July 24 is National Tequila Day — a glorious day when we celebrate this fine spirit. In order to properly salute tequila, we should fully understand what it is, where it comes from, and how to enjoy it. Let’s get into it.

First of all, tequila is distilled from the agave plant. Specifically blue Webber agave from Jalisco, Mexico in the town of Tequila. It takes a long while for the agave to become mature enough to be harvested. When I say a while, I mean around 6-12 years. Once it’s ready, they harvest the massive heart of the plant known as the piña, which can weigh up to 100 pounds. Then it goes through a distillation process to become tequila.

Every bottle of tequila has some notation of aging on it. Learning these terms will help you find the perfect one for your tequila needs. It comes in multiple varieties: Blanco, Reposado, Anejo and Extra Anejo. Blanco, which is also known as “silver” or “Plata,” is aged for less than two months. This is going to be your raw style that is perfect for cocktails or shooting if that’s your thing. Next comes aging in oak barrels and those terms are: Reposado (aged 2-12 months), Anejo (aged 1-3 years), and Extra Anejo (aged more than 3 years). Reposado is great for sipping but you can also make cocktails with it. It has enough oak that those toasty flavors come through and add a nice extra layer to your drinks. I’d suggest only sipping and appreciating a good Anejo or Extra Anejo. They can be on a similar level to bourbon or scotch. It’s the most aged and elegant presentation of the spirit. If you are determined to use this one in a cocktail, make it an old fashion. The subtlety of these will be lost in a margarita.

Now that we know what tequila is, where it comes from, and what those crazy words on the bottle mean, let’s enjoy it. For a very long time I was guilty of thinking there were only two ways to drink tequila: a shot or a margarita. I was so wrong. My favorite way to enjoy tequila is either by sipping it on the rocks with a squeeze of lime or in a Paloma. If you’re going to sip it, make sure you are drinking 100 percent agave tequila. It’s a higher quality spirit and is so dang good. Monte Alban and Espolon are high quality brands that won’t break the bank. Since we’re in the mood for a cocktail, let’s make a Paloma.

This is one of the easiest cocktails to make. All you will need is quality Silver/Blanco/Plata tequila, fresh limejuice or Rose’s Lime Cordial (if you want it to be a bit sweeter), and a grapefruit soda (I like Squirt but Izzie’s has a great one as well). Since there is a carbonated aspect to this drink, we aren’t going to shake it; we’re going to build it in our cocktail glass and stir. Grab a highball glass or an old fashion glass and fill it with ice. Put 1.5 ounces tequila in, squeeze about a ¼ to ½ of a lime in or a ¼ ounce of Rose’s Lime Cordial, and top with grapefruit soda (about 3-4 ounces). Stir and enjoy!

Tequila is a fun spirit that gets a bad reputation. People almost look at you like you’re crazy when you say you’re a tequila drinker, but there are some great health benefits to drinking it. It’s a natural probiotic and an upper, not a downer. However you celebrate National Tequila Day, make sure you have one for me.