What summer is complete without a hefty margarita? When it comes to refreshing beverages, those are hard to beat.
But tequila is so much more than a drink for having some fun in the sun.
Read on for the ins and outs of tequila lore and how to best keep your bottles at home, infused or store bought!
What is Tequila?
You may be familiar with Tequila Rose or Kendall Jenner’s new tequila brand that seemingly makes headlines every week.
But tequila has a rich and fascinating history, one that doesn’t begin with strawberry cream liqueur.
True tequila comes from the blue agave plant, which thrives in volcanic soils. Tequila production is only authorized in certain regions of Mexico, such as the Jaliscan Highlands.
All tequila is from Mexico, per the Appellation of Origin standards (NOM-006-SCFI-2012). Depending on where it's grown, the tequila will taste different, like cacao fruit!
In order to be labeled “tequila,”
the drink must have between a 35-55% alcohol content, or 70 - 110 proof in the States.
It must also have at least 51% of its sugar from the blue agave plant. If not, it is no longer tequila.
Since 49% is still available, lower-shelf brands will throw in additives to fill in the gap.
So, if you’re looking for top-notch tequila, buy bottles that say “100% agave” on the label.
Traditionally, tequila is served neat in Mexico. Elsewhere, it’s often served as a shot with lime and salt, or mixed into other drinks, such as margaritas, tequila sunrises, or ranch water.
It’s renowned for its earthy sweetness, all thanks to the blue agave plant.
Does Tequila Ever Go Bad?
Not really. Like tonic water, unopened bottles have an indefinite shelf life.
So, technically they could last forever should conditions remain ideal.
However, if you’ve had an unopened bottle of tequila for over five years, you may want to toss it!
Even unopened, the bottles are still susceptible to oxidization or loss of flavor over time.
To simplify, straight tequila doesn’t go bad, but it may lose its flavor, aroma, or quality as time goes on.
Tequila infusions are a bit different.
Homemade infusions can last up to six months in proper conditions: dark, moderate temperatures, and sealed.
That being said, it’s recommended to drink it within two weeks, preferably one. After two weeks, the tequila will start to lose its flavor.
Why? Adding in other organic, non-fermented ingredients greatly decreases the shelf-life.
I imagine it’ll taste so good it won’t last a week in the fridge, though.
Some classic infusions include watermelon, strawberries, or pineapple. You could even throw in some peppers to spice it up!
How Long Will Tequila Last After Opening?
In general, once a bottle is open, you have between 1-2 years before the quality starts to deteriorate.
Now, that’s only true if you store it correctly.
Remember the Goldilocks rule: not too hot, not too cold, and out of direct sunlight. The back of your pantry or liquor cabinet is perfect, so long as it’s not near an oven or radiator.
If you’re worried about the flavor changing, try buying unaged tequila (such as Blanco tequila).
Unaged tequila is hardier than dark tequilas that are aged in barrels. Temperature changes and sun exposure are less likely to affect it!
That's not the case with dark tequilas due to the tannins that are introduced in the lengthy aging process.
However, like all other hard liquors, tequila is not likely to change much.
How Long Will a Pitcher of Margaritas Last?
Love throwing back chamoy margaritas or classic salt and lime?
You’re not alone. If you’ve got some leftovers after your next big bash, here’s what to do with them.
Fresh-made margs in a pitcher will last up to three days in the fridge, so long as they’re covered. Luckily, this means you can make them in advance!
If you do so, don’t add the ice before storing. The ice will melt in the fridge and water down the margarita, so wait until you’re ready to serve.
If three days isn’t enough time, stick ‘em in the freezer! They’ll last in there for up to two weeks.
This will turn your margs into slushies essentially, which can be great on a hot summer’s day! Of course, if you have a margarita machine, you could have slushies at the snap of a finger.
However, to preserve the ideal flavor, it’s best to refrigerate and drink it as soon as possible.
Let’s say you have an unopened, premixed bottle lying around. Those can last up to two years if properly stored.
Opened bottles must be stored in the fridge, where they can last up to six months.
It’s best to drink them within a few weeks, though, as they’ll lose their flavor over time.
Should You “Age” Tequila?
No, not really.
Dark tequilas are aged in barrels before being bottled, so they may become better over time.
However, that’s a strong maybe. Tequila is not like whiskey or Cognac, where letting them sit brings out the complexities.
Most likely, all of the aging that it needs has already been done before it made its way to your home.
Blanco tequila (or ones that were never aged, or aged for very short periods of time) should not be aged or left alone. They will not taste better with age – in fact, they’ll only deteriorate.
Over-aged tequila will lose its distinctive agave flavor, that infamous earthiness, which is exactly what you don’t want.
Can Bad Tequila Make You Sick?
Did you drink a little too much tequila last night?
While it would be nice to blame it on “bad” tequila, that’s not really possible. Tequila doesn’t go bad or spoil the way that other drinks, such as wine, can.
In fact, tequila only “goes bad” by losing its flavor, while the alcohol content remains intact.
There are two ways tequila could make you sick.
The first of which is if the bottle contained other contaminants, such as mold, which is unlikely.
The other reason is alcohol poisoning, which has nothing to do with the tequila itself.
Should You Refrigerate Tequila?
Tequila prefers dark and dry areas, with a mild temperature ranging between 60°- 65°F.
A fridge is probably too cold for your bottle, so unless you’re out of space, store it in a liquor cabinet or pantry.
Should You Freeze Tequila?
Again, since tequila doesn’t like being cold, I wouldn’t recommend it.
While tequila won’t freeze, it may lose its flavor faster. Storing it in a dry and dark space between 60°- 65°F is ideal.
You can, on the other hand, make delicious tequila popsicles for hot summer days! There are so many recipes, but we loved this classic one with lime.
Or if you prefer a more fruity recipe, check out this easy-to-follow video.
How Long Will Tequila Jello Shots Last?
Jello shots make or break a party, so be sure to set yours right!
Tequila Jello shots can last up to 3-4 days in the fridge. Any longer may cause the flavor and texture to decline.
And, before you ask, don’t put them in the freezer! The gelatin will not react the way you want it to and your beloved shots will be ruined.
Trust me, freezers and Jello do not mix well.
What Happens to Tequila that is Exposed to the Sun?
It may affect the taste, especially with the darker, aged bottles.
Blanco tequila will be less likely to change, whereas extra-añejo tequila (aged for up to five years) will.
So, no matter what, try to keep your bottles in a dark place to prevent any such misfortune from occurring.
Ready to jump on board the tequila train?
We’ve got margaritas, spiked mangonadas, and more waiting for you! Of course, if sipping it is less ideal, you can add some to salsa for an adult-friendly kick.
Remember, tequila loves being stored in a dark and dry place with moderate temperatures. Nothing more, nothing less.