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Tequila is often confused and misunderstood. Many people think tequila is made from a cactus. This is a myth. Rather than being distilled from grain, tequila is the distilled product of the Weber Blue Agave, a plant related to the lily and amaryllis. While it grows in a cactus-like environment, it is not a cactus. The blue agave has a life-span of 7-15 years, stands over 6 feet tall, and has a diameter of 6 to 12 feet.
Mature piñas weigh in between eighty and three hundred pounds; however, the size of the agave heart is not nearly as important as its sugar content. The older the agave, the longer the piña will have to accumulate the starches that will convert into fermentable sugars. Approximately 15 pounds of agave piñas are required to produce a bottle of tequila.
Like champagne, tequila is assigned an Appelation of Origin status, which limits production to five Mexican states: Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. The state of Jalisco is the center of Tequila production. It is the only state that as a whole has the status of Appellation of Origin. It is considered the place where tequila was first made and where the standards are defined. The other states are only permitted to grow Blue Agave in small and defined regions. All 100% agave tequilas must be bottled in the designated Mexican regions and must bear on their labels “Hecho en Mexico / Made in Mexico.” Non-100% agave tequila, or “mixtos,” can be sold and bottled anywhere throughout the world. US regulations, on the other hand, allow it to be called tequila even if contains as much as 49 percent other liquids, commonly sugar-based alcohols. That means if you drink it, you’re mixing alcohols. Many experts say that’s what gives tequila its bad reputation and congeners that lead to nasty hangovers. So, if you’re gonna drink tequila, stick to 100% agave tequila.
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The Classic Margarita
If using salt, spread it on a plate. Use a damp towel to moisten the rim of a chilled cocktail or rocks glass, then dip the glass in the salt.
Combine the tequila, lime juice, and salt in a tall glass. Add ice and top off with grapefruit soda. Stir gently and garnish a lime wheel.
The Yerba Buena
In a highball glass, muddle the mint, lime juice and agave nectar. Add the tequila and fill with ice. Top with ginger beer and stir. Garnish with a mint sprig and a lime wheel.