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Do you sip tequila, taking your time to savor all the complexities of the blue-agave-derived spirit? Or are you more the type to order a row of shots, all taken down quick with a lick of salt and squeeze of lime?
There’s a case to be made for both approaches to drinking. But as tequila sales have doubled in the U.S. over the last decade and seven out of every 10 liters that are produced in Mexico are sold abroad, the market for those sipping-quality bottles has only gotten bigger.
We want to take tequila as seriously as we take our Kentucky bourbon or smoky scotch, and that lends itself to the production of $7,000 bottles made in tiny quantities and bars solely focused on agave spirits where no one ever dons a cringe-worthy sombrero.
To find out what you should never do with a very nice bottle, whether it set you back $7K or $30, we talked to Susana Cardona of Tequila Clase Azul and Manny Hinojosa of Tequila Cazadores.
“I never like to tell people how to drink their spirit,” says Cardona, and Hinojosa echoes that you should focus on your own pleasure no matter what’s in your glass. That said, these are some things you should never do with a bottle you’ve dropped a pretty penny on.
Cardona says that Clase Azul’s hand-made bottles can range in price from $75 to $7,000. These are gorgeous bottles that take anywhere from 10 days to two weeks each to make, so you want to make sure you don’t mistreat them. “I think anything room temperature is nice,” she says. “You don’t have to throw anything in the fridge.” Hinojosa says you also don’t want your good tequila baking in the sunlight but kept in a steady temperature between 62 and 68 degrees.
“A lot of people like to put their tequila on ice or in a shaker, and after, they say, ‘Oh, it’s really good,” says Hinojosa. “They’re drinking half water, half tequila. My advice is to drink it neat and not too cold.”
“With nicer spirits, you always want to taste what’s in the bottle,” says Cardona. “People put so much work into the product with the idea that you should be able to enjoy it by itself.” That means take your time and observe what’s coming through on the nose and get a sense of the tequila as it makes its way toward your throat. Is it bright and citrusy? Bold and vegetal? “I will stay away from any mixers,” adds Hinojosa. “Enjoy it the way it is.”
If you’re not going to mix your top-shelf tequila, you’re definitely not going to throw it back in a shot glass like some kind of restless spring breaker. If you have to reach for salt and lime because your mouth has started to burn, then chances are you’re not drinking a particularly well-made tequila.
And if you’ve done the research and found yourself a special bottle—remember to only drink 100 percent agave tequila—the last thing you want to do is beeline it to your esophagus without savoring all the complex flavors.
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The smaller the glass, the less room there is between your nose and the tequila. Hinojosa likes to sip his tequila from a wine glass so that he gets the entire bouquet. “I call it Mexican chardonnay,” he says. “I like a big belly glass from which to soak up all the aromas.”
Champagne flutes are also good. And if you’re really serious about your tequila sipping, shell out a few bucks for Riedel Bar Tequila Vinum glasses, an elegant cross between a wine glass and a Champagne flute. What the hell, you’ve come this far.