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Tequila sips:

Distillation takes four-eight hours. The first distillation takes 11/2-2 hours at 195-205F (95-96C - the temperature will be set according to the amount of alcohol in the fermented must). It results in the first product, called the ordinario and is about 20-25% alcohol. The second distillation takes 3-4 hours. It has about 55% alcohol and is called 'tequila'.


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Tequila Defined

Buying Tequila

Tasting Tequila

Storing Tequila


Tequila Cocktails


Cooking with Tequila

Pocket Guide


Tequila Tours



Updated May, 2011

Drinking & Buying Tequila


The traditional way to drink tequila is to use a tall, narrow shot glass called a caballito ('little horse', or pony, also called a tequilito). This will vary from 1-2 oz., depending on the style, size and manufacturer.


caballito and limeCaballitos were originally called a cuernito. They are modern versions of the original hollowed-out cow or bull horn used in cantinas or mezcal factories. The horn was cleaned, but not flattened so drinkers could not put it down and dally. Since there were only a few horns available, the drinker had to finish quickly, then pass the horn along to the next person. Later, the bottom was cut off so the horn could be rested on the bar, and drinkers could tarry longer. This evolved into today's caballito, which still has the narrow, tapered shape of the horn. It's a perfect size and shape for sipping.


Cow horn caballito - cuernitoYou can still find a few traditional horn cups made by the farmers or mezcaleros who continue the tradition, but they are seldom seen in markets or stores. At La Altena, near Arandas (the home of El Tesoro), Carlos Camarena let tour members taste the fresh tequila right from the still in a traditional cow horn, and a few of us had the opportunity to purchase horns from Carlos' farm hand who still makes a few every year.

The new official and CRT-approved tequila glass is similar to a wine glass, with a tall stem, and a bowl that gently narrows towards the top to collect the aromas. The  Riedel Tequila Glass was designed in collaboration with the CRT and with tequila producers to "highlight and enhance the characteristics of Mexico's finest Reposados, Aņejos, and Reservas de Casa tequilas." These Riedel Ouverture glasses are 8.25" tall and also hold 6.75 ounces.

Some aficionados claim aņejos are perhaps better served in a brandy snifter, which captures the aromas more fully, so you can appreciate the tequilas' nose better.



How to drink tequila


Carlos Camarena with traditional horn cabaillitoThere is no "right" way to drink tequila, but any spirit is best appreciated first on its own merits, without accompaniment.


Sip it. Eschew the lime and the salt for the moment. Forget the margarita mix. Don't even add ice. If you want to taste it, drink it neat first, so you can savour the volcanic essences, the agave and the complexities imparted in aging.


Traditional tequila takes longer to produce, so it should be enjoyed more slowly. Take the time to appreciate the work that went into getting it from the dry hills of Jalisco to your glass.


Some people like it served cold, especially the blanco variety. But try it at room temperature if you want to appreciate the full bouquet and body. Afterwards, once you've appreciated its character, you can always put out a plate of lime slices and salt... or drink a chaser of Sangrita, a popular non-alcoholic and spicy drink made of orange and tomato juices, that tastes a bit like a Bloody Caesar.


In his poem So That Hildebrando Perez Might Learn How To Drink a Shot of Tequila, Efrain Huerta wrote...

It's a shame that in your Limaperu you have no
Widow's sangrita (tomato juice, very special)
made by a widow born and bred in Jalisco, very tapatia,
to soften the hard gulp of tequila.
From Artes de Mexico, no. 27


Sip the premium tequila slowly and gently, to enjoy the aroma, the body and the taste. Taste it as you would a fine wine. Life is really too short to miss out on enjoying it properly. Vicente Quirarte, writing in Artes de Mexico no. 27, compares those hastily-downed "tequila shots" to "the paid favours of anxious adolescent sex."

LimesSalt and Lime: Should you chose to do so, the proper order of the traditional method of drinking tequila is salt-tequila-lime: lick, sip, bite.


Salt shakerLick the back of your hand between thumb and finger to moisten it and hold the salt in place. Sprinkle a dash of salt on the wet spot. Now lick that salt. Take a sip of tequila. Now bite into a slice of fresh lime.


In 1930, an epidemic of Spanish Influenza attacked Northern Mexico. Doctors prescribed tequila as the best medicine to fight it. From then on, tequila was drunk with lime and salt because that’s how the doctors prescribed it.


