How to Drink Tequila Like a Pro? Expert Tips

Written by: Kaushik Jethva

Last Updated: May 23, 2023

a glass of tequila with lemon and salt
A glass of tequila with lemon and salt

Tequila is no ordinary spirit. It carries a long, rich history, a cultural identity, and an array of intriguing flavors that are unique to the agave plant. However, it’s not just about throwing back shots and waiting for the night to take a hazy turn. There’s a more refined way to enjoy this iconic Mexican spirit. Let’s dive deep into tequila, understand how to drink tequila responsibly, and appreciate its distinct notes.

1 A Brief Introduction to Tequila

Tequila is a distilled spirit that originates from Mexico, more specifically from the region around the town of Tequila in the state of Jalisco. It’s made from the blue agave plant, or ‘Agave Tequilana Weber Azul’, and the law requires it to be produced in certain areas of Mexico to be officially called ‘tequila’.

There are different types of tequila, mainly classified according to their ageing process: Blanco (also known as silver or white), Reposado (rested), Añejo (aged), and Extra Añejo (extra aged). Each of these categories delivers a unique taste profile, and the ageing process can affect the flavours dramatically.

2 The Proper Way to Drink Tequila

Drinking tequila is about more than just getting the liquid down your throat. It’s about appreciating the flavours, understanding the craftsmanship, and respecting the tradition.


Unlike common beliefs, the finest tequila is not meant to be shot but sipped slowly. The reason is a quality tequila is comparable to fine whiskey or cognac. It has depth, character, and a complex flavour profile that deserves your attention.

To sip tequila, pour a small amount into a tequila glass or a white wine glass. This type of glassware will help concentrate the aromas towards your nose. Take a moment to look at the colour and consistency of the tequila. Aged tequilas should have a golden hue, while silver tequilas are clear. Swirl it gently, just like wine, to release its aroma.

Next, take a small sip and let it sit in your mouth for a moment before swallowing. Try to identify the various flavours. Blanco tequila often has notes of citrus and pepper, Reposado and Añejo tequilas are smoother and may have notes of vanilla, oak, and caramel due to their ageing in wooden barrels.

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A group of friends sipping up tequila

The Tequila Shot

tequila shots
Tequila Shots

Although sipping is the recommended method for enjoying fine tequila, taking shots can be fun in the right context. However, even this has a traditional way. You’ve probably heard of the ‘lick-sip-suck’ method, which involves licking salt off your hand, taking a shot of tequila, and then sucking a lime wedge. This method originated as a way to make lower-quality tequilas more palatable, but it can be a fun ritual if you’re in the mood for it.

When drinking tequila in shots, it’s important not to rush. Give your body time to process the alcohol. Also, always chase it with a non-alcoholic drink to stay hydrated.

Tequila Cocktails

tequila cocktail
Tequila Cocktail

Tequila also shines brightly in cocktails. Classics like the Margarita or the Tequila Sunrise have helped popularise tequila around the globe. Yet, the versatility of tequila allows it to blend seamlessly into many other creative cocktails.

For example, the Paloma is a refreshing alternative that mixes tequila with grapefruit soda, lime, and a pinch of salt. You can also try substituting tequila for other spirits in traditional cocktails – like in a Tequila Old Fashioned, where tequila replaces bourbon, adding a unique twist.

3 Understanding and Choosing the Right Tequila

The world of tequila is vast, and not every bottle you come across will offer the same experience. It’s important to understand the labels and choose the right tequila.

100% Agave

100% agave tequila
100% Agave Tequila

The first thing to look for on the bottle is the phrase ‘100% Agave‘. This indicates that the tequila is made entirely from the blue agave plant, without the addition of any other sugars. Non-100% agave tequilas, also known as ‘mixtos‘, can contain up to 49% of other sugars, which can significantly impact the flavour and quality.

4 Types of Tequila

As mentioned earlier, tequila comes in several types, each with its characteristics:

  • Blanco/Silver: This is unaged tequila bottled right after distillation. It has a bold, pure taste that reflects the natural flavour of the agave most directly.
  • Reposado: This type of tequila is aged in wood barrels for anywhere between 2 months to a year. The ageing process gives Reposado a mellow oak flavour alongside the agave.
  • Añejo: Añejo is aged for 1 to 3 years, offering a rich, complex flavour profile. You’ll often notice flavours like vanilla, chocolate, or caramel.
  • Extra Añejo: As the name implies, this tequila is aged even longer – for more than 3 years. The result is a very smooth tequila with a flavour that can rival that of fine cognac or whisky.

The type you choose will depend on your personal preference, the occasion, and how you plan to drink it.

5 Appreciating Tequila: The Art of Tasting

When you’re sipping tequila, take a moment to truly appreciate it. Engage your senses – sight, smell, taste, and even touch.

  • Sight: Look at the tequila’s colour. A deeper colour often means a longer ageing process. Clarity indicates purity, while a rich hue can suggest depth and complexity.
  • Smell: Swirl your glass gently and take a whiff. Try to identify the unique aroma of the agave, which might be mixed with other scents if the tequila is aged.
  • Taste: Sip slowly. Let the tequila coat your tongue before swallowing. Identify the flavours. Is it sweet, bitter, or spicy? Can you taste the agave, or do you find hints of caramel, vanilla, or fruits?
  • Touch: Pay attention to the texture. Is it light or viscous? The mouthfeel can tell you a lot about the tequila’s body and alcohol content.

Remember, there are no right or wrong observations. The goal is to immerse yourself in the experience and enjoy the journey.

6 Drinking Tequila Responsibly

Finally, it’s important to drink responsibly. Tequila is a high-proof spirit, typically around 40% alcohol by volume. It should be enjoyed in moderation. Stay hydrated, have something to eat, and take your time. Savour each sip, appreciate the craftsmanship that went into the bottle, and immerse yourself in the rich culture and history that tequila represents.

7 Wrapping Up

In conclusion, drinking tequila is an experience that goes beyond mere consumption. It’s about understanding the tradition, appreciating the art of its production, and savouring the unique flavours that this Mexican spirit has to offer. So the next time you decide to enjoy tequila, remember to sip, savour and appreciate.

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About This Article

Kaushik Jethva
Written by: Kaushik Jethva author

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Updated: May 23, 2023
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