There are two schools of thought among mixologists when it comes to the Margarita.
One camp thinks that great tequila is wasted in the drink because all of its flavor nuances experienced while being sipped on its own are lost in a cloud of sugar, ice and Triple Sec. Cheaper tequila has pretty much the same effect as premium stuff. Think of this as the “It all goes to the same place” mindset.
Another faction thinks that good tequila makes for a good drink and, conversely, bad tequila makes for bad drink even worse. Premium liquor can only enhance your drinking pleasure – and minimize your hangover potential. Call this the “garbage in, garbage out” theory.
With that in mind, here is a guide to tequila classifications, ranging from the least expensive to, “I SPENT HOW MUCH LAST NIGHT?!?!”
GOLD (also known as oro or joven)
Welcome to the world of “mixto,” which means that flavors and coloring have been added to the mix. More than likely, this is what you're drinking when your bartender makes you a margarita.
There are gold tequilas that get their color from barrel aging or through blending of more expensive types. This is where it pays to read the label..
SILVER (also known as blanco, white or plata)
Made with blue agave and displaying a clear color, this is tequila without all the frills and whistles. It can be aged up to two months for more refinement, but some is bottled directly after distillation.
To earn this classification, the tequila is aged in wood barrels or in metal tanks for up to 11 months. The alcohol picks up flavors from the wood during aging and from whatever alcohol was aged in that barrel before the tequila got there, including whiskey or cognac.
Pronounced “ahn-YAY-ho,” This “extra-aged” spirit goes on a barrel vacation for at least one year to give it a smoother and more complex finish.
Think anejo and then add at least three more years of barrel aging until it almost looks like a whiskey or another dark spirit. The flavor is so potent that the tequila must be diluted with distilled water before bottling. Anyone using extra-expensive extra anejo to make margaritas is either uninformed about the spirit's highly nuanced flavors or is possibly Jay-Z.