The Real Reason You Shouldn't Drink Jose Cuervo Especial

American pop culture has done a great disservice to tequila. We're not saying that to be snobby — like many spirits, tequila has a rich, centuries-old tradition. But somehow, tequila morphed into this mysterious spirit that allegedly makes you crazy (via Business Insider). The manufacturing of mezcal is an art, and frankly, we can't stand to see tequila reduced to frat parties, cheap shots, and $5 margarita specials on Cinco de Mayo. 

According to David Suro-Piñera, a Philadelphia restaurateur from Guadalajara, tequila is so much more than that. "You want to sip on it like you're sipping on wine, or a good cognac," the restaurant owner told Eater in 2019.

However, there's one crucial element that separates good tequila from... the rest. And by "the rest," we're talking about tequilas like Jose Cuervo Especial.

Good tequila is all about the agave

Here's the rundown. Tequila is an agave-based spirit. Blue agave, to be exact. And, like bourbon or champagne, it can only be produced within a certain geographical region— it's only tequila if it's manufactured in Jalisco, along with a few other small regions in Mexico. But once tequila collides with U.S. rules and regulations, things get dicey.

In the United States, a bottle of tequila must legally contain at least 51 percent of the agave-based spirit. What does that mean? Technically, tequila manufacturers can mix the pure, blue agave spirit with something cheaper, like cane sugar that's been fermented into some lesser, non-tequila spirit (via The Daily Meal). In other words, when you throw back cheap tequila, you're actually drinking tequila that's been mixed with another spirit, like grain alcohol. Is that why tequila gives you such a severe hangover? We can't prove that, but we invite you to reflect.

The nauseating, sketchy stuff is known as "mixto," and Jose Cuervo Especial is a confirmed mixto tequila (via Tequila Matchmaker). If you're looking for real tequila — one you can sip, rather than slurp — it's crucial to scope out a 100-percent agave spirit. If the bottle doesn't hold that "100 percent agave" label, then you're likely heading into mixto territory (via Thrillist).

Not all Cuervos are bad Cuervos

We're not saying you have to forget Jose Cuervo forever. But staying away from brands like "Especial," and anything else that lacks the dignified agave label, is healthier and will allow you to explore tequila the way it's meant to be explored.

Jose Cuervo does manufacture 100-percent agave tequilas, like Reserva de La Familia or the coveted Reposado (via Esquire). But there's always the option to go beyond the big brands and explore smaller tequila manufacturers. Tequila experts Iliana Partida and Tess Lampert go for brands like Tres Agaves Anejo and Siembra Valles Anejo — the latter is owned by Suro-Piñera himself (via Business Insider).

Of course, any of these higher quality tequilas will cost a bit more than the dreaded Jose Cuervo Especial. But we promise, it's worth it. Tequila (consumed moderately) can help with digestion, is thought to lower cholesterol, and its history is way too fascinating to be squeezed into a shot glass (via Forbes).