Tequila Glossary

100% agave
One of the two official variations of tequila, made exclusively from only sugars from the "Agave Tequilana Weber, Variedad Azul" (Agave Tequilana Weber, blue variety). Premium tequilas are made with "100% de Agave," and can only be bottled in Mexico, not bulk-shipped for bottling outside. See mixto.
A granel
Low-quality mezcal or tequila, usually only distilled once, sometimes fermented with the help of chemicals.
Unaged tequila, mixto, often called gold (oro). See joven abocado.
Long-necked tool (traditionally a gourd) for siphoning aguamiel from scooped out section of maguey, to make pulque.
Land preparation: to gather the dried undergrowth into small piles along the furrows to be burned after clearing.
A family of succulents distantly related to the lily family, but not related to any cactus. Also called a maguey. The plants grow in the southwestern United States, Mexico and Central America. Agave is poisonous when raw, but has a sweet, mild flavour when baked or made into a syrup. The juice of the blue agave, cultivated primarily in the state of Jalisco, is used to make tequila; other agave species are used to make mezcal, bacanora, sotol, and pulque. There are more than 300 agave species. An agave plant takes eight to 12 years to mature. The plant has a bulbous body called a pina. The thick, spiny blue-green leaves extend six-eight feet at all angles like spears. Mexican law (see normas) state a product must contains al least 51% blue agave sugars to be called tequila. Because of the shape of the agave leaves are similar to the outstretched fingers of a human hand, prehispanic Mexican Indians called the plant "maitl" or "metl" which means "hand."
Agave sazon.
Ripened or mature agave - takes between eight and 12 years.
Agave Deserti.
Small agave used in Baja California for the regional beverage.
Agave Potatorium
Used to make bacanora, the regional mezcal of Sonora.
Agave Tequilana Weber Azul.
The only agave allowed for use in tequila, and only when grown in specified regions according to the normas. Grown mostly in Jalisco, as well as limited areas in neighbouring states.
Agave farmer.
Spirit or liquor, usually made from cane sugars.
The sweet sap extracted from the pina (heart) of the agave plant. It is fermented for several days and then distilled to make tequila and mezcal, or fermented alone to make pulque. Aguamiel is sold as a regional drink in the states of Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, Hidalgo (where sellers generally add chile).
A traditional copper pot still for the distillation of tequila.
Slow distillation.
Altos, Los
The Highlands: tequila growing area in the upper plateau east of Guadalajara, in Jalisco state. Not to be confused wth Altos de Jalisco (Jalisco Heights), the generic term for the uplands area of Jalisco.
Aged tequila. Aged at least one year in medium_sized oak barrels. Añejos may also be aged between three and seven years, but generally aficionados say it does not improve after five years. Añejo mezcals follow the same guidelines for aging. One of the four officially recognized types (tipos).
Reducing the new leaf growth on the agave plant when it begins to ripen.
Appellation de Origin Controllee. See Denomination of Origin.
A pressure cooker. Large autoclaves are used by many producers because the steam speeds the cooking of piñas; the agave is cooked in a few of hours instead of days in a traditional hornos.


The pulp after the piñas have been mashed or shredded. Also called bagasse and bagaso.
A type of mezcal prepared from wild maguey in the state of Sonora. Can be legally produced since 1992.
Pruning or cutting the points from the agave leaves (pencas) to make the head (cabeza) grow better. Literally means ploughing.
Barbeo de escopeta
Shotgun ploughing. Pruning to induce premature ripening and growth.
Barrel. Tequila is aged in white oak barrels. Normally a barrel has a 200 liter capacity (approx. 60 gallons). Often purchased from cognac or bourbon producers. Sometimes other woods are used.
Beater in the traditional process of making tequila. A naked worker gets into the wooden tubs with the must (mosto). He uses his hands and feet to beat the fibers from the mashed piñas to aid fermentation.
White tequila, an official type (tipo) for tequila bottled fresh from the still, or allowed to rest in stainless steel tanks for up to sixty days before bottling. It is never aged in wooden barrels. Also known as plata, plato, and silver tequila. Usually the most robust, strong-flavoured of the tequila types.
Blanco suave
An unofficial term to indicate blanco tequila with extra aging or additives to smoothen its sharp taste.
Warehouse or storage facility.
Traditional round, earthen jug with a narrow and short neck. Seven botijas are equivalent to one barrel for measuring.
Mid-quality mezcal, often for retail sale. Often purchased in bulk by companies for bottling.


