The Difference Between Vodka and Tequila

Vodka and tequila. Two of the most popular alcoholic drinks in America and the world. Both a recipe for mayhem, enjoyment, or an absolute disaster.

If you are underage and wondering what the difference is between the two drinks you hear most often - you’ve come to the right place.

Or, if you’re a legal adult who completely forgets how taste buds work when you’re drinking and you’re slightly befuddled at the difference between both drinks - you’ve also come to the right place. 

Before we delve into this vitally important research, let’s discuss the one similarity between both alcohols. Both vodka and tequila are clear spirits with an ABV average of 40%. That’s the only similarity.

So, what exactly is the difference between vodka and tequila? We have the answers for you!

Spirits

As we have just said, both vodka and tequila are in the spirits category of alcohol.

A spirit is defined by its distillation process and must have an ABV percentage of at least 20%. ABV, for those wondering, stands for Alcohol By Volume. The higher the percentage, the more alcohol there is.

Drinks like beer, cider, or wine are not spirits. Vodka and tequila are spirits, along with rum, gin, whisky, and brandy.

What is Vodka?

Vodka originates from Russia, Poland, and Sweden, and is considered America’s favorite alcoholic beverage.

The name itself derives from the Slavic word voda which translates to water - somewhat aptly named due to the crystal clear consistency of vodka.

Don’t take that seriously - vodka is definitely not water.

Vodka is traditionally made from potatoes (which might shock some people), but it’s more common for vodka to be made from cereal grains - such as rye, corn, barley, or wheat. This might be because grains are more accessible and sustainable to grow and distill.

The starchy potatoes or grains are fermented into ethanol and mixed with water to begin the process of making vodka. Then, the drink goes through the processes of distillation, filtration, and refining. The last two steps are to make the drink as smooth as possible to get rid of any imperfections.

The ABV value of vodka can range anywhere between 16.5% to 96% depending on the make.

The most popular and well-known vodka brand in America is Smirnoff, followed closely by Tito’s, Grey Goose, and Absolut amongst others.

Traditionally, vodka is drunk completely neat. In America, vodka is a popular component in a wide range of cocktails and paired with popular mixers such as Coca-Cola and Sprite. Vodka is an unflavored drink, but there are flavored options that provide a tasty kick to a drink.

What is Tequila?

Where vodka is made worldwide, tequila is exclusively only made in five states in Mexico.

Tequila is made by the blue agave plant (commonly known as agave tequilana) which is one of Mexico’s most economic products. The plant itself features agavins - sugars - which is what gives tequila that signature kick.

Tequila is so exclusive to Mexico (specifically Jalisco) that any tequila made elsewhere in the world is not actually tequila - because Mexico owns the rights to the name. This is because of the agave plants that are the key ingredient to tequila, as they can take up to 18 years to mature and are very difficult to grow.

Fun fact: Tequila can only be labeled a tequila if it features at least 51% fermentable sugars from an agave plant. When it is labeled 100% agave, this means that no added sugars or additives were involved in the agave distillation process.

The heart of the agave is harvested and cannot be used again. This heart is then crushed and goes through a distillation process. The heart looks somewhat like a large pineapple, which is aptly named a piña.

Tequila is often mixed up with mezcal, which involves oven cooking the agave. Whilst tequila is technically a mezcal, mezcal isn’t always a tequila. This all comes down to the different production methods.

Tequilas tend to range between 38% to 50% ABV and are either drunk as shots with a slice of lime and salt or mixed in cocktails.

Differences Between Vodka and Tequila

So, we’ve established that one of the main differences between vodka and tequila is the production methods and ingredients used.

Vodka’s key ingredient is distilled starch or grain, whilst tequila’s main ingredient is the heart of a blue agave plant.

However, the differences don’t stop there.

Types of Vodka

There are only two main types of vodka in the world - neutral and flavored. Neutral vodka is the most common form of vodka as it can be used with any other drink.

Of course, neutral vodka has a distinctive flavor, but the lack of sweeteners and colorings means it can be paired with other alcoholic beverages and soft drinks.

Flavored vodka has become more popular in recent years. Fruity flavored vodka can include raspberry or blood orange and is flavored similarly to flavored gin.

These can be used in cocktails or with mixers such as Sprite or tonic. Other flavored vodkas include toffee vodka, which is a sweet and tasty drink with a syrup-like texture drunk as a shot.

Types of Tequila

There are 5 types of tequila. These include:

  • Silver - Blanco/White
  • Joven - Gold
  • Añejo - Aged
  • Extra Añejo - Ultra Aged
  • Reposado - Rested

Silver tequila is one of the most popular forms of tequila due to its sweet taste. Made from 100% agave, this clear tequila is only aged for a few weeks. Sometimes, silver tequilas are distilled for up to 2 months if they want to make a smoother drink.

