After trying tequila for the first time, 16th century Spanish conquistador Bernal Díaz del Castillo wrote in his journal that the spirit was the “nectar of the Aztec gods, a beverage so lovely it makes us forget fatigue and live only in a state of happiness.” In the Pacific Northwest, far north from tequila’s modern origins, the agave distillate is often overlooked for spirits like gin or whiskey.

To officially be tequila, the spirit must be made from blue agave plant in the city of Tequila or in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. To produce tequila, the core of the blue agave plant is steamed to extract the sap, or sugar, then it is fermented and distilled. If the tequila is añejo or aged, it is left to rest in oak barrels.

A few distillers in the Northwest are stretching the rules of liquor production by producing it here with blue agave, but of course, calling it an agave spirit instead of tequila. What’s more, local importers, and others across the U.S., are igniting a newness to the centuries-old spirit with different aging techniques and modern branding.

Consumers willing to accept contemporary interpretations may find tequila as loveable as Castillo — especially for summer sipping. Start with this handful of Mexican-made, domestically imported tequilas.

Suerte Tequila Añejo > Atotonilco el Alto, Jalisco > Imported to Colorado
Suerte Añejo is made from 100 percent Tahona stone-crushed Blue Weber agave and aged in charred American white oak whiskey barrels for 24 months, which is twice as long as the industry standard. Aging it a bit longer adds hints of berry, chocolate and mint, imparting uniqueness in a sea of tequila options.

Dulce Vida Spirits Reposado 80 Proof > San Ignacio Cerro Gordo, Jalisco > Imported to Texas
Continuously recognized as a top craft tequila brand, Dulce Vida’s reposado is as solid as they come. This reposado is aged up to 11 months in American oak whiskey barrels giving it an aroma of fruit, caramel and citrus.

Zircon Azul Reposado > Arandas, Jalisco > Imported to Oregon
Although the family-owned company importing this tequila calls Southern Oregon home, the root of the agave is in the volcanic highlands of Mexico. The Jaime family of Arandas, Jalisco, has been growing Blue Weber agave for the tequila industry for over 100 years where Zircon Azul is bottled. Owner Manuel Jaime has worked to refine his family’s tequila recipe to its smooth state of being.