How to Order Tequila Without Sounding Like an Idiot

Tequila, the Mexican spirit made from blue agave, is one of the world’s most beloved yet misunderstood liquors. All too often, low-quality tequilas served internationally are blended with additives and bottled in fancy-looking containers, and high-quality ones are shot back with salt and lime, compromising the sophistication of its flavor.

While everyone should feel empowered to drink liquor any way they want, we’re offering a simple guide to make sure you don’t embarrass yourself when you order your tequila neat. The part where you embarrass yourself happens after.

Know what to look for.

If you’re interested in enjoying a quality tequila and not, say, blacking out with the boys, there are a few things to keep in mind. “Look for 100 percent agave, no additives and usually ones that come from a single producer,” says TJ Steele, chef at the Oaxacan restaurant Claro. “There are two main regions that produce tequila; the highlands typically produce sweeter and fruitier tequilas, while the ones from the lowlands are often spicier and earthier.”

Ditch the salt and lime.

If you need to take a moment to recover from this bombshell, we understand.

“Unless you’re tasting a bunch of tequilas and want lime to cleanse your palate, I say no—and definitely never use salt,” adds Steele. Rather, tequila should be sipped thoughtfully.

“It’s always good to understand the expression by itself, so neat is always better, just to sip it, same as a good scotch or whiskey,” says José María Dondé Rangel, a bartender at Cosme in New York. “Once you’re used to it and know the flavor by itself, you can go ahead and mix in a cocktail.”