5@5 -  Maestra Tequilera Bertha González Nieves
November 29th, 2010
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Speaking of making spirits bright . . .

Bertha González Nieves is the CEO and co-founder of Casa Dragones tequila alongside partner Bob Pittman, who just so happens to be the founder of MTV. González Nieves was also the first woman to be accredited as a Maestra Tequilera, or certified tequila expert - think Master Sommelier, but for tequila.

Now, she's plopped down into the 5@5 hot seat to offer a little sip of knowledge: Tequila isn’t all lime wedges, salt shakers and yard-long margaritas.

Five Things You Should Look For in a Great Tequila: Bertha González Nieves

1. Made in Mexico.
"Like Champagne, scotch and wines such as Bordeaux, tequila has an appellation of origin. This means it can only be produced in certain regions of Mexico, including the Valley of Tequila in Jalisco, where our agave plants are harvested. Check the label to be sure your tequila is made in Mexico. If it’s not, then it’s not real tequila."

2. Keep it Pure.
"Look for tequilas that are made from 100 percent pure agave, otherwise you will be getting a tequila with added sugars, colors and flavors. There are five official classifications of 100% Agave Tequila: Blanco, Joven, Reposado, Añejo, Extra Añejo. Tequilas that are 100 percent pure agave are higher in quality, and allow you to experience the true taste of the agave plant."

3. Please Be Clear.
"Hold your glass of tequila up to the light to check that is has nice transparency and no floating particles. Fine tequila will have impeccable clarity and a brilliant or very bright color, which in our case is a brilliant platinum hue. Our clarity is the result of an extremely refined filtration process. Great tequilas will be bright and clear, and won’t look cloudy or dull."

4. The Nose Knows.
"There are over 600 different aromas identified from the agave plant. With a fine tequila, you should be able to detect very sweet, citrus, honey and floral notes. Start at the bottom of the glass to detect sweet cooked agave notes. Make sure there are no chemical aromas, or very strong alcohol scents. Move your nose to the middle of the glass to sense more of the sweet, citrus or honey notes. Nosing the top of the glass will give you a sense of the aging process, in our case mellow oak and hints of spice and vanilla."

5. Taste is King.
"When tasting tequila, you should look for good alcohol to flavor ratio on the palate, meaning you don’t want the alcohol burn to overpower the delicious agave flavors. The agave, fruit, pepper and floral notes should be sweet and smooth, enticing you to take a second sip. The finish should be warm and soft, with no bitter aftertaste. A great tequila should be easily sipped, without lime or salt to mask the taste."

How do you take your tequila: Straight? With salt and a squirt of lime? In a gimlet or margarita? Spill it in the comments.

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Sip • Spirits • Think

soundoff (79 Responses)
  1. John David

    Get the guys of casa noble tequila, that is my favorite and much more reasonable price.

    November 30, 2010 at 7:14 pm |
  2. soleada

    My boyfriend & I drink Cien Anos Reposado straight up... Or mixed w a little Squirt soda.

    November 30, 2010 at 5:03 pm |
  3. Rob G in Chicago

    @ eae5:

    A surprisingly good and inexpensive tequila can be found at, of all places, COSTCO. They have their own private label 100% agave anejo tequila and it sells for only about $23 a bottle, or about half the price of a fairly decent premium tequila. I find it way tastier and smother than Patron anejo. My favorite, when I can find/afford it is Chinaco anejo. One interesting product put out by the folks at Patron is a tequila version of Kaluah, a coffee liquor; much better in Black or White Russians.

    November 30, 2010 at 9:23 am |
  4. eae5

    Liked this article. Wish there were a few recommendations of good tequila included.

    November 30, 2010 at 8:43 am |
  5. Nat

    Love tequila! The only drink with no hangover for me! I like it in shots, margaritas, T Sunrise, Oh-and it's good with sweet tea too....but that's a southern thing...sorry. J/I/K you all read this @Truth, RichardHead and SirBiddle you guys crack me up! Hope no one threw their back out last night.....