Joven tequila is often called “Gold” due to its signature gold coloring. The golden color comes from caramel coloring and similar additives, which is what also makes this drink more appealing to drink as shots.

Añejo tequila is aged in wooden barrels for up to a year. During this time, the agave essentially disappears, and the spirits take on the dark golden coloring from the barrel. This spirit also features a slightly wooden taste which is often favored in other spirits such as whisky.

Extra Añejo is the darkest and most aged tequilas which stay in barrels for up to 3 years. As these are the strongest flavored tequilas that can only suit those with an acquired taste, this spirit is mostly sipped slowly.

Reposado tequila is rested for between 2 months to a year in wooden casks. This tequila is somewhat in the middle of Joven and Añejo tequila, as they feature a golden coloring and hints of flavoring from whatever barrel they rest in. Some makers rest this tequila in bourbon barrels to add more flavor.

Is Vodka or Tequila Stronger?

There are several ways to interpret “stronger” in spirits. It could be in relation to the alcohol content, which will make you drunk faster, or which tastes the strongest.

If we’re talking ABV content, it mostly depends on the bottle of vodka or tequila you choose. There is no universal ABV content for all kinds of tequila and all kinds of vodka. Generally speaking, both spirits tend to average out at 40% ABV.

However, some vodkas can be as strong as 96%, whilst tequilas rarely go over the 59/60% mark.

Which Will Make Me More Drunk?

This comes down to personal alcohol tolerance, how you drink the spirits, whether you’re mixing with other alcoholic drinks, and how much you drink. Of course, the more you drink, the drunker you will get.

Different bodies will react differently to each drink. Some will have a higher tolerance to vodka than others. Therefore, it’s not easy to say which will make you drunker.

It also depends on how you drink your chosen spirit. It’s a common misconception that drinking a spirit with a mixer is less likely to make you drunk than if you drink it neat because the drink will still have the same alcohol content.

That being said, if you drink vodka or tequila alongside other drinks and spirits, this will make you drunker faster. Mixing drinks is a gateway to a certified hangover and drunk mess.

What Type of Drunk Will Tequila/Vodka Make Me?

Again, it mostly depends on the individual. Some people will react differently to vodka than others, and the same goes for tequila. Our inhibitions are lowered when we drink alcohol, and the type of alcohol we consume can also be a factor in this.

According to research and studies, tequila is known for creating temporary memory loss. Vodka is known for destroying verbal filters. Whether you want to forget parts of the night or have no control over what your mouth will say is up to you.

The best way to find the right answer is to try it yourself. Drink responsibly and legally, of course.

Vodka and Tequila Hangovers

Hangovers are karma for whatever mischief you got up to the night before. Some lucky folks may not experience hangovers if they drink responsibly and guzzle pints of water at the end of the evening. Others may get a hangover after two shots. It all depends on the individual!

Hangovers occur when the body is dehydrated. This might seem weird, considering alcohol is a liquid, but the main culprit is the sugar content. Sugar is what dehydrates the body.

In short, you might think that drinking strictly vodka and soda will prevent a hangover the next day, but your friend who drinks straight shots is more likely to be hangover-free due to the lack of sugar.

Remember that mixing with other alcoholic beverages will increase your chance of a hangover, especially if you haven’t eaten.

Unfortunately, both vodka and tequila are the most common alcoholic drinks that cause hangovers in America. It is mostly unavoidable!

Fun fact: Tequila is said to treat you in the same way you treat it. If you shot your tequila, the odds are the hangover will be harsh. If you want to avoid a hangover whilst drinking tequila, the best way is to sip it slowly - according to the experts.

Another fun fact: The best way to avoid a tequila hangover is to drink 100% agave tequila. America likes to claim they have their own tequila brands, but these are often mixed with other liquids, which is what makes them more prone to cause hangovers. This is why tequila in America often has a bad reputation!

Taste of Vodka

Vodka is technically flavorless, surprisingly. Neutral vodka comes with no added sugars or flavorings, and some people can’t tell the difference between vodka brands. However, vodka drinkers who are more experienced will be able to taste the difference between cheaper and expensive vodka.

Flavored vodkas will taste like whatever it is labeled as. For example, raspberry vodka will taste like sweet raspberries.

Vodka tastes strong and you will often see people pull the “baby-eating-lemon” face after drinking it neat.

Taste of Tequila

Tequila offers more flavors than neutral vodka depending on how much agave is in the spirit, and how aged the drink is.

Other factors will include what the spirit was distilled in and which state it was made in because different Mexican states will produce their own significant tequila tastes.

Tequilas that are made 100% from blue agave will have a slightly earthy taste with a hint of sweetness.

Young tequilas generally produce the most alcoholic flavor rather than earthy or sweet flavors - which is why they are often preferred by young adults and college students as they are cheaper and can get people drunker faster.

Aged tequilas are distinguished by the smoother texture, and will often have hints of oak, spices, or vanilla from the barrels they rest in.

