Even if you are a regular tequila drinker, the first sip can sometimes be a shock to your mouth. It might bite and tingle a bit, and there’s no way you’re going to be able to detect the subtle flavors. It might take several sips before you start to really taste the tequila.

This is because you haven’t warmed up your mouth. That’s right — to do a proper tasting of tequilas you need to first activate your taste buds, palate and other taste sensors to get them accustomed to the unique flavors and sensations that tequila brings.

Sound crazy? I might have thought so a while back, but since I started working on being a better taster I’ve discovered that exercises like warming up your mouth really do matter. Fortunately, our friend David Yan, Marketing Director for Casa Noble Tequila in Mexico, knows how to conduct a tequila tasting the right way, and took me step-by-step through the process of warming up my mouth.

If you are doing this at home, grab some tequila and pour a small shot, preferably of a blanco, because you want to familiarize your mouth with the flavor of agave as much as possible so you can better detect it during your tastings. (By the way, this is a great way to utilize the dredges of an almost empty bottle because you don’t need a full shot – just enough for a 4-5 very small sips.) Now you’re ready for the warm up!

5 Steps For Warming Up Your Mouth:

1) Close your mouth, lift your glass and let some tequila coat your lips. This will activate your lips and help connect your mouth with your brain. You should feel a slight tingling.

2) Take a little sip of tequila and run your tongue over your top and bottom gums to stimulate them and clean your mouth.

3) Take another little sip and let the tequila just sit on your tongue, for 5-6 seconds. Then tilt your head back and let it roll down your throat without swallowing. Feel your throat come alive.

4) Next, take a little sip and let the tequila sit under your tongue for a few seconds, activating your sublingual region. Open your mouth a bit and inhale air directly onto that puddle of tequila under your tongue (this is the trickiest part!). You should taste a cloud of flavor beneath and on the sides of your tongue.

5) Finally, take a sip and rub the tequila gently against your upper palate and swallow.

Congratulations! Your mouth is now completely coated with the sweet elixir of tequila and you are warmed up and ready to taste!

Of course, being a tequila hardcore, David also brought out some great tasting tools during our visit. He had cooked agave (the most delicious thing in the world, in my opinion) and agave syrup from the Casa Noble ovens to really fire up our taste buds with that true agave flavor. He also had a great palate neutralizer to eat between tequila tastings—mild Wisconsin cheddar cheese cubes paired with high-quality quince paste, which you can usually find in upscale specialty food stores in the U.S. (Other traditional palate cleansers like lime, salt and crackers tend to hang around in your mouth, affecting the flavors of your next drink.)

I know cooked agave and true agave syrup is a luxury, unless you are in the tequila region of Mexico, but even if you have normal U.S. agave nectar you might be able to get a little closer to that agave taste.

Give the warm up and palate neutralizers a try during your next tasting and let us know what you think. I have a feeling you might be pleasantly surprised.

Also see Hardcore Tequila Tasting, Part 2: The Casa Noble Treasure Bottle