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Everything You Wanna Know About Tequila But Are Too Afraid To Ask

The best affordable bottles, easy cocktails that'll impress literally everyone, and how to (maybe) avoid those damn hangovers.

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The thing is, I don't really ~know~ anything about tequila, except that I very much like to drink it.*

Christine Byrne / BuzzFeed

UPDATE: I recently turned 28 and had a pretty great birthday party, but I'm choosing to be a little less in love with tequila for the next couple of months.

And I really hate not knowing stuff. So, I went to an expert for a crash course.

Jon Premosch / Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

This is Amauris Baez. He works at La Biblioteca, a bar in NYC with over 400 bottles of tequila, one of the largest collections in the city. Baez started at La Biblioteca as the taco guy, then became a bartender in 2011, and is now the beverage manager. He's been around tequila 24/7 for over five years and spends a lot of time talking to producers, distributors, and fellow experts. Basically, he knows his stuff.

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Specifically: What are the best store-bought tequilas out there? Cocktail recipes that'll literally impress everyone? And — prob most importantly, *ahem* — how to avoid those fucking terrible tequila hangovers? Baez was game to tell me.

First, here are some expert-approved bottles for stocking your home bar.

Because really this is the most useful information of all. All prices are for a 750-milliliter bottle and are taken from Under the Label.

If you're looking for a clean, all-purpose tequila for margaritas (or shots), go for a SILVER or BLANCO — like Sauza ($19), Espolon ($24), or Patron ($38).

Silver tequila is aged very little or not at all, so it's super crisp and has lots of agave flavor — which is sweet and almost honey-like. When you think of "regular tequila," you're thinking of silver tequila. Because it's the fastest and simplest 100% agave tequila to make, it's also the cheapest. If you're looking for something under $20, Sauza blue silver tequila is good in a margarita. Espolón tequila blanco is simple and clean, while Patron silver tequila is a little bit smoother.

For something a little fancier and more complex to sip on, try a REPOSADO — such as Espolón ($24), Herradura ($42), or Chamucos ($45).

Reposados are aged for up to a year and therefore more expensive to produce, so it's tough to find decent bottles under $25. If you're really set on a reposado, Espolon reposado tequila is pretty good. Herradura reposado tequila is oak-aged for 11 months, so it's got some wood flavor. Likewise, Chamucos reposado tequila is aged in white oak for seven months and packaged in a hand-blown glass bottle that you'll definitely want to keep.

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If you're looking for a sipping tequila that actually tastes more like scotch, go for an AÑEJO — 3 Amigos ($30), Maestro ($38), or Casamigos ($55) are all good bets.

Añejo tequila gets its complexity from being aged for at least a year after distillation. Because it's a longer process, añejo costs more. If you want to try out an añejo, 3 Amigos is a good introduction — it's not too "scotch-y" and not too expensive. Maestro tequila añejo is made from twice-distilled, slow-roasted agave, so it's rich and woody. Casamigos añejo tequila is aged in used whiskey barrels, so it's complex and a little bit sweet.

His secret to perfect margaritas is using a combination of lemon and lime juice.

Jon Premosch / Andrew Richard / BuzzFeed

CLASSIC MARGARITA

Makes 1

1 lime wedge

Salt

1 ounce fresh lime juice

1 ounce fresh lemon juice

¾ ounce agave nectar

1½ ounces tequila silver

½ ounce orange liqueur (such as Cointreau)

Run the lime wedge around the rim of a rocks glass. Spread salt out over a small plate and dip the rim of the glass into the salt. Fill the glass with ice.

In a cocktail shaker, combine lime juice, lemon juice, agave, tequila, and some ice. Shake everything, then strain and pour into the rocks glass. Pour the orange liqueur on top, garnish with the lime wedge, and serve.

This spicy blood orange marg is a great way to shake things up. It's cleanest with a silver tequila, but complex enough to stand up to a reposado, if you want to experiment.

Jon Premosch / Andrew Richard / BuzzFeed

If you can't find blood orange juice, use regular orange juice.

SPICY BLOOD ORANGE MARGARITA

Makes 1

1 lime wedge

Salt

1 ounce blood orange juice

1 ounce fresh lime juice

1 ounce fresh lemon juice

¾ ounce agave nectar

1 ounce serrano simple syrup (recipe below)

1½ ounces tequila silver

Cilantro leaves, for garnish

Run the lime wedge around the rim of a rocks glass. Spread salt out over a small plate and dip the rim of the glass into the salt. Fill the glass with ice.

In a cocktail shaker, combine blood orange juice, lime juice, lemon juice, agave, simple syrup, tequila, and some ice. Shake everything, then strain and pour into the rocks glass. Garnish with cilantro leaves and the lime wedge.

SERRANO SIMPLE SYRUP

Makes 1 quart

½ serrano pepper

4 cups water

4 cups granulated sugar

Toast the serrano pepper in a small, dry skillet over medium heat until it's fragrant and starting to blister, about 3 minutes.

Combine toasted pepper, water, and sugar in a small pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook just until the sugar is dissolved. Cool the mixture completely before using it in a drink. Leftover syrup can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 6 months.

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And, did you know that tequila añejo actually makes for a really great Old-Fashioned? Since it's aged for a long time in wood barrels, it actually tastes a little like scotch.

Jon Premosch / Andrew Richard / BuzzFeed

TEQUILA OLD-FASHIONED

Makes 1

2 ounces tequila añejo

½ ounce agave nectar

1 large ice cube

Small strip of orange zest, for garnish

In a rocks glass, combine tequila, agave, and the ice cube. Stir everything together, then twist the strip of orange zest over the drink and rub it over the rim of the glass. Garnish with the orange twist, and serve.

When I asked Baez what kind of tequila was best for taking shots, he laughed and told me that taking shots is dumb.

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

You'd think after 28 years and countless shot-induced bad decisions, I'd agree with him, but shots of tequila have their place. When pressed, he conceded that either a silver or a mild reposado is best for shots, while more flavorful reposados, añejos, and extra añejos should really be sipped slowly.

MOST IMPORTANTLY OF ALL, he stressed that mixto tequila is made with agave but also filled with random extra stuff, and it's probably more likely to give you a hangover.

Christine Byrne / BuzzFeed

Mixto tequila is made from 51% agave and 49% ~other stuff~, usually sugarcane plus flavoring agents and caramel coloring. It's cheaper to produce mixto than it is to produce 100% agave tequila, but the result is a liquor that may or may not taste like agave.

So, mixtos don't taste as pure as 100% agave tequilas. But does mixto really lead to a more painful hangover? Maybe. It depends what the agave is blended with, and how many times the fermented mixture is distilled — the shorter the distillation process, the cheaper the alcohol is to produce, and alcohol that's been distilled fewer times probably has more impurities, which can lead to worse hangovers. Really, though, the reason to stay away from a mixto is that you never really know exactly what you're getting.

One thing worth mentioning is that sometimes 100% agave silver tequila is mixed with 100% agave reposado or añejo, resulting in what's technically a mixto but is still an 100% agave tequila. This is pretty rare, though.

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