"Little horse" - the traditional tall drinking/shot glass for tequila, also called a tequillita. Has a flat bottom and wider mouth. Also the name for a cocktail using white tequila, grenadine syrup, orange juice, orange or lemon blossom water and crushed ice, consumed in the Federal District (Mexico City).
Head. The first part of the distillate to come through the still, usually discarded (sometimes used in a granel mezcals). Also called punta. Also another name for piña, the core of the agave.
Camara Regional de la Industria Tequila
Regional Chamber of the Tequila Industry, formed in 1990 to strengthen and develop the tequila industry. It works with the Mexican government to protect and strengthen agricultural, industrial, and commercial activities related to tequila, protects and guards the management of the agave plantations in order to ensure future supply. The CRT also takes legal action against companies adultering their product., Composed of industry members, and based in Guadalajara. Its current president is Carlos Orendain.
Farmer, or peasant.
Campos de agave
Cultivated orchards of agave plants, also called potreros, or pastures (and huertas, or groves, in the Los Altos region).
Cured, black clay ceramic jug used in traditional process of aging mezcal.
Little carnival. A cocktail of tequila, orange juice and cinnamon from the state of Hidalgo.
Aged, sweet pulque, with added red chili and toasted corn leaves, then fermented over a low fire. It is consumed as a domestic and ritual beverage in Tlaxcala.
Mezcal from the Chichihualco de los Bravos in the state of Guerrero.
Whip plant; an agave plant that does not look strong, but appears old and tired.
Chilocle, chiloctli
Pulque fermented with chile ancho, epazote (an aromatic plant), salt and garlic. Consumed both as a domestic and ritual beverage in the state of Guerrero. It is also the traditional beverage of Puebla, Tlaxcala and Mexico.
Spirits (aguadrientes) made from sugar cane or mezcal in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Cien por ciento
One hundred per cent; tequila or mezcal made with only agave sugars (blue agave for tequila).
Coa, coa de jima
Sharp, round-ended tool used by the jimador (harvester) to cut the leaves (pencas) off the piña or cabeza (head) of the agave. A similar tool with a triangular point is used to clear weeds.

A small appendage found in the upper part of the piña.
Tail; the last parts of the distillate to come through the still, usually recycled into a subsequent distillation.
Regional drink made form distilled aguamiel.
Conch; bubble that appears on stirred or shaken tequila. See perla.
The coiled, metal condenser that cools the steam during distillation.
Heart: the main portion of the distillate that is used to make tequila. Also describes the middle part of the distillate, the most preferred portion.
Pulque mixed with brown honey and palo de timbre, from Puebla.
Consejo Regulado de Tequila: Tequila Regulatory Counci). A non_profit organization, founded in 1994, that verifies the performance and the fulfillment of Mexican standards (normas) concerning tequila. It also guarantees the tequila's authenticity and quality, and protects the Denomination Appelation of Origin (see AOC) worldwide. Members of the Council include the Mexican government, agave farmers, tequila producers, bottlers and distributors.
Curado de fresa
Beverage made from pulque mixed with strawberries or strawberry juice.


