TEQUILA is made from the center heart, or pina, of blue agave plants that grow in Mexico's western Jalisco region, as well as a handful of other Mexican states. The pina is harvested and steam-cooked and then the juice is extracted from the plants and fermented before being distilled. By law, the final product must be double stilled (at a minimum) for purity and is subject to a number of aging regulations. Choose a tequila based on the way you like to drink it-be it mixed in cocktails or on its own. In general, Blanco tequilas, which are unaged, tend to have more vegetal flavors and are a bit more harsh than aged ones, which means they're best smoothed out in a cocktail; in contrast, anejo tequilas, which are aged for at least a year, develop distinct barrel flavors and are better sipped alone.
BLANCO—also called silver or plata, this style of tequila is unaged, which means it's crystal clear, has a fairly neutral flavor, and works well in many cocktails.
REPOSADO—this golden-colored tequila is aged two to eleven months in barrels, where it picks up very subtle woody flavors.
ANEJO—aged in wood barrels between one and three years, anejo tequilas are smoother and have deeper wood flavors. The cost and complexity of this style of tequila makes it best suited to sipping rather than mixing.
MEZCAL is produced in the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, from several varieties of agave, but not blue agave. Technically, tequila is a subset of mezcaI and not the other way around. Mezcal often has a distinctly smoky flavor because the agave used to make it is roasted over stones and wood rather than being steamed.