National Tequila Day is upon us, and yes, we are celebrating (responsibly, of course). But this year we wanted Lakelanders to have an expert opinion on how to observe this auspicious holiday. So we sat down with veteran bartender Emerson Bamaca to get his take on Tequila –how to mix it, drink, it and how to not look like a total amateur (see question three). He schooled us with plenty of cocktail wisdom and charm to spare:

What makes a good tequila?
“All tequilas are made of blue agave. What makes a good tequila is when it’s made the artesian way – the old-fashioned way – everything has to be cooked down in a clay or metal pot,” Emerson explains. He’s referring to the part of the tequila-making process when the “pinas” or the core of the agave plant is baked, shredded to a pulp from which the now smoky and flavorful juice is extracted. That juice is then fermented and distilled twice – yes, twice. If it hasn’t been twice distilled, it’s not tequila. “That is where you get a really nice tequila. Silver or ‘Blanco’ is your number-one tequila, very nice and smooth.”

What is your favorite tequila cocktail?
“I’m really divided on that. I do love Palomas. It’s a very traditional Mexican cocktail. It’s made with grapefruit juice, agave syrup, tequila, and fresh lime juice. What I think makes it really good is when you add Squirt.” Squirt is a grapefruit-flavored soda originally from Arizona, but it’s very popular in Mexico and is a beloved ingredient in the Paloma. “It adds the perfect sparkling grapefruit flavor. You can either serve it with a salt or rim your glass with a little Tajín.” If you are not familiar with this brand of chili-lime-salt seasoning, check out the international foods’ aisle at your nearest Publix (immediately, if possible), and get ready to meet your new favorite condiment. “Garnish with a very thin slice of grapefruit. Very nice, traditional, refreshing.”

What are your tips for amateur mixologists?
“Do not buy lime juice from concentrate or premade margarita mix.”

Here is his recipe for the best homemade margarita:
1 ounce agave syrup – “Dilute it with water so it’s not too syrupy.”
2 ounces of tequila – “Don Julio Blanco and Milagro are nice choices.”
The juice of one lime
“Shake it really hard and pour into a salted glass.”

Even you can’t mess that one up. But if you aren’t feeling up to the task today, you can have Emerson make you one himself tonight at Federal Bar. They are also celebrating National Tequila Day with their Taco Tuesday specials which you can find here.