Tequila has become a tony tipple, with premium bottles crowding the shelves behind bars and along liquor store aisles. To be called tequila, the product must contain at least 51 percent blue agave juice. But that's where simple definitions end. Generally, premium tequilas are made from 100 percent blue agave juice, but not always; price is an indication.
There are four varieties of tequila. Plata (silver, also called blanco, or white) and oro (gold, which may have caramel coloring or sweetener added) are typically unaged; silver has the cleaner agave flavor. Reposado (literally, peaceful) has aged a minimum of three months in oak barrels. Añejo (aged) has spent a minimum of one year on oak. The more time a tequila spends on oak, the more complex and woodsy its flavor ― and the more expensive it usually is ― so premium versions tend to fall into the last two categories. But you can find premium silver tequilas too.
Regardless of its age or agave content, tequila isn't just for margaritas (or shots); it adds an intriguing nip to many dishes, from entrées to desserts. And though the nuances of premium brands do come through in cooking, the following recipes also work well with a silver or gold tequila.