TO THOSE WHO think the two kinds of tequila are Cuervo Gold and Silver, take note: There’s a reason Tequila Night often turns into a murky morning after. Popular bar brands, called “mixto” tequilas, contain a minimum of 51 percent blue agave; the rest is a headache-inducing blend of fermentable sugars and caramel coloring. Pure tequila is labeled 100 percent agave and is broken down into blanco, reposado and anejo.

When alcohol supplies from Europe dried up during World War II, importing tequila from Mexico surfaced as an appealing alternative, explains Steve Fowler, general manager of Oyamel Cocina Mexicana. Its sudden popularity resulted in low-quality spirits bottled quickly to make a fast buck. Imbibers killed the flavor by licking salt and sucking on limes.

Today’s tequila lovers, though, say the pure variety is too complex to knock back as a throwaway shot. “In a lot of ways, tequila is a more nuanced spirit because of the three general fields,” says Adam Bernbach, bar manager at Proof downtown.

» Blanco is distilled un-aged tequila. The harsh, agave-forward flavor is best for swigging shots or mixed with dry vermouth for an herbaceous martini-style cocktail.

» Reposado sits in wood barrels for two to 11 months, a process that infuses the spirit with a sweeter, more balanced flavor. Fans of Manhattans might try swapping this for bourbon.

» Anejo, aged from one to three years, is sweeter yet with heavy notes of baking spices and vanilla, while tequila aged more than three years is classified as an extra anejo. Similar to Scotch, these spirits are best sipped slowly or sweetened as an Old-Fashioned cocktail.

» Sip Pure Sophistication: Handcrafted Tequila is Just as Tasty On Its Own

Written by Express contributor Katie Knorovsky
Photo by Marge Ely/Express