapefruit soda on the side. You can even squeeze more lime juice into the cocktail if you'd like.
AÑEJO OLD FASHIONED
- .25 ounces agave nectar
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- Orange peel
- 3 ounces añejo tequila
- Garnish: cherry
- In a mixing glass, lightly muddle the agave nectar, bitters and orange peel.
- Add the tequila.
- Fill with ice and stir until chilled.
- Strain into a tumbler glass over fresh ice.
- Garnish with a cherry.
- 1½ oz. Añejo tequila
- ½ oz. Grand Marnier
- ¾ oz. agave syrup
- 6-8 fresh mint leaves
- 4 lemon wedges
- Garnish: fresh mint sprig
- Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice.
- Shake vigorously.
- Strain into a rocks glass packed with crushed ice.
- Garnish with a fresh sprig of mint.
- 2 ounces of Añejo tequila
- 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
- 1/4 ounce Licor 43 (A citrus-and-vanilla-flavored Spanish liqueur)
- Dash of Angostura bitters
- Dash of orange bitters
- 1 fresh or maraschino cherry
- Fill two-thirds of a mixing glass with ice.
- Add remaining ingredients, but reserve the cherry.
- Stir vigorously for 30 seconds to chill.
- Strain into a chilled martini glass.
- Garnish with the cherry.
THAI BASIL GRAPEFRUIT
- 1/2 fresh squeezed lime
- 1 1/2 ounces Añejo tequila
- 1/2 ounce Green Chartreuse
- 4-5 Thai basil leaves
- San Pellegrino Pompelmo (grapefruit)
- Garnish: basil leaves, lime wedge
- In a cocktail shaker, muddle Thai basil leaves and fresh squeezed lime.
- Add tequila and Green Chartreuse with ice and shake.
- Fill a rocks glass with ice and strain ingredients from the cocktail shaker into the rocks glass.
- Top with the San Pellegrino.
- Garnish with lime wedge and a sprig of basil.
And that’s it: añejo tequila, the finest tequila there is. Hopefully you’ll never have a bottle go to waste again. When you’re done sipping it, try it in a delectable cocktail like the Añejo Manhattan or the Thai Basil Grapefruit.
Añejo Tequila – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
HOW DO YOU DRINK AÑEJO TEQUILA?
Either sip it or get out your rocks glass and enjoy it over ice with a hint of lime, though you can mix it into a cocktail.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AÑEJO, BLANCO, AND REPOSADO TEQUILAS?
All of these styles differ by aging and taste profile. Blanco isn’t aged in oak and has the most potent agave flavor. Reposados are aged for at least 2 months up to one year in oak barrels. Añejo spends one to three years in oak. Extra añejos spend more than three years in the barrel.
WHY IS AÑEJO TEQUILA DARK?
Because añejo tequila spends between one to three years in oak barrels, it develops an amber hue. Its color comes from the chemical aging process, as does the color for all dark liquors. All spirits are clear before aging and gain color only from contact with wood (or from additives like coloring).
CAN YOU MAKE A MARGARITA WITH AÑEJO TEQUILA?
Absolutely, but is it going to be as agave-forward as the margarita you’re used to? Definitely not. Añejo’s aging brings out flavors like vanilla and spice that can detract from the fresh, citrusy flavor of a traditional margarita. Some añejo-specific margarita recipes bring out the vanilla flavor by adding pineapple juice and other tropical fruit flavors.
WHAT IS NOM?
NOM means Norma Oficial Mexicana. It’s a four-digit number appearing on every bottle of tequila. It lets you know which producer a brand comes from.
If you ever see two brands sharing the same NOM number, that means they were made in the same place and may share the same process.
WHAT ARE THE INGREDIENTS IN A CLASSIC MARGARITA?
Classic margaritas contain tequila, citrus juice (usually lemon), orange liqueur and simple syrup.
WHEN IS INTERNATIONAL TEQUILA DAY?
International Tequila Day or National Tequila Day, is celebrated on July 24th every year honoring this delicious spirit.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE AGAVE TO GROW?
Tequila is made from the agave plant. Agave is fully mature around 7 years and then it is ready for harvest.
WHY DO SOME AÑEJO TEQUILAS HAVE ADDITIVES?
Many tequila producers cut down on production time by using additives to add flavor into the tequila. Some use it
- To sweeten the tequila
- To create a balanced taste
- To give the impression the tequila is older than it is