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What is the minimum tequila?

Tequila is a distilled alcoholic drink made from the blue agave plant. It originates from the region around the city of Tequila in Mexico, where it has a long history and important cultural significance. There are legal requirements for how tequila can be produced, including a minimum alcohol content.

What is the minimum alcohol content for tequila?

According to Mexican law, tequila must contain a minimum alcohol content of 40% ABV (80 proof). This is the lowest legal threshold for a spirit to be labeled and sold as tequila.

The 40% ABV minimum standard for tequila was established in 1994 by the Mexican government. Prior to that, the minimum was set at 35% ABV. Raising the floor to 40% ensured a higher quality standard for the spirit.

Why is 40% ABV the minimum?

There are a few reasons why 40% ABV became the legal minimum alcohol content for tequila:

  • Flavor – Higher alcohol levels allow for more robust flavors to develop through distillation and aging. Lower alcohol tequila was considered to be lacking in depth of character.
  • Quality – More alcohol provides a smoother, more palatable finished product with fewer impurities.
  • Tradition – Many high quality extra añejo (extra aged) tequilas naturally reach or exceed 40% ABV through the aging process.
  • Industry standards – Other popular spirits like whiskey, brandy, and vodka typically adhere to a 40% or higher minimum ABV.

What types of tequila are affected by the 40% minimum?

The 40% ABV minimum applies across all major categories of tequila, including:

  • Blanco – Unaged white tequila
  • Joven – Unaged tequila with added color and flavor
  • Reposado – Aged 2-12 months in oak barrels
  • Añejo – Aged 1-3 years in oak barrels
  • Extra Añejo – Aged 3+ years in oak barrels

After distillation, these tequilas may be diluted with water to reach the desired ABV percentage, but they cannot go below 40%.

What happens if tequila is under 40% ABV?

If tequila is produced or bottled at less than the 40% ABV legal minimum, it cannot legally be labeled, sold, exported, or marketed as tequila. There are a few options for non-compliant products:

  • Diluted to proof – Producers may choose to further dilute the product down to 35-38% to classify as a liqueur.
  • Blended – Can be blended with higher proof tequila to bring the ABV up to 40%.
  • Re-distilled – The tequila can be put through a second distillation to increase the alcohol percentage.
  • Discarded – Some batches are simply discarded if they fail to meet the requirements.

Are there any exceptions to the 40% minimum?

There are no official exceptions to the 40% ABV legal minimum. However, there are some specific situations where lower ABV tequila-like products may be produced and sold:

  • Export markets – Some other countries may set lower ABV requirements for imported tequila. For example, 39% in Chile.
  • Flavored tequila – Can legally be bottled at 38% ABV minimum in Mexico.
  • Tequila-rum blends – Mixtures with other spirits have different regulations.
  • Liqueurs/cordials – Tequila liqueurs infused with flavors are typically under 40%.

Outside of the exceptions above, all tequila bottled and sold in Mexico must meet the 40% ABV minimum standard.

Is higher ABV tequila better?

Higher alcohol content does not necessarily mean better quality tequila. Once a tequila passes the 40% threshold, factors like distillation method, aging, and ingredients have a much bigger influence on taste and quality.

That said, many tequila enthusiasts and experts do prefer well-made extra añejo tequilas in the 45-55% range for their robust and complex flavor profiles. But excellent tequilas can be found across the 40-50% spectrum.


The minimum alcohol content for tequila to be legally produced and sold is 40% ABV (80 proof) as mandated by Mexican law. This requirement ensures a high quality spirit with distinct agave flavor and aroma. Any tequila under 40% ABV cannot officially be labeled or marketed as tequila. While higher alcohol levels do not guarantee better taste or quality, the 40% ABV threshold is considered the bare minimum for full-bodied, authentic tequila.