You're Probably Drinking Tequila Wrong—Here's What the Experts Say

Sam Ortiz/Courtesy Patron

Experts weigh in on the correct way to enjoy the Mexican spirit.

Remember when you were in college and the only way you knew how to drink tequila was by pouring some whatever you could find into a shot glass? Thankfully, for most of us, those days are long gone. We’ve matured, and so has the tequila category in the US, as it has grown in popularity with new brands gaining traction every year.

Sam Ortiz/Courtesy Patron 

Mixto tequila (made using only 51 percent agave, the rest being basically fermented sugar water) has fallen out of favor for discerning bartenders and drinkers. If the bottle doesn’t specifically say “100 percent agave” or some similar variation, don’t waste your time—the flavor is too sweet, and the resulting hangover pretty ugly. If you want to go even deeper into deciding what tequila to drink, consider which brands are made with traditional methods, like using a tahona stone to crush the agave pinas and slow roasting them in a brick oven. That being said, there are good tequilas made using more modern methods like steam-cooking agave in an autoclave. However, many aficionados recommend avoiding anything that is made using a diffuser, which essentially extracts the sugar from the agave by blasting it with water, or sometimes chemicals, to create what is derisively known as “aga-vodka.”

Andrew Cebulka/Courtesy Tears of Llorona 

Whatever tequila you decide to drink—blanco, reposado, or anejo—something that is often overlooked is the type of glass. Just like wine, experts agree that your sensory experience will vary based on the vessel you are using to sip. The general consensus among the experts seems to be that a flute like the Riedel Ouverture, which is a bit shorter than a champagne flute with a narrower opening, provides the best experience for tasting tequila. “The benefit of sipping tequila out of a tequila flute is its ability to retain the aromas at the top of the glass, making it perfect for nosing,” said Antonio Rodriguez, director of production at PATRÓN Tequila. “These aromas are how we really can evaluate a tequila, which is why the glassware is such an integral part of the experience. At PATRÓN we even use snifters when we are trying to look for small differences between different tequilas. It doesn’t matter what marque of tequila it is, both of these types of glasses ensure you obtain the true aroma and flavor of tequila.”

Courtesy Penta 

Steve Reynolds, a founding partner of Penta Tequila, winemaker at Reynolds Family Winery in Napa, California and Executive Producer of Agave: Spirit of a Nation, concurs. “The standard glass to me does not concentrate the aromas and flavors enough, but you can certainly use what you have,” he said. “If you drink it on the rocks, it ‘works,’ but that waters down the flavors for me personally. I prefer it straight from the fridge into a flute, Stolzle Saki glass, or a small wine glass.” Germán Gonzalez, master tequilero for the limited-release extra anejo Tears of Llorona, considers himself a purist and also recommends a Riedel flute (or a Glencairn whisky glass). “Because of the shape of the glass, when you are pouring the tequila, it allows oxygen to get in and the flavors to come out,” he said. “The interesting thing about the tequila glass is the stem, so you don’t have to warm the tequila with your hands.” He also says that many people who drink Tears of Llorona were originally whiskey and cognac drinkers, so they might use a snifter or rocks glass, which is an acceptable alternative. “The quality of the tequila is more important than the glass,” he said.

The bottom line is you can and should enjoy good quality tequila using whatever glass you have available. But take it from the experts and try one of these more specialized glasses for a truly exceptional tequila sipping experience.