Tequila Rising: Mexico's Native Spirit Has Come a Long Way from the Days of Lick-Shoot-Suck. Fine Tequila Can Have All the Depth and Character of Wine, and There's Never Been More of It to Try. San Francisco Bar Legend Julio Bermejo, Owner of Tommy's Mexican Restaurant and Named U.S. Ambassador of Tequila by the State of Jalisco, Guides Us to the Good Stuff

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Tequila 101

[much greater than] It must be kabeted 100 percent blue agave. Otherwise, stay away.

[much greater than] It all comes from Mexico, most from the state of Jalisco.

[much greater than] There are three main varieties: blanco (clear and unaged), reposado (aged two months to a year in oak), and anejo (aged one to three years in oak). The more aged it is, the smokier it tastes.

[much greater than] Of the two general styles, highland tends to be bright and briny, with citrus notes, while lowland can be herbaceous and earthier.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The margarita

THE TEQUILA Most of us have been making margs all wrong, starting with the tequila. Quality matters, so always use loo percent blue agave. Any variety or style will work (see "Tequila at far left); it depends what character you want.

THE LIMES Squeeze them as you go, not beforehand. Sweeter Persian limes work best.

STEP AWAY FROM THE BLENDER Sorry, marg machine lovers: Tequila will melt your drink the minute you shock it with ice, watering it down. …