If you’re like most Americans, you probably only drink tequila at bars, shot down as quickly as possible after a lick of salt and chased with a squeeze of lime. The tequila itself is something of an afterthought; a nearly-unpalatable means to a drunken end. Well, we’ve got some news for you: You’re drinking the wrong tequila, and you’re drinking it the wrong way. If you want to graduate to drinking tequila like an adult, do as the Mexicans do.
First of all, when you’re knocking back shots of Cuervo Especial, you’re not drinking real tequila; you’re drinking mixto, which is only 51 percent actual tequila (the rest is cane sugar alcohol and flavoring). See the top-shelf stuff up there, the Herradura, Patron, and 1800? That’s the good stuff. It’s made with 100 percent blue agave, and it tastes the way tequila’s supposed to taste.
We know that you’re thinking: Why would I want to pay $12 for a shot of tequila? The answer? You shouldn’t be doing shots of it! Because in Mexico, not only do they only drink 100 percent agave tequila (or increasingly, mezcal), they also don’t only do shots of it. One hundred percent agave tequila is made for sipping and savoring from a snifter, like a good scotch. No lime or salt is necessary to mask the flavor. (The more aged a tequila is, the more mellow the flavor, so opt for darker-colored añejo or reposado.) After every sip or two you can dip a wedge of lime into a little salt and suck on it if you want to, but if you’re drinking mezcal skip the lime and opt for an orange slice instead.
If you find yourself at a great tequila bar that really means business, you can see if they have any sangrita, which is the only real “chaser” that Mexicans drink with tequila. It’s a sweet and spicy mixture of citrus juices, hot sauce, and sometimes tomato juice and/or Worcestershire. It’s served in a small glass alongside the tequila, and when sipped in between sips of tequila, it cleanses the palate and highlights the tequila’s peppery and citrusy taste. And if you’re looking to drink tequila in a cocktail, do as the Mexicans do and mix it with grapefruit soda (like Fresca) to make a refreshing Paloma.
So go forth with this knowledge and be prepared to impress your friends with your worldliness. One thing to keep in mind, though: You probably won’t find sangrita at your local Irish pub.