    November 30, 2010 at 8:14 am |
  6. Good Boozer

    Tequila is great. That is, until the human is added.

    November 30, 2010 at 5:19 am |
  7. Grogg

    Mmmm.......Tequila is my fren.

    November 30, 2010 at 1:46 am |
  8. Travis

    staight up baby! NFL!

    November 29, 2010 at 10:32 pm |
  9. Juarez

    Tequila makes me want to fight,have to be careful with it.

    November 29, 2010 at 10:31 pm |
  10. Chris

    I used to be a single malt scotch affectionado. It now a fine tequila. Just a splash of water, wait a few moments and bingo.

    November 29, 2010 at 10:27 pm |
  11. Alvarado

    You have to take a legitimately GOOD tequila straight. Shooting, low quality tequila necessitates the use of salt/lime, and you would never want to put a good tequila in a mixed drink. My favorite at the moment is the Don Julio 1942 Special Edition. Has an amazing sweet taste with vanilla and honey tones (trying to decide if i get a hint of hazelnut), and has a nice oak finish (although not overpowering). Good tequila, like any fine liquor, should be had in a nice glass snifter. I could sip on DJ42 all day.

    November 29, 2010 at 10:16 pm |
    • SquidMB

      Same with El Tesoro Paridiso – but for me these ultra-premium tequilas are more like cognacs (hence the brandy snifter) and although I find them VERY tasty, when I want tequila I prefer the ones that are not distilled quite as much (and they fit the pocketbook better). I won't turn down a 'shot' if you are pouring, however :-)

      November 30, 2010 at 10:40 am |
  12. Tom

    So I guess finding people passed out on the floor next to a tequila bottle is not a good sign? Remember the old saying? One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, FLOOR!!!!

    November 29, 2010 at 10:10 pm |
  13. Hernandez

    Another tip: If your tequila tastes "green", the agave was probably left a little bit "raw" and does not make for a good tequila.

    My absolute favorite tequila blanco was from a blank-label private batch from a friend of the family in Guadalajara. I guess you could call it Mexican moon-shine, as it was a private experimental sampling from the owner of a local distillery. We all most definitely approved!

    November 29, 2010 at 9:56 pm |
  14. Brian

    My absolute favorite twist on the Whiskey Old Fashioned is the Tequila Old Fashioned – Robert Hess made a pretty good drink here:

    November 29, 2010 at 9:19 pm |
  15. Larry Molmud

    "Start at the bottom of the glass?" How the heck do you do that? Unclear writing.

    November 29, 2010 at 8:56 pm |
    • Gary

      I was thinking the exact same thing and still can't figure out what she meant by that.

      November 29, 2010 at 9:51 pm |
      • Joe Bleaux

        Maybe pour just a tiny bit in the glass? Then sniff it (or snort it) :-)

        November 30, 2010 at 9:18 am |
  16. TLANG

    I take my tequila in a tough guy.
    recipe: 1 shot of tequila, lime slice, and some salt.
    Prep the salt on the base of the thumb, take the shot, snort the salt and squeeze the lime in your eye. Tequila straight is the only way.

    November 29, 2010 at 8:52 pm |
  17. villa

    straight of course.
    a huevo ue directo
    sin sal ni limon

    November 29, 2010 at 8:51 pm |


    November 29, 2010 at 8:38 pm |

    Grace is right……. If you need training wheels skip the lime and salt and try the cinnamon and orange slice

    November 29, 2010 at 8:17 pm |
  20. The Dude

    I find Cuervo 1600 to be a smooth shot. In my college days, I drank Two Fingers Tequila by the gallon.

    November 29, 2010 at 8:12 pm |
  21. Foodie

    I like it straight.

    November 29, 2010 at 8:12 pm |
    • Tom

      ...that's what she said.

