Sip, taste and enjoy: 5 tequila misperceptions debunked


Tequila can be a very misunderstand spirit. Are you ready to get five common misperceptions debunked for good?

What do you know about tequila? Sure, it is the liquor used in a tequila. Some people might have a bad memory from college spring break. Why is tequila so misunderstood? The agave liquor can be a wonderfully nuanced, beautiful flavor. Whether enjoying in a cocktail or sipped on its own, it is time to rediscover this classic spirit.

In honor of National Tequila Day, I had the opportunity to interview Herradura’s brand ambassador, Holden Ching. Herradura has been crafting and estate-bottling since 1870. Considered the brand who invented the Reposado category, the brand is committed to continuing its heritage within the industry.

As brand ambassador, Holden Ching educates people on the art of tequila making. Through his passion for the spirit and the industry, Ching makes the often misunderstood Mexican spirit more approachable and engaging for both the consumer and the mixologist.

During a recent conversation, below are a series of questions and answers regarding 5 tequila misperceptions.

Herradura silver tequila, photo provided by Herradura

Cristine Struble (CS): If you have never tried Tequila before, what type of Tequila should you try first? What types of flavors should you taste?

Holden Ching (HC): If you’re new to drinking Tequila, I always recommend you try a Silver or Blanco Tequila – in our case, Herradura Silver. Most people are familiar with clear spirits, and therefore are most comfortable trying a Silver Tequila if new to the category. Our Silver Tequila is extremely versatile, sippable and smooth, with hints of citrus and vanilla. In addition to a Silver Tequila, I would also recommend Herradura Ultra, our newest expression, which we’re currently launching nationally. It’s a blend of our Añejo and premium Extra Añejo that has been aged for up to 49 months in American White Oak barrels. A subtle hint of Agave nectar is added before the liquid is filtered, creating a rich, crystal-clear Tequila with a full-bodied flavor and smooth taste, perfect for first time drinkers.

CS: How can you re-introduce someone back to Tequila after a bad experience or bad memory (like those bad Tequila shots in college)?

HC: I first help them understand what may have been in the shot glass (because it was most certainly a shot glass) during the bad memory. Whereas less expensive Tequilas you may have tried in college were mixtos, or Tequilas with sugars pulled from non-Agave plants, like sugar cane, Herradura, and nearly all other Ultra-premium Tequilas, are 100 percent Agave Tequilas. The fermentation and distillation process of Ultra-premium Tequilas are also very important. At Herradura, we use our double distillation process to refine and elevate the complex fruit and herbaceous flavors that come from our all-natural fermentation process, developing a much cleaner, smoother Tequila. Then, I like to use any one of our Herradura expressions, and help them develop an understanding and appreciation for the spirit – have them nose the Tequila and see what types of nodes they pull out. Have them put the Tequila on their tongue and move it around. The more they start to realize Tequila has a lot of similarities to spirits they already enjoy as adults – such as wine, whiskey and scotch – the more comfortable they become.

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  • CS: Should some tequilas be used in cocktails and others used just for sipping?

    HC: Tequila is a more versatile spirit than many realize. While there are Tequilas that do mix better than others, you should feel comfortable getting creative with different expressions and cocktails. For example, while I may use our Herradura Silver to make a classic Margarita, our Añejo can be a great replacement in whiskey cocktails, whether it be a Manhattan or Old Fashioned with Aztec Chocolate Bitters. There are certain expressions that I do think are best enjoyed neat. Our Extra Añejo, aged for four years in an American oak barrel, is a great after dinner drink, taking the place of a port or Sherri. It’s the type of drink I prefer neat after a few long days on the road, or with my fiancé after a brutal day of wedding planning.

    CS: I was once told to sip Tequila Blanca from a champagne flute (better to enjoy the aroma) and an Añejo Tequila from a sniffer (the warmth from your hands releases the aromas). Does the style of glass really matter?

    HC: The type of glass does matter, however I wouldn’t stress too hard over trying to find a snifter if you have a champagne flute or white wine glass at the ready. With whichever expression you’re sipping – whether it be a silver or an Añejo – you want a glass with tall walls that allows the Tequila to breathe. We actually see the glass as three separate sections, which present three different opportunities for understanding the spirit. The lowest third of the glass identifies aromas from the base of the spirit, in this case cooked Agave. The middle third identifies barrel aging characteristics and lastly, the top third which should have a clean, but smooth alcohol aroma to signify a Tequila with a high quality distillation process.

    CS: How can you pair Tequila with foods? Everyone always things about Mexican foods/flavors, but what are some other cuisines that pair well with Tequila?

    HC: To understand the kind of food/flavors that are best to pair with Tequila, you need to understand what flavors exist in your Tequila. A Silver Tequila has natural citrus and herbaceous notes. This goes great with seafood and chicken, providing a “brightness” from the citrus notes. Reposado and Añejo tend to compliment more of a complex, rich dish like a steak, roasted chicken or Italian dishes.

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    Are you ready to rediscover tequila? Pour yourself a glass and enjoy a sip. You might surprise yourself.