Tequila can signify different things to different people. You might prefer your Tequila neat, shot with lime, in a Margarita, or enjoyed on the beach, it’s a spirit that’s pretty versatile and can be enjoyed in many scenarios.
Tequila is a distilled beverage made from the blue agave plant. Mexican law regulates that Tequila can only come from the state of Jalisco and must be bottled between 35 and 55 percent ABV (alcohol by volume), and when sold to the United States, it must contain a minimum of 40 percent ABV.
Needless to say, Tequila is pretty popular in the United States. Some of the most prolific brands include Jose Cuervo, Patron, and Don Julio.
Since Tequila is derived from a plant and is normally processed without animal ingredients, it is deemed suitable for those following a vegan diet. In fact, Tequila is generally made with 100% agave sugars, but in some cases, other types of sugars may be used, namely cane sugar, molasses, and corn syrup.
How Is Tequila Made?
Modern Tequila production dates back to the 1600s in Mexico, though it’s believed that its origins go back further to around the year 250. Tequila is considered an essential element of Mexican culture, and also an integral part of the country’s economy.
Tequila is made from the Weber agave blue plant, or agave tequilana, which is a large succulent with long, spiked leaves similar to aloe vera. Within the core of the blue agave plant is a bulb called the piña which is baked and juiced, and the juice is fermented with yeast in barrels to make Tequila.
The first step of Tequila production begins with the traditional method of harvesting the blue agave plant, where a special knife called a coa is used to cut the leaves on the agave plant away from the underground piña bulb.
The next step involves baking the agave core, or the piña, to extract its fermentable sugars. Traditionally, the piñas were baked in pits lined with rocks, but nowadays they’re baked in either clay or bricked ovens, or large stainless steel ovens.
Once the piñas are baked, they are crushed and shredded to extract the juice inside, which is aptly referred to as mosto. Mosto can be extracted in one of two ways: by using an industrial mechanical shredder (the most common method), or by using a tahona, a large stone wheel that crushes and juices the piña.
The mosto or juice is then fermented into ethyl alcohol in order to become a spirit. It is combined with yeast and water in large fermentation tanks, which can either be large stainless steel tanks or large wooden barrels.
Then the mosto is distilled, which purifies the liquid and concentrates the alcohol in the mixture. This process is often repeated two times. The first distillation produces a cloudy liquid called the ordinario, and the second distillation produces the clear silver tequila, which is then aged for at least 14 to 21 days.
So, Is Tequila Suitable For Vegans?
Tequila is definitely suitable for vegans, particularly because it doesn’t use any animal ingredients in its fermentation or distillation process.
The only ingredients used to make Tequila are sugars (derived from plant-based sources), yeast, and water. In fact, most of the Tequilas are made solely from one sugar source, which is the agave blue plant.
With that being said, I wouldn’t put it past companies to try and ‘innovate’, and attempt to create unique Tequilas with interesting flavors and aromas by using non-vegan ingredients. As such, it’s important that you always check the ingredients, or at least try to find out whether a specific brand is vegan.
Whilst I believe 99% of Tequila brands are vegan, there might be a few exceptions. Barnivore, a website that specializes in finding out whether beverages are vegan, is a wonderful resource that you can use to find out if a specific Tequila brand is vegan or not.
In a list of 120 Tequila brands, only 6 brands are not vegan-friendly. For example, one of the non-vegan Tequilas is called Tequila Rose, and it’s essentially a beverage that combines Tequila and Strawberry Cream. This Tequila contains fresh dairy cream, which is not a vegan ingredient.
Therefore, as we’ve said, some brands will try to innovate and might use animal products as a result, so you must keep an eye out and always check ingredient labels.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Tequila Gluten-Free?
In general, Tequilas made with the blue agave plant are considered gluten-free. Even Tequilas that mix the blue agave plant with other forms of sugar are also gluten-free.
There are also no gluten ingredients (like wheat or rye) used in the fermentation or distillation process, so you should have nothing to worry about.
Is Tequila Stronger Than Vodka?
Whether or not tequila is stronger than vodka depends on the brand. No spirit is automatically stronger than another spirit, as they all have varying percentages of ABV (alcohol by volume). With that being said, most tequilas and vodkas share the same percentage of ABV, so one can consider them both equally strong.
Does Tequila Go Bad?
Tequila does not expire if left unopened, which makes it different from many other spirits. However, Tequila can go bad, generally one year after it’s opened.
Why is Tequila So Expensive?
The cost of Tequila is high (compared to other spirits) because its main ingredient, agave, is a plant that grows slowly and is grown in arid climates with low yields. A Tequila is particularly expensive if it’s not mixed and only uses agave as its main ingredient. Some Tequilas offer a mix of agave and other forms of sugar (like cane sugar), which should make the end product less expensive to produce.