by Matthew Towe

The ultimate guide to tequila

The ultimate guide to tequila
An ultimate guide to tequila? The spirit that takes you back to when you drank a little too much and swore you’d never drink again?

But hold on!! Tequila is not just a “forfeit shot” anymore, it deserves an ultimate guide to share not only why the spirit is such a well-loved classic, but also to discover the opportunities for growth in the UK market.

So let’s give tequila a shot 🙂 and dive in….


The rise of tequila

Tequila is a long loved classic, originating from a town in Mexico – Tequila! The discovery of the agave plant sap eventually evolved into the spirit we know and love in the late 18th century, and has continued to grow in popularity since.

However, we also all know it has gotten itself a bad rep over the years… tequila has long been the “forfeit shot” in the UK. But whilst 45% of tequila sales are still driven by the shots category*, we are starting to see a shift in consumer habits and there is bags of opportunity for growth.

I get a lot of responses from an audience when talking about tequila of screwed up faces and shaking heads as they reminisce to their past memories and experiences of drinking… but I remind them of the occasions around them consuming the drink and what their consumption had been leading up to that point – the fact is there are some fantastic tequilas and mezcals on the market and it is a fantastic category that deserves more limelight.



Tequila in 2023

Tequila was predicted to be a trending spirit in 2023 from our exclusive research with CGA by Nielson IQ… and we have certainly seen this come into fruition!

Similarly to rum, the growth of cocktails is helping this category grow. Whilst it is still the second smallest category, tequila has just overtaken brandy in regards to value share and there’s some good growth to come.

We are seeing retro cocktails make a return! Sex on the Beach is now the second biggest selling cocktail and whilst this obviously isn’t tequila based we are seeing growth for Margaritas, Tequila Sunrise and Palomas (all tequila based cocktails). In fact, Margarita sales over index in the restaurant sector (55% vs 45% in bars*) and so there is huge opportunity here to balance tequila sales out with longer serves.

On top of this, we’re starting to see more types of outlets offering cocktails as opposed to leaving it just to bars for the high energy shots market. 31% of consumers are having tequila served with a standard mixer now* and so the longer serve is becoming much more important.

We are also seeing many outlets accommodate different crowds throughout the day and along with this comes drink offerings that also alter from lunchtime business meetings to after work drinks and then high energy bars later on.


Flavoured tequilas

We’re sure you’ve seen flavoured tequilas popping up on drinks menus, so are those now a popular choice for consumers?

Well yes – although most will technically fall into the liqueur category as opposed to tequila if they are less than 38% ABV*. However, these brands will be following the growing trend and there are many (coffee, honey, coconut, strawberry cream) liqueurs all using tequila as the base that are seeing incredible growth and traction.

We must obviously not ignore the tequila category and the different types; Blanco, Reposado, Anejo and even Anejo Reserva which are starting to come into the UK market across multiple brands, with the premium spirits market in growth we may well see consumers explore the different age expressions here.

We must also not forget tequila’s extended family – the mezcal category. Whilst similar to tequila but not restricted to being made from 100% Blue Agave, there are hundreds of different brands also coming into the UK and this is a category in my opinion that is massively underrated and what I would consider one of the underdogs of the spirits world – and we all love an underdog!


Recipe inspiration and menu planning

It has to be the Margarita at the top of the list, right?

Here’s a classic Cuervo Margarita recipe – perfect to sit under your classic cocktail menu options.



But we are seeing the Tequila Sunrise see big growth too – for a bit of a twist why not try a Tequila Sunset! This uses grapefruit instead of orange juice that you would see in the Sunrise.
The rate of tequila sales has increased by 34% – that’s bigger than gin right now!*

Ensure that if you have 6 cocktails on your menu that at least one of them is a tequila based one. If you have a clientele that upscale on their spirits choices then give them the same option on tequila – even if its two options. Interestingly, 61% of consumers have no loyalty on their brand when it comes to tequila vs rum or flavoured gin at around 30%* so that means you have more flexibility in the brands that you choose to offer.

Consumers want to see value for money, although that shouldn’t be confused with the cheapest! If your customer is splashing out on a cocktail make sure your base ingredient is a decent one, equally if it’s for shots or sipping – don’t leave your consumers screwing up their face – that’s what the lime is for!


The future of tequila

It’s very difficult to predict if tequila will continue to trend beyond 2023, as although trends tend to have sharper growth curves, they don’t tend to last for as long as they used to.
However, if the category continues to broaden its range then I can see continued growth particularly driven by the cocktail market!


Cheers to the end of our ultimate guide to tequila! It’s clear that tequila is breaking free from its “forfeit shot” reputation and is claiming its rightful place on drinks menus.

Thirsty for more? Explore our alcohol range here.

And read more on our Alcohol & Cocktail Trends in 2023 here.



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