What is Tequila? A Crash Course for National Tequila Day

National Tequila Day in the U.S. falls on July 24 each year.

Since 2018, Mexico has celebrated its “native son” on the third Saturday of March.

What is Tequila?

If you want an introduction to tequila, National Tequila Day is the perfect time to hustle to a tasting someplace close to home.

Tequila tastings have become increasingly popular at bars, restaurants, hotels and resorts throughout the year, but especially on the national holiday.

Here’s a little background so you can hold your own with any tequila master and host a tasting at home!

A product of Mexico

All authentic tequilas come from Mexico, where many people consider it the national drink. In fact, this distilled spirit, which is usually 70-80 proof, can only be called tequila if it is grown in Jalisco (near Guadalajara) or other surrounding states: Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit and Tamaulipas.

Tequila is distilled from the juices of the blue agave plant, a succulent that was first planted and harvested by the Aztecs.

Tequila is sold either 100 percent pure—or mixed (mixto), containing at least 51 % agave. The flavor of the latter is less complex.

Agave fields where Tequila and Mezcal are produced
Agave fields where Tequila and Mezcal are produced

All tequila isn’t the same

Based on data from the Consejo Regulador Del Tequila (the Tequila Regulatory Council ), there are some 1000 different brands of tequila. Depending on the length they’ve been aged, they fall into four distinct classifications:

  • Blanco (unaged), also called white or silver
  • Reposado (aged between 2 months to less than a year)
  • Anejo (aged between one and less than 3 years), and
  • Extra Anejo (aged more than five years)

Depending on individual tastes, people prefer one type over another.

National Tequila Day takes place in the U.S. every July.
National Tequila Day takes place in the U.S. every July.

On National Tequila Day: Tips for tasting

You don’t have to wait for National Tequila Day to get a taste of this agave-based spirit.

And when you’re drinking high-quality tequila, forget the shots! (People use cheap, chilled tequila for that.)

Like fine wines or brandy, good tequilas are complex in flavor and meant to be sipped slowly.

Of course, 100% tequila should not only be sipped slowly but should be served neat. The drink stands on its own without ice, which can numb the palate.

Steps for organizing a tequila tasting at home

Three types of Prospero tequila
Three types of Prospero tequila

Choose the tequilas and nibbles

  • You can either choose different types of tequilas (blanco, reposado, añejo, extra añejo) for your tasting—or you can choose different brands of one type of Tequila. 
  • Of course, the better the quality of the Tequilas, the more likely your friends are likely to enjoy the experience.
  • Keep the tequilas at room temperature before tasting.
  • You’ll also want some snacks for guests to cleanse their palates. Guacamole and chips or crackers and cheese are always a favorite.

Set the scene

  • Choose a spot in your home (perhaps, a table, bar, or kitchen counter) where your guests can comfortably sit while you pour the tequila.
  • It’s fun to use interesting glasses for the tasting. Also, it’s best to provide each guest with separate glasses for each tequila they will be tasting.
  • (We’ve enjoyed using these elegant tequila sipping glasses that allow you to pour without measuring (a typical shot of 1.5 oz comes up to the crease line.)
  • Some guests may prefer to taste and spit (as people do when tasting wine), so set a spit bucket on the table.

Educate your “tasters”

  • Explain a bit about the history of tequila, where it’s produced, and the different types they will taste.
  • Pour small amounts of tequila into each glass.

Begin sipping (and chatting)

  • Similar to wine tasting, taste tequilas in order of the lightest to the heaviest. If you’re not sure which is which, check with your bartender or liquor merchant.
  • After you’ve poured, ask your guests to swirl each type of tequila in the glass, sniff it, hold it in their mouth, and then talk about its flavors, aromas, and textures.
  • You might want to provide a pad and pencil at each place setting so people can take notes and compare the different types afterward.

A Tip for Choosing Tequila

A code printed on the back of every tequila bottle includes a four-digit code (Norma Official Mexicana or NOM) identifying the distillery where it was made. A little more research can help you evaluate how it was made and its quality.

You can also enjoy tequila-based foods and cocktails

The flavorful taste of tequila is often used in recipes for cooked dishes (e.g., as a glaze for grilled poultry).

Of course, the most popular mixed tequila-based drink is the traditional margarita, made with tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice. At Rosewood Mayakoba in Riviera Maya, Mexico, the drink is prepared in these proportions: 1½ ounces of white tequila, an ounce of Cointreau, ½ ounce of simple syrup, and 1 ounce of lime juice.

First, rub the rim of the glass with lime juice and dip in salt. Then shake all the ingredients with ice, strain into a glass and serve.

If you prefer a simpler tequila cocktail, it pairs beautifully with Squirt (or any other grapefruit-based carbonated drink). For a refreshing summer drink, we fill a tall glass with ice, pour 1-½ ounces of tequila over the ice, fill the rest of the glass with Squirt, and then mix.

