Tequila and vodka are popular alcohols with high alcohol content. Both have unique flavors and are created from very different ingredients. Tequila has roots in Mexico, while Vodka is linked to European countries.
Depending on one’s preference, it is reasonable to ask which has a higher alcohol content. And with different flavor profiles, you may ask is tequila stronger than vodka?
The answer to this question is, not really. Different vodkas may be slightly, or much stronger than some tequilas. But this largely depends on the type of tequila or vodka being compared. On average, both types of liquors have about a 40% alcohol by volume (ABV) content. While tequilas can have their highest ABV at 55%, vodka ABVs may be as high as 95% (or more).
This article will break down the differences between tequila and vodka, as well as examine the trends in alcohol content between the two drinks.
ABV for Tequila and Vodka
By Mexican production standards, tequila must be between 35% to 55% ABV. That means that for a drink to be considered tequila, it must be at most 55% ABV — and because tequila is a liquor specific to a particular region and country, this standard is pretty much fixed.
Vodka, however, does not have as strict standards — though different regions do have their own regulations for the drink. The European Union, for example, designates that products labeled as vodka must be at least 37.5% ABV, while the United States designates that the drink must be at least 40% ABV (incidentally, 40% is the minimum ABV percentage for the sale of tequila in the U.S.).
There are few limits as to how alcoholic vodka can be — with some brands ranging from 85% to 96% ABV. For the most part, though, vodkas will remain around 40% ABV or so.
What is Tequila?
Tequila is a liquor — or a distilled alcoholic drink — that is produced from fermented agave plants, the Blue agave (Agave tequilana) in particular. It has its origins in the Mexican state of Jalisco, and by official national designation, may only be produced in Jalisco and some surrounding cities.
Tequila must be produced with at least 51% Blue agave, and in its original form can be a mixture of different agaves or sugars. Some tequilas are produced using 100% agave, though these differences do not generally correlate with alcohol content, only flavor.
In any case, the agave is harvested, roasted, fermented (where yeast is added to convert the agave sugars into alcohol), distilled (in which alcohol is boiled out and collected into a concentrated liquid), and aged in wooden barrels for several months or years.
As the tequila is aged, it loses alcohol and picks up flavors from the wood. It may be blended with other batches of tequila for different qualities and flavors — but otherwise, once the tequila is bottled, the process is complete.
Some of the Strongest Tequilas
- El Luchador
- Tapatío Blanco
- Dulce Vida
Most of the strongest tequilas on the market come in at 50% to 55% ABV. This includes El Luchador, Tapatío Blanco and Dulce Vida.
At 110 proof (55% ABV), El Luchador was created by David Ravandi in 2015 and is made from 12-year-old agave. It has hints of “agave, lemon pepper, and fresh, sea salt aromas.” This tequila also boasts nougat, coconut, and agave flavors that finishes with white pepper and lemongrass.
Tapatío Blanco is also 110 proof and has flavors of sweet agave, lemon, and chile powder. It is aged for 6 months in stainless steel. People who love this drink have noted that this is a great sipping tequila, but is also good for mixing cocktails.
Dulce Vida is a 100 proof (50.5% ABV) tequila made from organic blue agave. It is triple-distilled and does not go through the aging process before bottling. The spicy taste and citrus aroma finishes with sweet agave. Like other hard liquors, Dulce Vida has no carbs and is only 64 calories.
What is Vodka?
Like tequila, vodka is also a liquor. Vodka, however, differs in that it is composed primarily of distilled fermented grains, not agave. Grains such as wheat, corn, rice, sorghum, and rye — but also starchy plants like potatoes and sugar beets — can be used in the production of vodka.
Also unlike tequila, vodka does not necessarily have to be comprised of certain ingredients, or be produced in specific locales. The liquor originated in northern and eastern Europe, notably Poland, Russia, and Sweden. This, however, has not stopped other countries from producing the drink, and vodka is now manufactured worldwide — albeit to different regional standards.
In general, though, vodka is a mixture of water and grain-derived ethanol, usually appearing as a clear liquid. The grains used are first fermented with yeast to produce a low-alcohol (about 16% ABV) liquid. This liquid is then distilled (usually more than once) to produce a liquid with much higher alcohol content.
At this point, the liquid is either filtered or monitored carefully to ensure quality. The filtration process involves running the liquid through activated charcoal filters. The monitoring process uses the judgment of a master distiller to separate the foreshots, heads, and tails (parts of the liquid that may contain “bad” alcohols and other impurities) from the heart (the drinkable portion of the distilled liquid).
Vodka may be flavored before it is bottled, but unlike tequila, it is not aged.
Some of the Strongest Vodkas
- Spirytus Rektyfikowany
- Balkan 176
- Devil’s Springs
As mentioned above, there are some vodkas that can have really high ABVs.
Spirytus Rektyfikowany boasts an incredible 95% ABV that comes from Poland, made by Polmos. To get this high of an ABV, the spirit is distilled by a specific process called rectification.
Another example of a strong vodka is Balkan 176 Vodka, which is 88% ABV. This is triple-distilled, produced in Serbia, and comes with 13 different warning labels due to how strong it is.
Another really strong vodka is Devil’s Springs 160 Proof, which is 60% ABV. Devil’s Springs is typically used to make the Nutcrackers cocktail, which consists of several high-proof liquors such as Devil’s Springs, Bacardi 151 rum, and Southern Comfort.
So is tequila stronger than vodka? Not really. Vodka, by default, has the potential to be stronger than tequila — but again, this varies from brand to brand. On average, both drinks have similar alcohol content.