Today is Cinco de Mayo, a wonderful chance for non-Mexicans to drink excessively in celebration of a historical event they know nothing about. But instead of spending your night sleeping in the gutter while wearing a 99-cent sombrero, why not investigate the classy side of tequila this year? As Joanne Weir stresses in "Tequila: A Guide to Types, Flights, Cocktails, and Bites," the spirit deserves a finer appreciation than it normally receives on the sticky floor of a frat house. We've compiled her advice, along with a few thoughts from Beam Global Tequila Ambassadors Jaime Rodriguez, Jaime Salas and Eddie Perales -- the guys behind Sauza's Hornitos tequila.

Tequila Is for the Man's Man
Weir is a firm believer that most tequila-based cocktails aren't just for the ladies, even if they might look pretty. Her guide describes the best way to make The Cinder, a "smoky, evening" drink that involves some manly labor involving jalapeño-infused tequila. Another suggestion is the Nuevo Pare: 2 ounces añejo tequila, 1 ounce Benedictine, 1/3-ounce Lillet Blanc, 2 dashes bitters, and a lemon twist. "That is just liquor," Weir says. "It's really fantastic." A foot-long cigar, a la Che Guevara, is entirely optional.

Learn about tequila's energizing effects and the different distillations, after the jump.


Tequila Is for Lovers
Impress your date with a simple-but-elegant cocktail called the Prado. "Like a Ramus Fizz, it has egg white in it, so it's got this wonderful white foam on top." For girlfriends whose tastes run toward bellinis and mimosas, make her a Mexican 75. That's blanco tequila, agave nectar and lime juice, finished with champagne. "It's kind of like a margarita with bubbles," Weir says.

100 Percent or Die
"Everybody thought, OK, you're going to make a margarita, go buy a bottle of that caramel-colored Jose Cuervo," Weir says. Think again. The cheaper brands are mixto tequilas -- not 100 percent agave. "Those were the ones we all drank in college, and got a horrible headache and had a hangover. You do not get a hangover from 100 percent agave." That's certainly a lofty claim, but we want to believe.

Up All Night
Tequila's energizing qualities aren't a myth; even scientists back it up. "Tequila, unlike all other spirits, has an effect that tends to manifest itself in exuberance, excitement and blissful -- and sometimes, yes, mischievous -- behavior," our Beam ambassadors tell us. "It's been said that the blue agave species from which tequila is produced has an inherent stimulant quality." Hear that? Quit gagging down those Red Bull-and-vodkas and stick with a natural upper.

Rock Out With Tequila
Sick of Jimmy Buffet? So are we. Thankfully, there's plenty of other tequila-centric music out there that can work as the soundtrack to a Cinco de Mayo party. Check out Weir's personal mix, which features everyone from Jamiroquai to Steely Dan. (OK, Buffet's classic margarita anthem is on there, too. As usual, moderation is key.)

Get Your Girlfriend to Join the Party
Tequila's bad rap means that your significant other might associate it with those ancient Girls Gone Wild DVDs she found beneath your bed last year. Convince her that tequila's not all about getting wasted and flashing your boobs in Cancun. "To start, have a margarita that's made with both agave necta -- the sweetener that comes from the agave plant -- and then have a 100 percent-agave tequila. It's the hip sweetener right now," Weir advises. Agave sweeteners are healthier, too. Weir says their glycemic index is 50 percent lower than other sugars.

Tasting, Tasting
Weir is a vocal proponent of what she calls both vertical and horizontal tastings. In the former case you stick with one brand. "You take a blanco, a reposado and an añejo, and you taste them one after another. The blanco's really cool -- it's the true expression of what the tequila maker's trying to do by making reposado, which he ages, and añejo, which he ages even longer." For a horizontal tasting, compare a pair of añejos, reposados or blancos from different brands and regions, sampling the taste of product from the Highlands ("floral, fruity") and the Lowlands ("richer, rounder, earthier.")

Out-Snob Your Friends
Extra añejo tequilas are the most robust and challenging of the bunch. They've been aged for over three years. Certain bottles, like Partida's Elegante, can run upwards of $300 a bottle. Joanna Weir is obsessed with an extra añejo from the Highlands called Siete Leguas. It's not available in the U.S. yet, since the company accidentally bottled it in slight contradiction of American regulations. Next time you're at a tasting party, sigh wistfully (and loudly) while dreaming of the day when Siete Leguas is finally imported for our Yankee palette. Men will hate you; women will swoon.

High-Minded Cheapskates
Keep in mind that "good but affordable" tequila might still set you back $50, but you'll thank yourself in the morning. For the budget-conscious, Weir suggests Milagro, Corra Lejo, El Tesoro, Herradura, Hornitas or El Jimador (named for "the guy who goes out there, hacks off the leaves of the agave plant and harvests it.")

Get Some Glass
An excellent tequila deserves to be imbibed from the appropriate vessel. Pick up a caballito ("little horse") that's modeled after the bull horns tequila-makers used to test shots of their product. Or if that memo about the recession hasn't reached you yet, splurge on a few tequila-specific glasses from the posh glassware masters at Reidel. "If you are a true aficionado, you're definitely going to have tequila glasses," Weir says. "I know people who have tequila rooms -- 150, 200 bottles of tequila." Con suerte, señor, con suerte.

OK, Now It's Just About Time for a Flat-Out Orgy
We promised a 'classy' exploration of tequila, but that doesn't mean you should forget about the time-honored tequila body shot. "Grab a group of friends, choose a favorite body part, lick and add a pinch of salt on the desired location, shoot Hornitos and proceed to retrieve the lime from your partner's mouth," our Brand Ambassadors explain. "Try a group Horni-body shot -- the more, the merrier." And remember, alcohol may kill germs, but don't forget to wear protection.

Looking for more expert advice? Check out the features below:
William H. Macy's Advice for Prom, Losing Your Virginity
Live a Life of Extreme Laziness -- the Jim Gaffigan Way
How to Sneak Booze Into Sporting Events