The dilemma of tequila's misunderstood reputation

The dilemma of tequila's misunderstood reputation

In many countries tequila is considered the bad boy of the cocktail bar. Or home parties: think a plastic shot glass late at night, followed by a train running through your head the next morning.

The origins of this bad reputation probably lie in the fact that most of the tequilas on offer outside of Mexico are low quality spirits called “Mixtos.”  These are not 100% agave but have added colourings and flavourants and are often mixed with cane spirit to bring down the cost.
Sarah Keenan

Says Leonista founder, Sarah Keenan, “this is what gives you that gag reflex when you shoot. It is also the reason for that hangover the next day.

“But premium agave spirits are 100% agave spirits, produced from the agave plant, with nothing added. They taste amazing and are high energy spirits, meaning they give you a buzz! Plus as long as you don’t drink a whole bottle you won’t have a hangover the next day!”


In Mexico good quality 100% agave spirits (Tequilas and Mezcals) are sipped and enjoyed with respect like you would enjoy a fine whiskey in Scotland.

Sarah explains: “When I was younger, I loved socializing and having a good time with friends but hated the hangover in the morning. I experienced a culture shift when I visited Mexico and my mindset completely changed after my experiences there! On my return to South Africa I launched Leonista, as I wanted to help bring that Mexican culture to South Africa and create a premium agave spirit which was made from local agave. Leonista is produced from the Blue Agave, found in the arid Karoo.

“At Leonista we cannot call it Tequila as it is not made in Mexico. However, I actually wouldn’t call it that anyway as that name has such so many negative connotations. We wanted to create a new category with positive experiences, so instead it is called 100% Agave Spirit.”

Pure tequila, as opposed to Mixtos, do not have as many congeners or sugars. Thus, minimal hangovers.

“You can treat pure agave spirits exactly like a gin (mixing with cocktails etc). And if you drink it with respect, it will give you an energy buzz with no hangover in the morning!” says Sarah.


Mixtos vs 100% Agave

There are two main classifications of tequila, namely Mixto and 100% Agave. The length of time which the tequila has been aged, further categorises tequila (from youngest to longest aged they are: Blanco – not aged at all; Joven/Gold, Reposado (aged up to 12 months in oak barrels), Reposado,  Añejo and Extra Añejo.)

But that’s all very academic if you just want to enjoy the wonders of the agave spirit.

Always start with a good quality tequila. Your first clue is to look for “100% Agave” on the label. Treat it with respect and it will return the favour.

We leave the last word to Sarah Keenan: “So go out and get some agave spirit, make Margaritas and have a good time. Let’s change the agave drinking experience for everyone and make it a positive one.”


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