Demijohn; commercial glass holder for retail measurement. Contains 32 liters.
An aromatic herb used in several liqueurs, including some made with tequila and agave, plus other beverages and fruits. The plant grows in arid zones of Sinaloa and Baja California Sur.
Denomination of Origin
The law that establishes all the specifications required to produce, bottle, distribute and sell tequila, to protect and maintain the Denomination of Origin. According to the "Appellation de Origin Controllee" (AOC), tequila can only be produced in Mexico. In the wine and spirits industry there are only four drinks recognized with Denomination of Origin: sherry, cognac, champagne and tequila.
Cutting the flower stalk (quiote) from the maturing agave to make the pina grow fatter and richer with carbohydrates. Also called castrating the plant.
Distillation. Heating the fermented must (mosto) to extract the alcohol. Tequilas and most mezcals are distilled twice, although one company promises triple distillation on their tequila label. Mezcal may only be distilled once. After distillation, the alcohol is filtered.
Direccion General de Normas. Before 1978, the term DGN was used to identify tequila made under the government regulations, but this term isn't used any more, except on some mixto tequilas bottled in the USA. The NOM number now indicated a producer's compliance with Mexican regulations.


Elixir de agave
A liqueur made with agave liquor - often tequila - and other liquors made from fruit or flowers, such as damiana
Envasado de origen
An indicator that the mezcal was bottled at the distillery. If it was bottled elsewhere in Mexico, it will say envasado en Mexico.
Erwinia caratavora
Bacterial infection in agave plants that causes "soft rot."
Cultivated maguey most commonly used to produce mezcal.
Excommunication: a mezcal produced in Michoacan.


Factory, another term for a tequila distillery.
Fermentation: using yeast to transform the sugars contained in the aguamiel into ethyl alcohol.
Fusarium oxisporum
Fungal infestaion affecting maguey plants in Jalisco.


Gran reposado
Unofficial term used to indicate a reposado with longer aging time that officially required, but aged using resposado techniques, not those required with añejo.
A regional drink made with sugar or corn cane juice, pulque and honey, from the states of Veracruz and Tabasco.
A butterfly larva (Hipopta Agavis) also called a worm. It lives in the heart or leaves of agave plants. It is sometimes placed in bottles of mezcal, but never in tequila.. There are two kinds of worms: gusano de oro (gold) and the more prized gusano rojo (red). Also called gusano de maguey,
Hecho en Mexico
Made in Mexico. Should be on all labels of 100% tequila.
Shoot or "pup." Young agave plant that grows from the base of the plant. It is uprooted at around one year old for transplanting. The hijeulos are about the size of an orange or large onion at this time. They are also called seeds or mecuates.
A traditional oven used to bake the agave piñas. Palenques are also sometimes referred to as hornos.
Fibre extracted from the agave leaves to produce textiles, cords and paper.
Central-Pacific Mexican state where the town of Tequila is located. It is also where the vast majority of the agave used for tequila is harvested and distilled. It is located roughly 40 miles northwest of its capital, Guadalajara.
Jarrito loco
Crazy little jar: Mexico City beverage prepared with tequila, rum, sweet anisette, orange juice and grapefruit juice, served in a little clay jar.
Harvesting; removing the leaves from the agave, pulling out the piñas from the ground before shipping the piñas to a fabrica for processing into tequila. Also called rajado.
The harvester in the agave fields. The jimador is often one of three generations of farmers in the same field. The skills are passed from father to son. Sometimes called a desvirador.
Young tequila. Similar to white (blanco) tequila, but often with added colour and flavouring.
Joven Abocado
Young and smooth. Tequila to which flavorings and often colouring are added to make it more palatable. Usually referred to as "Gold" (oro) tequila, and most commonly a mixto tequila.
Mezcal made with lechugilla (a wild maguey). Consumed on special occasions as a traditional beverage in Sonora, Chihuahua and Puebla.
Mexican wine and liquor stores, often identified as seeling "vinos y licorias."
Removing weeds from around the agave, and clearing the soil from the foot of each plant. A coa is generally used, to leave an empty space of about 1 metre.
Mother agave plant from which hijuelos are taken.
Mature, another term for reposado.
Skilled worker who oversees the cooking of agave hearts when making mezcal. Also called practico or palenquero.
Spanish word for agave. The word originally came from the Antilles. In Nahuatl, the agave was called metl, in Purepecha it was tocamba, and in Guada it was otome. Maguey is used to describe all varieties of agave in general.
Maguey acarrilado
Agave plant ready for desquiote.