The Key To Picking Out The Best Tequila Is To Check The Back Of The Bottle

Tequila's popularity continues to skyrocket, and it's easy to see why. Available in a variety of styles, the spirit is both delicious in cocktails and wonderful when sipped on its own — all the while being readily distributed. However, not every bottle of the agave-liquor is the same, and finding a standout takes some effort. Determining a bottle's quality is not all in the brand name but rather by carefully considering the production methods, components, sustainability practices, and — of course — the flavor.

Tequila regulation complicates selection since producers are not required to list additives; research from Tequila Matchmaker co-founder Scarlet Sanschagrin estimates that over 70% of tequilas contain some sort of artificial component (via Punch Drink). While not always an issue, more often than not, such ingredients overbear the agave's delicious flavor — not to mention exacerbate that pesky hangover.

Sound complicated? Navigating what's additive-free and tasty is indeed difficult. With over 3,000 brands in the marketplace, walking into a liquor store and making a choice may feel overwhelming. So instead, turn to identifying the source rather than the name on the label. Tequila's large selection only boils down to a few hundred distilleries, which can readily be identified with a NOM number on the bottle. Let's dive into how to use it.

Utilize a NOM number to gauge a tequila's quality

Turn over a bottle of an agave spirit and inspect its NOM — short for Norma Oficial Mexicana — to learn a world of details. Firstly, it's a surefire verification that the liquor in hand is indeed officially regulated tequila, produced with a majority Blue Weber agave. Then, typing the number into an online database — such as the comprehensive Tequila Matchmaker — opens up all the details regarding the bottle. It clarifies whether the bottle is additive-free as well as lists other liquors produced in the facility, even across brands. (Perhaps a previous tequila that suited your tastes emerged from the same doors!)

Additionally, the volume of brands assigned to a single NOM evinces the scale of production. If the number interlinks to only a single brand, that likely means it's a small craft producer, a promising sign of quality. Just keep in mind that the distillation process and taste are not interchangeable. A single facility may still use different agaves and ingredients, yielding varying results. So while the NOM is an incredible tool to gauge a bottle at a store, the only truly foolproof selection method for finding a tequila you enjoy is tasting the spirit.