As with any other spirit, there are many ways to drink tequila. Mexicans don’t always stick to the traditional “caballito” (shot glass) with lime and salt.
However, it’s not as simple as it sounds. You must know many important things about how and when to drink tequila “neat” or with any other mixer.
That is why I have prepared this complete guide on properly drinking tequila. I’ll show you everything you need to know.
By the end of this article, you will become an expert and surprise your friends!
What type of alcoholic drink is tequila? An overview
Tequila is a distilled agave liquor. However, not all tequilas are created equal.
This will depend on how they should be tasted or savored to capture their essence.
Each step of the tequila production process greatly influences the flavor, aroma, and quality of the tequila; however, if you want to taste it neat, I recommend choosing 100% blue agave tequila.
The following details are essential to understand:
Labeling with the legend: 100% Blue Agave
Tequila is produced by fermenting agave sugars, but these sugars can be mixed with other types.
However, by law, a tequila labeled 100% blue agave does not add sugars from non-agave sources to the fermentation process.
Experts recommend always choosing this type of tequila, as the flavor is superior, allowing you to appreciate all the unique qualities of the agave truly.
These bottles will only say “Tequila,” meaning that you will not find the “100% blue agave” legend anywhere on the label.
Mixed tequilas are the cheapest and don’t have the pure agave flavor because, as their name indicates, at the time of fermentation, the agave sugars are mixed with other types of sugars, such as corn syrup or sugar cane, which makes the agave flavor not so intense.
This does not necessarily mean that they are bad, only that if you want to taste and appreciate a good Tequila, this may not be the best option.
It is important to note that, although these tequilas may have a bad reputation for being cheaper, they are usually an excellent choice for use in the preparation of cocktails as they can impart a slightly sweeter flavor.
Does tequila improve with age?
The type of aging significantly influences the taste, aroma, and color. Tequila can be classified into several types depending on the aging time and other processes.
White (silver) Tequila
Tequila blanco is the final product after the distillation process.
It is sometimes diluted with distilled water to reach the desired alcohol percentage (the alcohol content of white tequila averages around 55%, and the alcohol content of commercial tequilas is between 35 and 40%) and, by law, it cannot contain any additives or flavorings.
White, blanco, or silver tequila can be enjoyed mixed or neat; it is a good aperitif and even an excellent digestive.
It is one of the favorites for cocktails, and it’s also the favorite of experts because Tequila blanco allows you to appreciate the flavors of the agave. It is the pure essence of the agave.
This distillate can be stored in oak barrels through a maturation process of 2 to 9 months.
Once rested, it can be abocado or rectified; additives can be added to standardize the color or achieve a sweeter flavor by adding sweeteners.
It is usually consumed neat. It also makes an ideal accompaniment to a first course and is sometimes used in cocktails.
Añejo is obtained by maturing the distillate for at least one year or blending añejo tequila with extra añejo.
This tequila is best enjoyed neat and is not recommended for cocktails.
Extra Añejo Tequila
This tequila must be matured for at least three years in oak barrels.
I recommend reading: Tequila vs Mezcal- A guide to Agave Spirits
Extra Añejo is an excellent accompaniment to a good dessert, but it is always recommended to drink it neat. Don’t mix with anything.
How is tequila served?
The traditional way to serve tequila is using a glass called “caballito,” a glass of 1 or 2 oz.
Tasting it neat is essential. Although lemon and salt are popularly used to complement it, you should leave them aside to learn each tequila’s flavor, complexity, and mystery.
Drink it slowly, trying to capture every nuance it offers to your senses.
Is it ok to drink tequila on the rocks?
This method is used to slightly dilute the alcoholic content of tequila for those who are not very accustomed to this type of beverage.
However, doing so involves masking some of the subtle flavors of the distillate, so it is not recommended for tastings.
Cocktails containing tequila are incredibly diverse. Some include juices, fruits, milk or cream, spices, sodas, etc. Possibly the best-known tequila cocktail is the Margarita, but there are combinations for all tastes.
Chasers are soft companion drinks that you sip before or after a shot of tequila. They can be water, lemon, salt, or sangrita.
The latter is a traditional accompaniment to tequila, containing orange juice, tomato, lemon, grenadine, and a pinch of hot sauce.
Best ways to drink tequila
Traditional (shot and lime)
The famous way of drinking tequila with salt and lime is to celebrate, play drinking games at parties, or get drunk quickly.
Some people also drink the shot without salt and lime.
For either option, a blanco or reposado Tequila is recommended.
If you intend your relationship with tequila to be more serious, the best way to drink it is to savor it.
You will enjoy it more after a meal or as a social drink. An añejo or extra añejo is an excellent choice, especially to show off your Tequila knowledge.
If you are not yet used to sipping tequila, you can accompany it with a chaser.
If it’s your first time, try it with a sweet drink such as orange juice, lemonade, or soda, this will decrease the intensity of the alcohol.
As you get used to the taste, you can change the chaser for something lighter until you eventually reach sparkling water, which will not dull the taste of tequila, nor will it confuse your taste buds.
To delight yourself with your favorite tequila mixed with other ingredients, the idea is to prepare a good cocktail. The combinations, as I said before, are endless.
Try making a margarita with reposado tequila and another with a white one, and you will notice that both taste quite different.
I recommend using a blanco or reposado Tequila of your choice, as it will radically change the drink’s flavor.
Extra tips for drinking tequila
Finally, here are some tips that will help you start your journey as a tequila connoisseur:
- There is no “right” or “wrong” way to drink tequila
- Avoid using aged tequilas to prepare cocktails
- The quality of the cocktail will always depend on the ingredients and the way it is prepared; this does not mean that a “better tequila” or a more “expensive tequila” will make a better cocktail
- There are excellent blanco or reposado tequilas that will make a spectacular cocktail without using añejo ones (unless the recipe specifies using an añejo)
- Many tequila recipes were created specifically to use certain types of tequila so that the agave notes can be perfectly combined with the rest of the ingredients
- Chilling a liquor changes its flavor and aromas
- Don’t judge tequila by color or appearance
- A very dark-colored añejo tequila does not imply its best quality. For example, the añejos and extra añejos tend to have a bright, luminous, full-bodied amber color. It is more advisable to rely on prestigious brands at first and then experiment with lesser-known tequilas
- The accompaniments for the tasting of each type of tequila vary depending on its prominent notes
- For example, extra añejo tequila, predominately oak, nuts, apple, and dark chocolate, is usually accompanied by chocolate mousse, camembert, or brie cheese.
Now that you know how to drink tequila, you can explore the types, combinations, and ways this spirit is enjoyed worldwide, take notes of everything you consider important, and learn more about this wonderful beverage.
Remember that your tastes will change as you gain experience.
Therefore, my recommendation is: to taste, take notes, enjoy, and constantly try new tequilas (with moderation, of course!).