Beginner’s Guide: How to Drink Tequila
Tequila looms as the boom spirit for 2021. The growth of cool brands and famous faces investing or collaborating, strong Mexican regulation, and advances in agave plant production and distillation is fuelling the popularity.
Gone are the days of just pounding down a couple of tequila shots before you hit the club. Tequila can now be enjoyed in many fashions at any time, day or night. Whether you’re a shot-maker, sipper, or high wire mixologist, knowing what makes a good tequila and how to drink it best now comes in handy for a variety of situations.
The following beginner’s guide on how to drink tequila will help the inexperienced learn more about straight tequila, sipping and drinking tequila, and the awesome agave spirit cocktails.
How you plan on drinking tequila will help determine the type of spirit you wish to purchase. There are three main types of tequila; Blanco, Reposado, and Añejo.
You’ll also find Joven (in between Blanco and reposado), cristallino (color removed), mixto tequila (the stuff you use for frozen drinks), and extra Añejo tequila (matured longer) available as well. Blanco or silver tequila is unaged tequila that tastes more of the agave plant and citrus than longer maturing tequila versions. It’s the go to for cheap drinks
Reposado (rested) and Añejo (aged tequila) offerings are darker in color, aged in barrels, and gain a heavy but smoother flavor from the distillation process. They are recommended for neat sipping for experienced mixologists looking to craft a specific taste.
There’s also Mezcal, a liquor akin to tequila but oven cooked with any type of agave, including the wild stuff, so there’s a bigger range of taste variations and flavors.
How to drink Tequila
With Lemon and Salt
Ever since A.L.T told me all about it in 1992, and through my younger days, tequila was a shot you took with lemon and salt. Take some table salt and nestle around a spoonful in the webbing between thumb and forefinger (non-drinking hand), while holding a lemon wedge (can be subbed for lime) in the same hand.
Smash a shot of straight tequila, lick the salt off your hand, and then suck the lemon. It’s pretty simple!
You hammer down one cheap tequila shot or two max to keep you warm and cheerful as you party on into the night (on a strict budget). Here are some handy tips to make sure you enjoy straight tequila shot time:
- Never go past two of these early in your evening, as your night will end quickly with short-lived overconfidence, vomiting, and a lie-down, while your friends have the best night ever…
- Go for a crisp Blanco or silver tequila if you’re making a simple price decision.
- If money is not an issue try one of the best tequila brands – you’re looking for warm agave flavor and little afterburn!
- Use a good shot glass – thick, not too skinny at the rim, with a sturdy base
- Only use table salt. While rock salt and cool grinds are all the range, a tequila shot is a speed operation, you don’t want to be digging salt rocks from your teeth further on down the track.
Tequila is no different from Scotch or bourbon if you’ve got a premium expression in hand. You’ve paid more for the spirit, so learning about the liquor you’re drinking and its determining features is often where the fun is (but that’s partly because I’m old).
The longer Reposado tequila is aged, the more flavor and aroma it takes on from the ex-bourbon barrels or French oak casks used to store it and blends with the Blue Agave plant which is the base for the agave spirit.
Often, you find whisky drinkers trying tequila tasting for something different will respond to the richness and complexity of taste in a well-made Reposado tequila, Añejo, or extra Añejo tequila variety.
The leading Mexican brands have taken the same approach as Scotch and American whisky, making where and how the spirit is distilled a key feature of its value.
These days, the method and number of distillations, quality of water used in filtration, and terroir (environment characteristics) of the Blue Agave plant are more important than at any time before.
Naturally, the personality of your agave tequila will affect how much it costs, and how you consume the product.
If you’re inexperienced or stepping up from lemon and salt, these tips can help you enjoy simple mixed drinks and simple sipping tequila.
- Blanco or silver tequila works best with mixers such as grapefruit soda, pineapple juice, and other strong/sweet flavors. These types give the agave a chance to party too.
- Don’t get too cute with your mixed drink otherwise, you’re better off grabbing a cocktail shaker and putting on some real work.
- Look towards balanced Reposado tequilas for use in club soda, sprite, or tonic water. They respond well to the carbonation and the simple flavors show through in a tequila soda rather than just heat and agave.
Tequila Cocktail Recipes
Everyone loves a margarita, but there are varieties in style, freshness, and quality. There’s also an amazingly wide and interesting cocktail menu should you want to mix a little tequila into your fun.
Make sure when constructing these cocktail recipes the money your spending on tequila, ice, garnishes, and fruit matches the results you’re trying to achieve.
Also, take the time to work on your cocktail’s flavor.
The Classic Margarita
- 5 oz tequila
- ⅔ oz triple sec
- ⅔ oz fresh lime juice
- ⅓ oz fresh lemon juice
Garnish: Sea Salt
Combine ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake thoroughly until cool mixed. Rub a lime wedge around the rim of the margarita glass then dip the edge into flaked sea salt.
Wipe out the excess salt from inside the glass, then strain the drink mixture in and serve immediately.
This classic cocktail pairs tequila, orange juice, and grenadine mixture in an easy to prepare and friendly party starter
- 2 oz tequila
- 2 dashes of orange bitters
- 4 oz orange juice
- ⅓ oz grenadine
Garnish: Orange wedge
Fill a mixing glass with ice cubes then add tequila, bitters, orange juice, and grenadine. Stir thoroughly. Blend drink into a glass half-filled with crushed ice. Garnish with an orange wedge and serve.
Mezcal Tomato Margarita
This cocktail pairs the wilder, more heady Mezcal agave liquor with a rich tomato juice blend, however, it’s a simple matter of adjusting your tequila or juice for a different tasting yet still fresh margarita.
- 4 oz tomato juice
- 2 oz tequila (Use a mixto tequila or white tequila)
- 5 oz triple sec or blue curacao
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar/agave syrup
- 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
- Crushed Ice
Garnish: Lime wedges, Pink Himalayan rock salt
Optional: Crack of pepper
Combine tomato juice, tequila, agave nectar, and lime juice into a cocktail shaker with crushed ice and shake thoroughly (ensure the mixture is cool).
Strain contents over traditional margarita glass, rim edge with pink salt, garnish with a lemon wedge, and serve. You can also add a crack of pepper to the cocktail as it pairs beautifully with the tomato juice.
A Latin spin on the classic Bloody Mary is a great way to be put right. Change it up by replacing the vodka or gin with Blanco tequila.
- 1 1/2 Blanco Tequila
- 1/2 cup tomato juice
- 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
- 1-3 dashes Tabasco sauce (more for spicier taste)
- 4-6 dashes Worcestershire sauce (more for savory taste)
- Salt and pepper pinch
- 1 tsp celery salt
Garnish: Celery stick, lemon slice
Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker and mix thoroughly with some ice. Strain the mixture into a highball glass. Garnish with a celery stick and lemon slice and add a crack of salt and pepper to taste.