Like vodka, tequila is also distinctively strong in taste. It smells and tastes almost similar to gasoline - not to put you off tequila, of course.

Vodka Health Benefits

Aside from its taste and ability to make an evening rather interesting, vodka presents an abundance of health benefits.

You may often hear people at the bar state that vodka is good for them - but remember that the more you drink, the less good it will be for you.

Vodka has little nutritional value - meaning it is low in sugar, low in carbohydrates and low in sugar. Vodka is one of the best spirits to drink with a low-calorie mixer for those on a diet or with health issues such as diabetes.

Like most alcohols, vodka works as a great stress-reliever. How often have you heard someone say they need a drink after a rough day as they order a double vodka soda? According to research, vodka is better for reducing stress than red wine.

Vodka is also used as a natural disinfectant. Not only can it be used to clean parts of a house, but it can also be used as an antiseptic to clean wounds and toothaches. Obviously, don’t drink vodka as an excuse to cure a paper cut.

However, remember that the more vodka you drink, the more likely you are to create health problems. You might think that vodka is helping your blood sugar levels, but the next second you could have fallen off your chair and smashed your face into the ground. Vodka doesn’t solve everything.

Tequila Health Benefits

Like vodka, tequila is very low in calories, sugar, and carbohydrates. The purest tequila made from 100% agave is the healthiest tequila available, as it’s as natural as it gets.

Due to the low nutritional value, tequila offers nearly the same health benefits as vodka. Mixed with the right drink or by itself, tequila is a great low-sugar option for those who want to avoid drinking sugar.

However, ignore the articles that say tequila is the best drink for fitness fanatics. Sure, it’s low in sugar, but this only depends on what you drink it with. You can’t drink a tequila cocktail and call yourself a professional nutritionist.

Alcohol is processed by the liver, which can cause your blood sugar levels to drop and will stop any chance of burning fat. So, really, tequila isn’t the best diet option compared to vodka.

Price of Vodka and Tequila

The rule of thumb with alcohol is: the better the quality of the spirit, the more expensive it will be. Most connoisseurs will attest to this because they will be able to taste a clear difference between cheap and expensive spirits.

Also, the more popular a drink is, the cheaper it is more likely to be. As vodka is the most popular alcoholic drink in America, it is generally cheaper than tequila. Most popular vodkas tend to average around $25 a bottle.

Tequila is less popular than vodka but still an affordable option. Most tequilas average around $25-30 a bottle, with the best tequilas being $40 or more.

The price of vodka and tequila may be evident in bars and clubs, where shots may differ in price as well as cocktails - though this depends on what other drinks are mixed in.

Vodka and Tequila Drinks

The most common way of drinking vodka is with a mixer or in a cocktail, and the most common way of drinking tequila is either as a shot or in a cocktail.

Mixologists have perfected an abundance of drinks featuring these spirits.

The most popular vodka drinks are:

  • Vodka Soda/Tonic
  • Sex on the Beach
  • Bloody Mary
  • Cosmopolitan
  • Classic Martini
  • White Russian
  • Black Russian
  • Appletini

The most popular tequila drinks are:

  • Tequila Sunrise
  • Classic Margarita
  • Tequila Sour
  • Long Island Iced Tea
  • Negroni
  • Bloody Maria

Frequently Asked Questions

Does tequila get you more drunk than vodka?

It depends on the person’s tolerance to alcohol, how much they drink, how fast they drink, and whether they mix their drinks.

It’s not easy to say that tequila can get a person drunker than vodka because the alcohol content might differ.

Generally speaking, as both vodka and tequila have an average ABV of 40%, both can get a person equally drunk.

Which tequila is healthiest?

The healthiest tequila is Silver or Blanco tequila. This tequila is made from 100% agave and features no extra additives or sugars.

The distilling process is also different from other tequilas, as they don’t soak up the flavors from barrels in the same way rested or aged tequilas do.

Tequila is low in calories, carbohydrates, and sugars - which is why it is such a popular drink.

Is tequila a stimulant or depressant?

Whilst most people may assume that tequila is a stimulant due to the energetic effects, tequila is actually a depressant.

Some people will often feel lethargic after drinking tequila - usually the morning after.

What alcohol is easiest on your liver?

It is said that vodka is the easiest alcohol on your liver, as it is the alcohol with the least nutritional value. Vodka is low in sugar, carbohydrates, and calories - especially when mixed with a low-calorie mixer.

However, the more you drink, the less happy your liver will be!

Is vodka more harmful than beer?

This all comes down to how much a person drinks, how often they drink, and whether they mix their drinks. Vodka has a stronger ABV than beer, but beer is often drunk faster and in larger amounts.

Technically speaking, neither is non-harmful. A person who gets drunk off vodka and breaks their arm during a fight is in the same position as someone who has broken their arm from drinking beer. 

Cassie Marshall
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