      November 29, 2010 at 10:13 pm |
  22. Vic

    The liquor with the worm in it is actually Mezcal from which Tequila is distilled. They are both from the agave (maguey) plant, with the very best tequila coming from the Blue Agave plant specifically. The worm in the bottle is a marketing scam. True Mexicans laugh at Gringos that pound down on that worm, idiots!

    November 29, 2010 at 8:12 pm |
    • The Dude

      And we laugh at Mexicans who try to drive a 4 person car with 9 people in it.

      November 29, 2010 at 8:17 pm |
  23. SquidMB

    Some favorites – sipped straight! Notice no Patron!

    Blanco – Arette Suave Blanco
    Reposado – El Tesoro Reposado
    Anejo – SAN MATIAS ORGULLO ANEJO <== best for the money!

    Honorable Mentions: Sol de Mexico Anejo, Chichenitza Reposado, Don Julio Anejo (comp'd at Flamingo in Vegas)

    November 29, 2010 at 8:10 pm |
  24. Gerry

    "eatocracy" WTF? Stupid.

    November 29, 2010 at 8:08 pm |
  25. Praetorian

    Ay Carumba!

    November 29, 2010 at 8:07 pm |
  26. Paul

    Penca Azul – There is a good pure tequila.

    November 29, 2010 at 7:51 pm |
  27. Grace

    An orange slice coated in cinnamon tastes much better than the lime and salt trick, in my opinion.

    November 29, 2010 at 7:44 pm |
  28. Tequila Guy

    One tequila two tequila three tequila FLOOR! WOOOOOOO!

    November 29, 2010 at 7:36 pm |
  29. fob

    I found this to be a very informative 5@5, but I don't know that much about tequila either.......just that it tastes good!

    p.s. Is Kat choosing these sultry pics on purpose? That was my first thought when I opened this page. It's fun to tune into the daily 5@5 "hitting" competition either way.

    November 29, 2010 at 7:16 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      As it happens, Sarah usually edits 5@5, so you might wanna ask her...

      November 29, 2010 at 8:14 pm |
  30. FrankFan

    Try the Palmia at Sushi Sambia. One of the best tequila-based cocktails around.

    November 29, 2010 at 7:07 pm |
  31. bigben

    Looked on the website for their tequila. They say it's made in San Miguel de Allende which not only isn't in the Tequila region, but is in Guanajuato. It's not even in Jalisco, so according to her own rules, this isn't a good one.

    November 29, 2010 at 6:56 pm |
    • BlueCrus

      I think the article stated that is where the agave came from, not where it was bottled or manufactured.

      November 29, 2010 at 7:39 pm |
  32. bigben

    Wow. She's a certified master of the obvious. You mean tequila is mescal from the Tequila region of Jalisco? No way. Next you'll tell me that cognac is brandy from the Cognac region of France.

    November 29, 2010 at 6:43 pm |
    • Joe Bleaux

      Mescal is made from the peyote cactus, tequilla is made from the agave cactus. Mescal will mess up your head...

      November 30, 2010 at 9:02 am |
  33. Truth@RichHead, Biddle, AD, EvilG

    I'm out. Home to make blackened mahi mahi for my bride. Talk to y'all tomorrow!

    November 29, 2010 at 5:57 pm |
  34. Valerie

    Informative and learned quite a bit until I got to all the loser comments...............you guys can go back to your Pabst Blue Ribbon in mommies basement now, the grown up big people are talking.......

    November 29, 2010 at 5:52 pm |
    • Dean Martin

      BUUUUUUUUUUUUURP. Excuse me!

      November 29, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
    • bigben

      She didn't give me any information that isn't totally obvious.

      November 29, 2010 at 6:49 pm |
    • KA

      I like 1800 Anejo. Like to sip it on a cold winter night like tonight.

      November 29, 2010 at 10:03 pm |
  35. Dean Martin

    It's a Bloody Mary Mornin-Oh wait,It's Just the tequila talkin!

    November 29, 2010 at 5:45 pm |
    • Kris Kristofferson

      Nope, it's Sunday Morning Coming Down.