And, of course, drink responsibly.

Here are some other mouth-watering tequila cocktails to enjoy:

The Langham Hotel Sydney’s La Senorita

La Senorita at the Langham, Sydney
La Senorita at the Langham, Sydney (credit: Langham, Sydney)

The 5-star Langham Hotel Sydney launched the “La Senorita” cocktail in its Observatory Bar to launch its collaboration with Rita Ora, chief creative officer of Próspero Tequila. 

The feminine name shouldn’t come as a surprise because the Próspero Master Distiller is also a woman, Stella Anguiano.

Recipe for the Langham Hotel Sydney La Senorita Tequila Cocktail

Yield: 1 cocktail

The Langham Hotel Sydney La Senorita

La Senorita at the Langham, Sydney

This beautiful (feminine-hued) tequila cocktail is served at the Observatory Bar in Sydney


  • 1.5 oz. Prospero Anejo
  • 1.2 oz. Grapefruit Juice
  • .6 oz. Lime Juice
  • .5 oz. Grenadine
  • .5 oz. Agave


  1. Shake ingredients
  2. Fine strain the cocktail over ice in an on-the-rocks glass
  3. Garnish with thyme, flowers and lime.

Bribón Breeze 

Bribón Breeze (credit: Palm Bay International)
Bribón Breeze (credit: Palm Bay International)

The Mexican legend of the Bribón is that of a person who sets his or her own rules: Someone who never accepts negativity and always embraces life. Bribón tequila is a fusion of old traditions and modern technology.

The Bribón Breeze is a refreshing cocktail to enjoy at the beach or at home. 

Recipe for the Bribón Breeze Tequila Cocktail

Bribón Breeze

Bribón Breeze (credit: Palm Bay International)

The Bribón Breeze] is a refreshing blend of old and new


  • 1.25 oz Bribón Blanco Tequila
  • .5 oz Bauchant Orange Liqueur
  • 1 oz Cranberry Juice
  • 2 oz Pineapple Juice
  • .25 oz lime (lime wedge squeezed and dropped in)


  1. Combine all ingredients in shaker with ice, toss
  2. Serve in a rocks glass
  3. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Golden Ranch Water Tequila Cocktail

Golden Ranch Water Cocktail
Golden Ranch Water Cocktail (credit: Grand Velas Resorts)

The AAA Five-Diamond Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit resort on Mexico’s Pacific Coast has designed the ultimate getaway for Tequila lovers. Called “Fly Over Tequila,” the five-day itinerary offers a “blend” of hands-on and didactic experiences, including an overnight trip to the town of Tequila in Jalisco, Mexico.

The resort graciously shared its recipe for the Golden Ranch Water tequila cocktail. The beautiful drink tastes delicious and refreshing, infused with 24K edible gold flakes.

Recipe for the Golden Ranch Water Tequila Cocktail

Yield: 1 drink

Golden Ranch Water Tequila Cocktail

Golden Ranch Water Cocktail

This refreshing Tequila cocktail is served at Grand Velas Riviera Maya Nayarit.


  • 3 jalapeño slices
  • 1 Lime, freshly sliced
  • 1.5 oz Lime juice, sweetened
  • Chili lime seasoning (optional)
  • 1 Topo chico sparkling mineral water
  • 3 oz of Tequila La Santa


  1. Prepare your seasoning and rim the top of the glass with chili lime seasoning.
  2. Add the tequila, lime juice and jalapeno slices to the glass.
  3. Add ice and top off with Topo chico and a lime slice to garnish
  4. Serve and enjoy!

Pixie Margarita Tequila Cocktail 

Spread across a coastal valley on 220 oak-studded acres, the AAA Five-Diamond Ojai Valley Inn “combines the region’s spirituality with modern luxury.” The property offers seven unique dining outlets with settings that range from fast-casual and poolside to fine dining. One of the Inn’s signature drinks, the tequila-based Pixie Margarita. is served in season at the Wallace Neff Heritage Bar

Wallace Neff Heritage Bar on National Tequila Day
Wallace Neff Heritage Bar (credit: Ojai Valley Inn)

Recipe for the Pixie Margarita

Yield: For one

Pixie Margarita

National Tequila Day - Pixie Margarita

Pixie Tangerines, a citrus hybrid fruit indigenous to Ojai Valley, blooms ONCE a year beginning mid-spring. Try this specialty cocktail that celebrates the Ojai Valley.


  • 1½ oz Codigo Blanco Tequila
  • 1 oz Cointreau; 2 oz fresh squeezed Pixie tangerine juice
  • ½ oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ oz fresh squeezed lime juice


  1. Add all ingredients to a shaker tin full of ice. Shake vigorously.
  2. Wipe the rim of a rocks glass with a Pixie tangerine wedge, dip into kosher salt, then fill with ice.
  3. train cocktail into glass and garnish with lime and Pixie tangerine wedges.

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