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What Makes a Great Sipping Tequila?

Tequila sipping techniques, tips and the best recipes to get you started now.

There are a few standard ideas that come to mind when one thinks of tequila. Refreshing frozen margaritas on a hot summer day, a happy hour tequila sunrise, or shots chased with salt and a wedge of tart lime. It evokes feelings of youth and fun and brings back memories of simpler, free times. 

But tequila is so much more than a social lubricant for Spring Break parties and vacation dining experiences. It is an alcohol with a rich history and a complex distilling and maturation process. 

Tequila has always been a popular liquor as a base for mixed drinks, however, tequila has joined the ranks of popular sipping alcohol. 

Yes, you read that right. Similar to the way one would enjoy a glass of whiskey or Kentucky bourbon on the rocks, tequila fans are more and more often enjoying the agave-based beverage sipped straight, without its traditional accouterment or tropical beverage costume. 

In this diary post, we will discuss the types of tequila that are best for sipping, the different classifications of good sipping tequila, and the different, unique ways it can be enjoyed. 

What type of tequila is for sipping?

There are a handful of tequila classifications, not all of which are great for sipping. 

The type of tequila most commonly enjoyed in the United States is silver tequila, also known as tequila Blanco, and gold tequila. These types of tequila are commercially produced and have a crystal clear or slightly golden color. 

They typically have a harsher taste than higher-end tequilas, with strong agave, black pepper, and citrus notes. As a result, they are excellent choices for shots or fruity mixed drinks. 

This being true about most Blanco tequila, our Rosa Blanco is the exception. This is due to our unique aging process, as all Calirosa Tequila is aged in red wine barrels sourced from the most prestigious wine regions of California. Our Rosa Blanco tequila is agave forward with orange, cherry, and dark berry notes with aromas of strawberry, raspberry, and honey.

Reposado tequila, or rested tequila, is where many enthusiasts begin their tequila sipping journeys. Unlike silver tequila or gold tequila, Reposado tequila is aged between 2 to 12 months. They have a softer flavor as a result of this low-key aging process, with sweet notes of vanilla, cinnamon, and caramel.

Reposado tequila is an excellent starter sipping tequila because of its drinkability. It can be enjoyed chilled on the rocks or neat and adds depth to craft cocktails and mixed drinks. 

Higher up on the hierarchy of the best sipping tequilas are añejo and extra añejo tequila. If you’re a tequila lover with some knowledge looking to expand upon your tequila drinking experience, this is the tequila to drink. There is even ultra-premium tequila that is aged for between six to eight years. 

What should you look for on the tequila bottle?

There are a few items you should look for on the bottle when purchasing tequila to ensure you’re getting a high-quality spirit that is good for sipping. 

Tequilas are made from the Blue Agave plant. Tequila is required by Mexican state law to have at least 51% agave content. What you want to keep an eye out for are notes on the bottle like “100% Blue Agave,” or “100% Agave Azul.” 

A 100% agave on the label indicates that there are no other flavors or additions like yeast or water added to the tequila during its distillation process. It is made from pure agave. Tequilas with this label on their bottle have a more refined and distinct taste than tequilas with additives. 

Is añejo good for sipping? 

Let’s talk about what añejo tequila is and why it makes such an excellent sipping tequila. 

With its smooth, smokey flavor and rich, dark coloring, añejo tequila is a delicious tequila that drinks like an expertly aged bourbon or whiskey. Tequila lovers appreciate its complex and inviting drinkability. 

Añejo translates to “vintage” or “aged.” To be considered an añejo tequila, it needs to have been aged for a minimum of 12 months. Many distilleries will age their añejo tequila for longer than a year, sometimes up to three years. This distillation process really rounds out and enriches the tequila.

As the tequila ages, it takes on the essence and colors of the barrel it sits in. For example, our award-winning Añejo Tequila is aged for 18 months in red wine barrels. It has a warm reddish-brown color that has notes of vanilla, caramel, nutmeg, toffee, and chocolate. The red wine barrels also lend our añejo tequila a ripe fruit vibe that helps round out its profile. 

Other añejo tequilas are aged in French oak, white oak, or American oak barrels. Tequilas aged in American oak typically take on a warm, sweet taste with maple syrup and vanilla notes, while French oak barrels lend notes of baking spice to the drink. 

Extra Añejo tequila is a newer classification of aged tequila. This type of good sipping tequila is aged for at least three years to give it an even stronger, richer flavor profile. This type has a dark caramel or amber color and can be best enjoyed with a rich dessert or as a palate cleanser between courses. 

How do you drink sipping tequila? 