      November 29, 2010 at 5:49 pm |
      • TheEagles

        No, it's another tequilla sunrise.

        November 30, 2010 at 8:59 am |
  36. Shelly West


    November 29, 2010 at 5:35 pm |
  37. AuroraDawn

    LOL You guys are too funny! Looky there a brunette too!!!!! Anyhow, so as to remain topical (because some people don't like off topic chat) I love a good Margarita, but straight Tequila would wipe me out!!!!

    November 29, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
    • RichardHead@AD

      Be honest,You would feint at the sight of the worm in the bottle. They are a little crunchy but taste oh so good.

      November 29, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
      • AuroraDawn

        UGH,Yeah I'm definitely a tequila lightweight. You guys can keep the worm!!!! My vote still goes for it mixed. That nasty, fire in your throat thing when you shoot it straight is too harsh for me...not very ladylike either.

        November 29, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
      • RichardHead@AD

        Miss Kitty did it all the time at the Longbranch Saloon with nary a smirk and she was a Lady!

        November 29, 2010 at 6:14 pm |
      • Patricio

        The worm is found in bottles of Mezcal, not in Tequila. Both are tasty, though.

        November 29, 2010 at 7:32 pm |
      • Joe Bleaux

        The worms are in mescal, not tequilla. It's a peyote cactus worm. Mescal is made from the peyote cactus. Believe me, if you drink the whole bottle, when you get to the bottom, you're more than willing to swallow the worm. :-)

        November 30, 2010 at 9:16 am |
    • John Anderson

      But don't ask her on a straight tequila night...

      November 29, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
      • KA

        Love that song...

        November 29, 2010 at 10:01 pm |
  38. Sir Biddle via the mobile

    I'm out for the night gang. Until tomorrow.

    November 29, 2010 at 5:17 pm |
  39. Sir Biddle via the mobile

    That was quick. Must have been all the brunette talk today. Count me in!

    Well played.

    November 29, 2010 at 5:03 pm |
  40. Bill

    6. Body shots on me

    November 29, 2010 at 5:03 pm |
  41. RichardHead

    OHHHHHHHH-Snowballs. She is a brunette though!

    November 29, 2010 at 5:02 pm |
    • Truth@RichHead, Biddle, Evil, Jarv

      Pure, Clear, Made in Mexico, Aromatic and flavorful.
      Not sure if y'all are talkin about the booze or the girl. Or if it matters.
      Maybe it's one of those metaphor-thingies that some of my friends who are into book-larnin talk about.

      November 29, 2010 at 5:05 pm |
      • RichardHead

        Waiting on AD to chime in.

        November 29, 2010 at 5:09 pm |
  42. Bill

    after me

    November 29, 2010 at 5:02 pm |
  43. Truth

    I'd hit that!

    November 29, 2010 at 5:00 pm |
    • Truth@RichHead, Biddle, Evil, Jarv

      Boo Yah!

      November 29, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
      • RichardHead

        Truth,You would throw your back out on that one.

        November 29, 2010 at 5:04 pm |
      • Truth@RichHead

        But it would be sooooo worth it!

        November 29, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
      • Sir Biddle via the mobile

        She could throw my back out, no complaints!

        November 29, 2010 at 5:09 pm |
      • RichardHead@SirB

        Well played today,have a good evening and keep Momma Happy!

        November 29, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
      • throw your back out

        I wish you would throw yourself out... quit blogging for a while, you are boring

        November 29, 2010 at 9:25 pm |
      • Jerv@the gang

        I love tequila straight up and I would straight up "hit that!" Three hits I mean shots please!

        November 30, 2010 at 9:40 am |
    • JoeBleaux

      I'll bet she meets all the criteria – Made in Mexico, pure and clear and probably smells and tastes nice... :-) I'd hit it.

      Gold Anejo tequila, 12 years old = the best!

      November 30, 2010 at 8:55 am |
  44. Bill

    All in1

    November 29, 2010 at 5:00 pm |
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