As Alvaro Mutis wrote in his poem:

Tequila is frequently accompanied by two attendants:
salt and lime.
Yet it is always willing to engage in dialogue,
backed by nothing other than its lustrous transparency.

Arabian traders introduced the lime - Citrus aurantifolia - to North Africa and the Near East towards the end of the 10th Century CE. Crusaders brought it home to plant around the Mediterranean, including Spain, during the 12th and 13th centuries CE. Columbus is credited with introducing it to the New World. Spanish immigrants took it on to Florida where the success in its cultivation in the Florida Keys led to it being referred to as the Key Lime.


It wasn't long before before the fruit reached the shores of Mexico. where the species split into its own varietal group, the smaller Mexican, or bartender's, lime. Mexican limes have the thinnest rind of all citrus. This means cold storage allows the fruit to dehydrate so quickly that its life is severely limited and store-bought limes rarely retain that fresh-picked flavor. Fresh Mexican limes are the choice for tequila aficionados.

The same rules apply for drinking premium mezcals, by the way. Why rush a good thing? Enjoy their rich, smoky flavour. However, because mezcal has a stronger body, it can tolerate the lime reasonably well and is delightful with sangrita.


Coolers and drinks which suggest margarita roots may not have any real tequila in them - they are usually syrupy concoctions of alcohol and flavouring. Some may use juices instead, and sometimes agave nectar to give it a semblance of tequila flavouring.


Sauza cigarBut recognizing a growing market, in 1997 Herradura introduced their own pre-mixed drink - New Mix: grapefruit juice and real tequila. They now also offer different blends. Other distillers have since followed - but these are not traditional Mexican drinks, rather attempts to cater to a fad in the North American market, as well as gain market share in Mexico - the highest per-capita consumption of soda pop in the world. Some of these new drinks, however, are refreshing and a very enjoyable alternative to beer, so try them yourself.


Cigars: Some drinkers and some distillers make an association between premium tequilas and premium cigars. But be forewarned: even a premium cigar can clear out a room pretty quickly as it overpowers all other tastes. Personally I find all smoking incompatible with fine spirits or food, but others disagree. Check out for another viewpoint, pairing Sauza tequilas with cigars.



Tequila T-shirtOne tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.
George Carlin


Hangovers are caused by several things including (mostly) excessive drinking, but also from congeners and additives in the alcohol, from dehydration, Vitamin B depletion. It's easy to avoid the first cause. Drink responsibly and in moderation.


The wrong way to drink tequila, even a mixtoThe second cause is more complicated. Congeners are the natural product of fermentation, and are responsible for most of the taste, aroma and colour of alcoholic beverages. They can affect your body in different ways, some of them quite unpleasant, but not always. Some congeners come from additives, such as the metal zinc added to sweet liqueurs to enhance flavour. The worst offender of the congeners is methyl alcohol (methanol), which can very seriously harm you. All ethyl alcohol (ethanol) - the stuff that you buy to brink - contains some methanol. Tequila may also also contain 2-methyl-1-butanol and 2-phenylethanol, higher proportions in 100% agave tequila than in mixto, according to a report from the American Chemical Society:


The pure agave versions had higher levels of methanol, 2-methyl-1-butanol and 2-phenylethanol, the scientists found.


Sugars and additives in alcohol (or mixed into cocktails) also lend themselves to morning-after misery. Cocktails using fruit juices instead of pre-made mixes, and agave nectar instead of white sugar are healthier and less likely to produce hangovers. Of course over-indulgence will produce hangovers no matter what the ingredients.


BorrachoIn general, clear spirits and white wine have fewer congeners than red wine and coloured spirits like bourbon or dark beers.


Overall, 100% agave tequila has fewer congeners than most spirits, especially the blancos. Mixto tequilas have additives that may contribute to your hangover. Choosing your drinks carefully can help.


As for the other reasons: take a Vitamin B complex every day, and one before you plan to so any serious socializing. Take a NAC (N-acetylcysteine) capsule before and after drinking. Drink water in tandem with your alcohol. And eat some food while you drink to slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream.


Slow down and drink slowly. Your body burns alcohol at a rate of roughly 30ml (1oz) an hour. Give it more time to burn that alcohol and less will reach your brain.




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