If you find yourself at a bar, but you’re not quite sure how to sip tequila, you’re not alone. Many people who are new to sipping tequila either drink it too fast or don’t use the right tequila sipping glasses.

As its name suggests, sipping tequila should be sipped. Traditionally, it is best enjoyed either neat or on the rocks. Many people prefer it chilled, although between 62 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit is technically the ideal temperature to enjoy it at. 

Savor the experience 

To get the full experience of sipping tequila, there are a few steps to take. You may feel a little silly at first, but it is important to savor the tequila and enjoy what each sip has to offer. 

For starters, you should simply observe the tequila in your glass. Notice its color and transparency. Blanco tequila will be clear, while añejo or extra añejo tequila will have dark, golden tones like a glass of brandy. 

Then, give it a gentle swirl. This will help aerate the tequila and let its full taste and aroma characteristics bloom. As 80% of what we taste is a result of our sense of smell, we recommend giving it a small sniff at this point to help you identify some of the tequila’s key flavors and smells. Your nose should be almost touching the rim of the glass.

Sniffing is an important part of the tasting process, but it is also important to note that you don’t want to take a deep inhale when sniffing your sipping tequila. It is high-proof alcohol, typically between 76 to 80 proof, which can overwhelm your nose! Take small, short sniffs instead. 

When you take your first sip, your instinct will likely be to choke it down to avoid the signature burn associated with the cheap tequila of your youth. Instead, you should swish the sip of tequila in your mouth for a few seconds to truly taste the full range of flavors before swallowing. 

Of course, if you’re new to sipping tequila, even a high-quality tequila may be too much for your tastebuds to handle. You can always keep a pinch of salt and some lime on hand, or enjoy it in a mixed drink to help ease into the experience. 

Whether you enjoy it alone or in a cocktail, be sure to take your time and utilize your senses to get to know the tequila you’re drinking. 

Choose the right glass 

What type of glass do you use when sipping tequila is more than a valid question. Similar to the way different wine glasses bring out the flavor and aromas of their contents, the type of glass you use to sip your tequila also plays a huge role in the drinking experience. Using the wrong glass can drastically affect how much you end up enjoying the tequila.

Snifter

A large brandy snifter is one of the best ways to enjoy sipping tequila. The wide, hollow bowl of the glass and its slightly narrower opening allow for the nuances of the tequila to show up on your palette. The softer, harder-to-notice notes will become more readily apparent when drunk from a snifter. 

Old Fashioned glass

Old-fashioned glasses, also known as rocks glasses or lowball glasses, are another great option for enjoying sipping tequila. Their round, squat shape is perfect for large ice cubes, swirling liquid, and stirring or mixing. They also provide a decent-sized surface area for the tequila and its various aromas to permeate your senses. 

Champagne Flute 

The narrow, slightly tulip-shaped glass of a champagne flute will help you savor the drink by concentrating the scents towards your nose. 

Can I try sipping tequila in a cocktail? 

Sipping tequilas can be enjoyed alone. However, that doesn’t exclude them from cocktails. 

Calirosa Añejo Tequila blends perfectly with fresh ingredients and high-quality liquors to make delightfully diverse cocktails. We recommend trying it in our signature Expresso Martini with a shot of espresso, agave syrup, and coffee liquor.

If coffee isn’t your favorite, you could also try the Mexican Boulevardier, a complex drink made with sweet vermouth, campari, and orange peels, or something more daring like the Jalisco Punch.

What meals can be enjoyed with sipping tequila? 

What you eat and drink alongside your sipping tequila will affect the way you perceive its subtleties and nuances. Prefacing your sipping tequila with a spicy meal will make the tequila taste differently to you, for example. 

In general, tequila pairs well with a wide range of foods. The best blanco tequilas work well with lighter fare like seafood and vegetables, while reposado pairs nicely with spicy and grilled foods.

Sipping tequila has a sweeter, richer taste. It’s bold and meant to be savored. Therefore, it is best enjoyed with sweet foods like dark chocolate or rich desserts. It can also go well with savory meals like steak in a mushroom sauce. 

Extra añejo tequila is best served alone. Its lengthy aging process gives it a rich, intense flavor profile and is incredibly smooth. You could potentially pair it with red meat or chocolatey desserts, but we recommend saving this type of sipping tequila for after your meal. 

The best sipping tequila takeaways. 

One smooth sip of a high-quality sipping tequila will have you reevaluating everything you thought you knew about this liquor. 

Our award-winning tequilas are a family recipe made with 100% blue agave. They have an outstandingly smooth taste and a beautiful glow. They pair well with a variety of dishes, elevate the standard cocktail recipe, and stand out on their own as great drinking tequila.

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