To really savor the late summer, you need a plan of action, but it doesn't have to be more complicated than "drink tequila." More than any other booze, tequila encapsulates the hot, hedonistic essence of the season. And should you still fear that epic morning after, it's time to reconsider the liquor: The truly good stuff is more plentiful than ever and goes down a lot easier than you might remember—even if your preferred mode of consumption remains a shot glass.
By Rob Wiley; Photographs by Juliana Sohn
If the label doesn't say 100% de agave, keep moving—it's the one sure way to avoid the swill you learned to hate back in Cabo.
El Tesoro Añejo ($50)
The AñEJO tag means a tequila has been aged no less than one year and no more than three, and it's tough to find one that isn't smooth. El Tesoro pulls off a coup, balancing silkiness with enough heat and spice to remind you that it is a tequila meant for drinking, not fetishizing.
Siete Leguas Blanco ($34)
The aged version might seem like the choice for sipping, but to really know what tequila tastes like, start with blanco. Also known as silver, it's the purest expression of the spirit, earthy and crisp. Should you happen upon a bottle from this distillery, one of Mexicos oldest, buy it.
El Jimador Reposado ($18)
As a rule, tequila cocktails call for blanco or reposado (one notch up the aging scale). The latter is rested in oak from 2 to 11 months—long enough to soften the bite but not so long that it tastes wooden. For the price, it's tough to beat El Jimador (from the makers of Herradura).
Sombra Mezcal ($47)
Underneath its tough rep, mezcal, tequila's cousin, has a sensitive side. Its distinguishing feature is that the agave is baked over mesquite and distilled over a wood fire, resulting in a unique smoky flavor (softened, in the case of Sombra, by a fruity sweetness and piercing citrus tang).