A drunk day trip to Tequila from Guadalajara
Tequila, Jalisco — the home of tequila not just for Mexico but for the world. It is best known as being the birthplace of the drink that bears its name, “tequila,” which is made from the blue agave plant, native to this area. In here, you will see a lot of lands planted with agave which is not just tasty but is also beautiful!
I’ve been staying in Guadalajara since last month and now that I am close to departing to Guanajuato, I decided to take a day trip to Tequila from Guadalajara. I did not sign up for a tour company. I did all these on my own and it’s pretty easy!
Getting to Tequila from Guadalajara
You can take a bus to Tequila from Guadalajara at Vallarta Plus Zapopan Terminal located at Avenida Vallarta 650, Americana. Taking an Uber to this bus station costs less than $2 USD, depending on where in Guadalajara you are coming from.
Once at the station, you will find buses going to Tequila and back to Guadalajara. They depart every 30 minutes and the ride will take 1 hour. Bus tickets to Tequila cost $4.76 USD one-way or $8.46 USD two-way. I didn’t take the two-way ticket because I planned to go back to Guadalajara via Uber, which costs $15 USD (one-way). Should you decide to take an Uber to Tequila, the prices may vary. In my case, I didn’t find any driver willing to do that route but I was able to find one from Tequila to Guadalajara.
If you decide to take the bus, make sure to go down at Tequila Plus Terminal (Calle Madero 146, Tequila). Most buses only stop in Tequila and have final destinations. Tell the bus driver to inform you if you already arrived in Tequila Plus Terminal. For those going on a day trip, please take note that buses from Tequila to Guadalajara’s last bus departs at 20:00.
If you have extra money to spend, you can take the Jose Cuervo Express, a train from Guadalajara to Tequila that will take you to the land of agave. This costs $100 USD (approx). There will be food and drinks on-board, all-inclusive.
Overnight stay in Tequila
I decided not to take the Tequila train as I find it very expensive (but reasonable). Last minute, I decided to stay the night in Matices Hotel de Barricas, a hotel with giant tequila barrels as accommodations.
An overnight stay in this hotel for 2 costs $200 USD (approx). This price includes breakfast. If you ask me, this is quite a reasonable price as this hotel is very well-designed. It looks good everywhere you point to the camera! The place is also very quiet and is ideal for couples. When I went here, there was a wedding so it was packed! This hotel is also a very good venue for weddings but I am sure it will cost a lot if you want to close the place for an event.
The rooms are pretty comfortable as the bed is really big! Once you enter the room, you will be welcomed by complimentary tequila, freshly brewed from the hotel’s manufacturing house. The mini-bar is also packed with snacks. This hotel is 10 minutes away from the city center so it will be difficult to head out each time but I was given 10% vouchers for restaurants in town. Dinner at the restaurant is up to 20:30 but room service is offered from 21:00 – 23:00.
The grand tequila tasting tour
A tequila tour is also included with the accommodations. I was informed that the tour will happen at 10:30 the next day so even if I don’t normally eat breakfast, I forced myself to wake up for food. Can you imagine a drinking tour early in the morning? I would probably collapse if I don’t eat!
First, Pepe discussed the plant where the great tequila comes from, Agave. Agaves thrive on neglect. They grow quickly and remain attractive all year but it takes them a lot of years to produce seed.
Tours in Matices Hotel de Barricas (with prices)
If you’re not staying in the hotel, you can choose from the day trip packages below:
- Vive Tequila tour runs from Mondays to Sundays. This includes roundtrip transportation from Guadalajara to Tequila and back. In this tour, you will get to see the tequila factory, tequila stores, and a full 2-hour tequila tasting experience. If you are a group of 3 persons, the tour costs $48 USD. Discounted rates apply for a group of 4 or more ($41 USD per person).
- The tequila factory experience runs from Mondays to Sundays. Although this does not include transportation, you may learn how tequila is made in this tour for only $10 USD per person for groups of 3 and below.
- Tequila city tour will take you on barrel-like transportation around the city of Tequila. It runs every hour from 10:00 – 17:00. This costs $10 USD as well.
Harvesting the agave plant for tequila
First, they identify the mother agave from where the nectar will be harvested. The mother agave’s size is usually about 7 – 12 feet tall. Once identified, the thorns from the leaves are sheared off. They are pretty sharp and I’ve hurt myself a lot during my stay in agave land! The leaf will be cut from the bottom all the way up to the tip. They do this until they get to the center of the plant where there seem to be fewer thorns. The center long bulb off the plant is cut by using a machete to cut from the bottom. As the leaves are peeled from the center, the heart of the plant will appear. They pull it out and set it aside. It weighs about 36 – 75 kilos.
Then they will proceed to the digging of the agave plant by taking the hard part with a machete. This method has been done for years and the machete is pretty heavy. I tried it myself! The white meat will be taken out until the juice coming out from the hole where the heart of the plant used to be.
The making of tequila
Pepe then leads us to the “manufacturing house” where tons of tequila are made every day. After the agave plants are harvested, they are all put in a big oven for 42 hours in the highest temperature possible so they will be cooked. The plant needs to be cooked to the piña that converts complex carbohydrates into simple fermentable sugars will be extracted. Cooking also softens the piña which makes the process of sugar extraction easier.
As soon as they are cooked, the agave heads will be milled for sugar extraction. Inside this distillery, you will find top of the line machinery that they use in order to make good tequila. I’ve seen the machines and tanks myself – they’re pretty big and can hold tons of tequila. The cooked piñas are crushed in order to release the juice or “aguamiel” that will be fermented. Putting them in the machine helps to separate fiber from the juice. Once the piñas are minced they are washed with water and strained to remove the juices.
