There’s a scene in a mediocre movie called Three Amigos where Steve Martin, Martin Short and Chevy Chase enter a seedy Mexican cantina and experience tequila for the first time.

Our three heroes take their shots, spasm and gasp for air. Afterwards, they perform “My Little Buttercup” for the confused cantina patrons.

That approximately summarizes the reputation, especially among college students, of tequila: It makes you gag, burns like fire and makes you do funny things. While there is some truth to this stereotype, the real problem is poor-quality tequila — almost any cheap liquor will offend your taste buds and make you desperate for a chaser.

Tequila is actually one of the most interesting liquors to drink and to mix. Tequila, by Mexican law, is made of at least 51 percent blue agave, the best being 100 percent blue agave.  Tequila generally comes in three varieties. The first variant, called blanco (white) or plata (silver), is bottled directly after distillation. Blanco tequila is the clearest and purest of the tequilas; its simple agave taste makes it usually the best tequila to mix with. Reposado and añejo are aged for a few months or a few years, respectively, in oak barrels. The oak barrels make the tequilas darker and give them more complex flavor profiles that can vary dramatically depending on the oak used. High-end tequilas, especially theañejos, are excellent for sipping without mixers in the same way good scotch should be sipped. Generally speaking, the more you shell out, the better. But if you aren’t looking to spend a lot of money, look for inexpensive bottles with “100 percent agave” on the label.

When you’ve acquired your tequila, there are some simple recipes to try.

Margarita
1.5 oz. 100 percent agave tequila
0.75 oz. orange liqueur (e.g., Cointreau, Curacao, Grand Marnier)
0.5 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice

Pour all ingredients in a cocktail shaker full of ice. Shake until cold, strain into a (kosher) salt-rimmed glass and garnish with a lime wheel. Start with this recipe, and then enhance it by making frozen margaritas or adding strawberries.

Pepper Tequila
Tequila blanco
Seeds from a hot pepper (e.g., jalapeno, sichuan, or cayenne).

Let the pepper seeds soak in a glass of tequila for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain out. Use the infused tequila in a mixed drink. The drink’s primary taste will remain unaltered, but the capsicum from the seeds will leave a fiery aftertaste.

Mint Paloma
4 to 5 mint leaves
1.5 oz. grapefruit juice
Club soda
0.5 tbsp. lemon or lime juice
1.5 oz. Tequila
1 tsp. agave or sugar syrup (granulated sugar will also work)

In a cocktail shaker, mix the sugar syrup and mint leaves until the leaves begin to fall apart. Add tequila, grapefruit juice and lime juice. Shake vigorously, and strain the mixture over ice. Top with club soda and a slice of lime.

Preston Mui is a senior in the College. BURLEITH BARTENDER appears every other Friday in the guide.

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