What is the Proper Way to Drink Tequila?

Tequila, a spirit with deep roots in Mexican culture, is often misunderstood and consumed improperly, especially outside of Mexico. As an expert mixologist and a lover of crafted beverages, I am here to guide you through the proper way to drink tequila. This journey will take you through its rich history, the different types of tequila, the best practices for tasting and enjoying it, and some cultural insights that will enhance your appreciation of this iconic spirit.

The Origins and Types of Tequila

Tequila’s history dates back to the Aztec civilization, which fermented the sap of the agave plant to produce a ceremonial beverage known as pulque. When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, they began distilling this beverage, leading to the creation of what we now know as tequila. Named after the town of Tequila in the state of Jalisco, this spirit is made from the blue agave plant.

Types of Tequila

  1. Blanco (Silver): Unaged or aged for less than two months. This tequila has a strong, clear agave flavor and is often used in cocktails.
  2. Reposado (Rested): Aged between two months and one year in oak barrels. It has a smooth, balanced flavor with hints of oak.
  3. Añejo (Aged): Aged for one to three years in small oak barrels. This tequila has a rich, complex flavor, often enjoyed neat.
  4. Extra Añejo (Extra Aged): Aged for more than three years. It boasts a deep, sophisticated flavor profile, similar to fine cognac or whiskey.

The Proper Way to Drink Tequila

1. Choose the Right Glassware

The traditional way to drink tequila in Mexico is from a small, narrow glass called a caballito. However, for a more refined experience, consider using a Glencairn glass or a snifter. These glasses are designed to concentrate the aromas, enhancing the tasting experience.

2. Room Temperature

Tequila should be served at room temperature. Chilling tequila can mask its complex flavors and aromas. If you prefer it slightly cooler, pour it into your glass and let it sit for a few minutes to warm up naturally.

3. Nosing the Tequila

Before tasting, take a moment to appreciate the aroma. Swirl the tequila gently in your glass and take a small sniff with your nose at the rim of the glass. Look for different notes such as citrus, pepper, vanilla, caramel, and oak, depending on the type of tequila.

4. Sipping, Not Shooting

Tequila is often wrongly associated with shots and quick consumption. To truly appreciate its complexity, sip it slowly. Take a small sip and let it roll around your mouth to engage all your taste buds. Look for the different flavor notes and the texture of the tequila.

5. The Three Sips Rule

Experts recommend taking three sips to fully appreciate tequila:

  • First Sip: Acclimate your palate to the alcohol.
  • Second Sip: Focus on the flavors and the texture.
  • Third Sip: Appreciate the finish and aftertaste.

Pairing Tequila with Food

Tequila pairs beautifully with various foods, enhancing the tasting experience. Here are some suggestions:

  • Blanco: Great with seafood, ceviche, and light salads.
  • Reposado: Complements grilled meats, tacos, and spicy dishes.
  • Añejo: Pairs well with rich foods like mole, roasted pork, and dark chocolate desserts.
  • Extra Añejo: Enjoy with fine cheeses, rich desserts, or as a digestif.

Cultural Insights

Tequila is deeply embedded in Mexican culture, often associated with celebrations and rituals. In Mexico, drinking tequila is a social activity, enjoyed with friends and family. Traditional accompaniments include sangrita, a spicy tomato-based drink, and lime with salt, though these are typically reserved for less refined tequilas.


Drinking tequila properly is about appreciating its rich history, complex flavors, and cultural significance. By choosing the right glassware, serving it at room temperature, nosing, sipping slowly, and pairing it with the right foods, you can elevate your tequila drinking experience. So next time you reach for a bottle of tequila, take a moment to savor and enjoy it as the Mexicans do: with respect, appreciation, and a sense of adventure.


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