Then they will undergo the fermentation process where the sugar is transformed into alcohol within large stainless tanks. This usually takes 7 – 12 days, depending on the method used.
Distillation comes after where ferments are separated by heat and steam pressure within stainless steel pot stills or distillation towers. Some tequilas are distilled three times and some just twice. The first distillation (I tried how this tastes like!) is called deztrozamiento, or simply smashing. It will take a couple of hours and it will yield a liquid with an alcohol level of 20%. Ordinario is what this is called. The second distillation is rectification, where alcohol levels reach 55%. This takes 3-4 hours. After the second distillation, the tequila is considered silver, or blanco tequila.
Finally, aging. The tequila is placed in oak barrels to age. Reposados take 12 months to be stored in the barrel, Añejos are aged between one and three years and Extra Añejos are aged for over three years. The longer it ages, the more tannins it will have.
Knowing the types of tequila
This is what I will remember the most in the tour: Tequila Blanco is for people who know their tequila. Reposado is what we always get from the bars. It has lower alcohol content so it’s ideal for party and clubbing. Extra Añejo is for people who are willing to buy it for a very expensive price. In short, this type is for people with money. I keep thinking about which category I fit but for now, I guess, I’m team Blanco. Get to know the different types of tequila below and see which team are you in:
- Tequila Blanco is harsher with the bold flavors of the distilled agave up front.
- Tequila Reposado is a type of tequila is aged or rested. It is aged in white oak casks from 2 months to a year. The aging process gives the tequila a mellow oak flavor combined with the flavor of the blue agave. Reposado means “restful” in English.
- Tequila Añejo is aged from one to three years, and are considered the best type of tequila for sipping because of its smoother flavor. Añejo means “vintage”, and they are darker than reposado tequilas.
- Tequila Extra Añejo is the most aged and expensive form of tequila — attracts all palates, from seasoned tequila drinkers to newbies who find their rich oak flavors reminiscent of other dark spirits.
Actually, while writing this, I shifted to Team Extra Añejo. I think it’s the best tequila I tasted on this tour! Let’s see if I will be into it!
A deeper learning about tequila: how to drink it so you won’t get f*cked
In the last part of the tour, Pepe takes us to a big table where the different tasting kit for each participant was set up. First, he asked each of us how much tequila we can drink until we are down. Most of the people in the tour said 3 and I said 9. I can’t believe I said 9! But I think I can really do 9.
He discussed the rules of drinking tequila. First, like many strong drinks, do not mix it with anything. He says that if you decide to have tequila, then that’s it. Unlike other parts of the world, tequila is served on a shot glass but in Mexico, they drink it slowly. The big one-time shots we are doing all these time are wrong. This is why we get f*cked pretty early.
Second, drinking tequila with lemon and salt is not highly recommended but possible. Taking salt and lime is only for cheap tequila (probably mixed with something else) but pure tequila distilled in Jalisco can be taken by itself. If you know you are drinking pure agave, the only way not to get super drunk is by drinking it with water. Not soda water, not flavored water. Just water.
Third, Pepe told us how to properly drink tequila. Pay attention to this: take the shot (or a small sip), feel it in your mouth, inhale, swallow, exhale. I did this a lot during the tasting and I think it helped a little. I still ended up getting drunk after the tour though. But yes, try it and let me know what you feel!
After this, we moved on to the different types of tequila laid on the table. At this time, I didn’t know if I am still able to drink but I just did the technique Pepe taught us. I ended up being fine during the tasting. I have stopped drinking since March and my alcohol tolerance has decreased. However, Pepe shares that a good quality of tequila has health benefits such as better blood circulation. For the whole part of the tour, he was giving us the best quality so I guess that’s the reason why I did not pass on every shot he offered. I really wanted to taste them all!
First glass: Tequila Blanco. Pepe showed us how to identify the smell of tequila. The primary smell parameters include herbal, citrus, floral, and fruity. To identify this, the glass needs to be tilted. You then put your nose on the top of the glass to smell. Secondary smell identifies two things — cooked and raw. In this part, you need to put your nose in the center of the glass. No tilting whatsoever.
Second glass: Tequila Reposado’s primary smelling parameters include mature fruit, spices, and wood while secondary is raw, cooked, and oak. Finally, we reached the third glass which is Añejo. Its primary smells are dried fruit, wood, and vanilla. Secondary smells are the same as Tequila Reposado. We didn’t have Extra Añejo in this part of the tasting.
After the activity, we were asked to go to the restaurant and claim our free margaritas. At this point, I was already very drunk, not to mention the weather in Tequila that day was really hot! I felt that I was going to collapse but I had the margarita anyway. This was an opportunity to get to know the people in my tour group. We all sat there talking and drinking our final tequila for the tour.
I took this tour in Spanish but I believe there are also English tours. I forgot to ask! There were a few foreigners in the hotel but most of the delegates are Mexicans.
I really enjoyed this tour as I got to know how to identify, drink, and purchase the different types of tequila. It was more complex than I expected. Tequila might be just another alcohol but in Jalisco, this is gold! This is one of the best experiences of the year and I am happy I have decided to stay in this hotel.
Have you been to Tequila, Mexico?
Where did you stay? Did you learn a lot about Tequila? How did you find the experience? Leave your thoughts, suggestions, and ideas in the comment box below to help other travelers plan a day trip to Tequila from Guadalajara!