Tequila still has a global reputation as a party drink to be downed with lime and salt, or consumed in a syrupy cocktail such as a Tequila Sunrise. In Mexico, however, there are more popular and sophisticated ways to drink tequila. Here’s our guide to ordering and enjoying Mexico’s national drink.
Asking for a straight shot of tequila, or a derecho, is still the most popular way of ordering the drink in Mexico. Nevertheless, before choosing a tequila it is important to have a clear idea of what you are asking for beforehand. Just as there are single malt Scotch whiskies and blended whiskies, there are also essentially two different types of tequila. As a general rule, higher quality tequila is made with 100% agave, while less refined tequilas are made with 51% agave mixed with sugar cane juice.
The tequila aging process also creates different types of spirit. Tequila blanco or plata (white or silver) is the unaged or barely-aged spirit. This harsher, bolder tequila is best accompanied with olives or Oaxacan cheese.
Reposado, or rested tequila, is aged in oak barrels for at least two months, which tends to give a fruity finish. This is an ideal tequila to drink along with, or after, a plate of seafood. Añejo (vintage tequila) is aged for at least a year and boasts complex, nutty or cherry flavors. Extra Añejo (extra aged) tequila is that which has been aged a minimum of three years in oak barrels. This category takes on the flavors and aromas of the wood, while the alcohol gently mellows. Tequila connoisseurs often like to accompany this premium category with a desert such as a chocolate mousse or a honey-caramelized apricot.
Tequila should never be cooled but always stored at room temperature. The best spirits can be drunk alone, although a chaser of mineral water can enhance the experience.
Visitors to Mexico should avoid ordering Tequila Sunrises, or even margaritas. The most interesting and delicious tequila cocktail is the blood-red vampiro, a blend of tequila, grapefruit soda and sangrita — a spicy blend of orange juice, red chili, salt and lime. The drink originates from the village of San Luis Soyatlán, in the western state of Jalisco. Every weekend, tequila enthusiasts descend from far and wide to sample the town’s iconic cocktail. Hawker stands line the town’s main street, selling liters of the blood-red cocktail in plastic bags.
Another popular way of drinking tequila is from a big clay pot. These cantaritos pots are typically filled with a powerful blend of tequila, lime and fizzy grapefruit soda. Visitors to Tequila often buy cantaritos pots when they visit and keep the empty clay pot as a souvenir of their trip.