There’s just big tip for picking up a decent bottle of tequila: look for the words “100 per cent agave” on the label.

To be called tequila, the spirit must be made from at least 51 per cent blue agave distillate. The cheaper, hangover-inducing bottles of your formative years are likely to be a blend of agave spirit mixed with much cheaper cane spirit. These are called mixto tequilas, and you’ll probably find colourants and sugar in them, too. Stick to 100 per cent agave and you’re on your way to a decent drop.

“Tequila can have the most amazing, diverse range of flavours,” says Reece Griffiths, a Sydney bar veteran and self-professed agave freak. “From tropical fruits and spice, to savoury peppers, all the way through to chocolate and raisins. No other spirit category has that.”

When it comes to Mexican spirits, Griffiths is one of Australia’s most knowledgeable bartenders. “I have spent almost three years living and working in Mexico,” says Griffiths. “Visiting distilleries, annoying tequileros, pestering local bartenders and drinking all the agave spirits I could find.”

Griffiths’ is now at the helm of the newly refurbished East Village Hotel in Darlinghurst, where there’s also a sharp focus on wines. “Tequila makes a natural fit in our wine pub,” says Griffiths. “It’s the one spirit that [like wine] truly tells the story of terroir.”

The East Village Hotel’s small but curated selection of agave spirits showcases regionality, and highlights the difference altitude and microclimate can have on the flavour of tequila. Although Griffiths can wax lyrical for hours on ethical production methods and producers, he knows the real joy comes from sharing it with friends.

“It matches perfectly with light, fresh flavours and is the best partner in crime for citrusy summer drinks,” says Griffiths. “Sitting around a table sharing a bottle of Blanco in the sun … I don't think any other spirit in the world creates that feeling.”

Griffiths has put together two fresh summer cocktails ideal for sharing in the backyard.

Palamina
Serves one. Approx. 1.6 standard drinks.

Ingredients
¼ cup desiccated coconut
¼ cup sea salt flakes
Half a lime, squeezed
40ml Don Julio Blanco tequila
20ml Fino sherry
Ice
120ml watermelon juice

Method
Mix the desiccated coconut and salt flakes to make a coconut salt. Rub lime around the rim of a highball glass and dip into coconut salt. Add tequila, sherry and the juice of the lime to the glass. Fill the glass with ice, top up with the watermelon juice and stir everything briefly before serving.


Alto!
Serves one. Approx. 1.4 standard drinks.

Ingredients
45ml Don Julio Blanco tequila
120ml hibiscus iced tea (sweetened to taste)
10ml lemon juice
Ice
Lemon to garnish

Method Add all the liquid ingredients to a wine glass, fill the glass with ice and give it a stir. Garnish with thinly sliced rounds of lemon.

This article is presented in partnership with World Class.