1. Start with good quality produce
Good tequila should be made out of 100% agave, and that fact should be clearly denoted on the label. Many common brands of tequila in the UK and the USA are blended, and while they will use a percentage of agave, they will be bulked up using sugar and other, cheaper ingredients - these are the ones usually guaranteed to give you a hangover!
2. What’s the difference between tequila and mezcal?
Mezcal is beginning to make a name for itself in the international beverage world - but what exactly is it, and is it any different from the tequila we already know and love? Technically speaking, mezcal and tequila are the same thing - but tequila can only be produced from blue agave and in certain states of Mexico. Mezcal, on the other hand, can be made from around 30 different types of agave. It's almost made using different production techniques - the agave tends to be cooked, which gives mezcal its distinctive smoky flavour. Both are enjoyed universally in Mexico.
3. The older, the gentler
Clear tequila (also called Blanco) is fresh out of the barrel and can, therefore, have a stronger and more bitter taste. As tequila ages, it becomes much more mellow and palatable. In Mexico, tequila is a drink to be savoured, and so they might choose Añejo, which has been aged between one and three years. Or Extra Añejo, which is anything over three years. 'Reposado' refers to tequila which has been rested between two months and a year, and is usually the most affordable aged tequila.
4. Choose your glass carefully
We usually think of tequila being drunk from a shot glass. But to really allow the flavours to open up and develop, try drinking yours from a brandy or wine glass. In Mexico, Caballito are common - translating as ‘little horse’, these glasses are longer and thinner than a traditional shot glass. You’ll also be encouraged to drink it more slowly and savour all of the individual notes, which leads us to our next point.
5. Sip, don’t shot
Shotting tequila to get it over with as quickly as possible is not the Mexican way. Sip your tequila slowly, just as you would a whisky or a rum, and you may find there's no need for lime or salt to disguise the taste. If you’re transitioning into this slower and more thoughtful way of drinking tequila, you can start by dipping a small lime wedge into a little salt, and sucking on that between every few sips of tequila. Mezcal is ideally accompanied by a slim wedge of orange.
6. Try it in a cocktail
Mexicans sometimes drink their tequila in cocktail form, too. A margarita is often thought of as the most stereotypically Mexican drink, but in reality, was reportedly invented by an Irishman. Instead, try the Paloma, which combines tequila with grapefruit, lime and soda for a simple and refreshing finish.
7. Chase your drink with sangrita
If you still find you need to drink your tequila with a chaser, replace the lime and salt with sangrita instead. Sangrita is a traditional Mexican accompaniment to spirits. Generally speaking, it includes grenadine, chili pepper, tomato and orange juice which cuts through the strength of the tequila. And not just that, these fruity and spicy flavours will enhance the natural properties of the tequila, rather than mask them.
The best way to drink sangrita with your tequila is to interchange your sips for a good balance of flavour. The origins and exact recipe of sangrita are debated, so feel free to get creative with your version! Commonly added ingredients include pomegranate, pineapple and cucumber. Cheers to that.
Want to drink tequila in its birthplace? Discover the spirit at its best on one of our Mexican cruises.