Does the Tequila section at your favorite liquor store seem a little more crowded these days? You’re not imagining it—the Tequila category is growing fast.
Much of that is due to surging demand: Americans are consuming more Tequila than ever before. According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), Tequila is one of the fastest-growing categories, after whiskey. Since 2002, Tequila volumes have grown an astonishing 106 percent, an average rate of 5.7 percent a year.
Tequila-based cocktails have helped stoke that astonishing growth. While longer-aged “sipping Tequilas” continue to find fans, blanco Tequilas (sometimes called silver or plata), are the number-one choice for mixing into cocktails. Indeed, some purists believe that blanco Tequila is the only “real” Tequila—a crisp, bright, unadorned expression of agave.
Tequila is one of the fastest-growing categories, after whiskey.
Not all of those cocktails are margaritas, either. Consider, for example, the Far East Side drink at NYC’s Bar Goto, a sophisticated mix of sake, blanco Tequila and St. Germain liqueur, gracefully garnished with a bright green shiso leaf; or the whimsically named Tequila Mockingbird at Aspen Kitchen in Aspen, Colorado, a pink drink made with Aperol, basil and grapefruit to complement a bright blanco.
Whether you choose to sip or mix, here’s a bonus: Many of the bottles that house Mexico’s signature spirit are stunning centerpieces, from Arta Silver’s colorful Day of the Dead-style design to Decada’s sleek X-shaped bottle. These aren’t just bottles to pour, they’re bottles to display front and center on the bar. On your next visit to the liquor store, spend a few minutes gazing at the gallery-worthy display on those ever-more-laden shelves in the Tequila aisle.
A final side note: Among other regulations, agave spirits must be made in Mexico in order to be called Tequila. However, a small but growing number of American craft distillers are experimenting with producing agave-based spirits. It should be interesting to see what else emerges from this nascent category in the years ahead.
San Matias Tahona Blanco (Mexico; Sazerac, Chicago, IL); $60/ 750 ml, 96 points. Named for the tahona stone used to crush the agave piñas, this blanco has an astonishing purity to it. Pleasingly peppery on the nose and palate, backed by a hint of vanilla, roasted jalapeño emerges midpalate before finishing clean and crisp, with a lemon-zest note. Sip or mix. abv: 40%
Arta Silver (Mexico; Arta Tequila Englewood,CO); $40/ 750 ml, 95 points. This single-estate blanco has a bold, bracing scent that suggests bell pepper, fresh basil and lemon peel. The citrusy palate is accented by fresh herbs and trails off with a hint of vanilla sweetness. The gorgeous Day of the Dead-style bottle design makes this a gift-worthy pick. abv: 40%
Sauza 901 Silver Tequila (Mexico; Beam Suntory, Chicago,IL); $30/ 750 ml, 93 points. The Tequila brand backed by Justin Timberlake has an herbaceous fragrance and distinctly sweet palate, with notes of honey, almond and a touch of coconut, finishing smooth and crisp. Thumbs-up for Margaritas and other cocktails. abv: 40%
Libre Spirits Silver Tequila (Mexico; Saranty Imports, Stamford, CT); $22 / 750 ml, 92 points. The light, delicate scent balances floral, grassy and fresh fruit notes. Meanwhile, the palate brings lychee and pineapple forward, plus vanilla and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper on the finish. A lip-smacking head start to fruity cocktails. Best Buy. abv: 40%
Milagro Silver (Mexico; William Grant & Sons, New York, NY); $25/ 750 ml, 91 points. The mild, savory scent hints at fresh oregano, tomato and bell pepper. Fleeting agave sweetness leads the palate, followed by a zesty, herbaceous, citrusy midpalate and lightly spicy finish. Overall, it’s an ideal flavor profile for a Bloody Maria or any other savory cocktail. Best Buy. abv: 40%