Ah, tequila. Few alcoholic beverages inspire the same level of dismay or delight—depending on the situation—or trigger the same memories (or lack thereof) of nights out with your buddies like this oft-misunderstood Mexican spirit.
But seeing as it’s National Tequila Day, we thought we’d dispel a few rumors and share a few spicy, summer-worthy cocktail recipes so that you can celebrate like the learned, debonaire gentleman you know you want to be—*ahem* are.
First things first, tequila is actually better enjoyed as a spirit you sip, rather than one you shoot. And before you put your hands up, we’ll have you know that this is coming from expert on all things tequila, Kevin Vanegas, the National Tequila Ambassador for Brown-Forman. While some types of tequila can be used as a quick shot, “when you drink finer tequila with high-quality production process like Tequila Herradura, you should enjoy it by sipping or in a craft cocktail,” Vanegas says.
That’s because higher-end tequilas have more complex flavors that vary depending on the production process and age. In the case of some of Herradura’s aged expressions, like its Añejo, “the more time they spend in the barrel, the stronger is the presence of wood, caramel and vanilla notes,” he explains. So if you were to just toss a shot of some of the good (i.e. more expensive) stuff back, you could easily miss the many different tasting notes.
The next, and probably most important, myth we’d like to debunk: lime and salt. Contrary to popular belief, lime and salt can actually worsen your experience with tequila, according to Vanegas. “Adding in lime and salt will overpower some of those delicate notes and flavors that should really be savored,” he says. This is especially true of aged tequilas like reposados and añejos—so if that’s what you want to drink, we recommend sipping it neat.
This last myth could potentially bring up some bad memories, most likely from college, of something one of your friends dared you to do—drink the worm in the tequila bottle. But as it turns out, tequila has never actually been associated with the “worm,” according to Vanegas. In reality, “the ‘worm,’ also known as the Gusano you see in mezcals, was used as a marketing gimmick many years ago in Oxacaca, the birthplace of mezcal,” he says. So the next time someone challenges you to down the worm, you can tell them they just got played.
So now that you’re a bit wiser when it comes to tequila, it’s time to put your knowledge and refinement to the test. Here are 10 spicy, savory tequila cocktails—with just the right amount of sweetness—that pack a punch in flavor and spirit.