Today is National Tequila Day! Like I needed an excuse to drink more tequila. I know what you are thinking… “Yuck, tequila is gross.” Well, some of it is. But I have stopped taking shots of the Jose Cuervo with a lime wedge and have started appreciating more flavorful tequila and have been experimenting with Mezcal. As a matter of fact, some even taste like a good bourbon, and I am a big fan of a good whiskey. Or is it whisky? Anyway, today is National Tequila Day and I was excited to learn more about this spirit.
Tequila is a distilled beverage made from the blue agave plant. Living in Arizona, you don’t have to travel far to find one of these. I don’t know what the process it to make tequila, but it starts with the blue agave plant. I did some research and found that there are over 300 million of these plants harvested each year and most tequila is produced in the city of Tequila, 40 miles north of Guadalajara.
Like I said, most of us remember taking shots of tequila, sucking on a lime wedge and regretting that decision the next morning. But over the years, I have started to appreciate this stuff more and more. Did you know there are four types of tequila? Below is a guide to the four types of tequila and how to pair each one. The next time you are at Total Wine & More or at a fancy Mexican restaurant, try something new. Who knows, you might just like what you try. Cheers!
This style is also known as “white” or “silver” tequila. This style is unaged and bottled immediately after distillation, or aged less than two months in stainless steel or neutral oak barrels. When drinking this style expect soft, bright notes from the blue agave plant with a nice herbal finish. It is vibrant, crisp and clean making it one of the most popular styles of tequila today.
If you are planning to pair this with food, look for lighter fare like fish or a grilled chicken dish. Anything that is bright in character or is fresh, like a garden salad, is the perfect companion for this style of tequila. My favorite blanco is either Cabo Wabo Tequila, 1800 Tequila or Partida Tequila. If you are new to tequila, I would recommend spending some time with this style to get an introduction to the spirit. Baby steps here, people! Oh, Tequila Cazadores makes a good blanco, too.
It doesn’t get much easier than this… To go from a blanco tequila to a repasado tequila, all you have to do is age it for 2 months. Reposado, or rested, tequilas are aged a minimum of two months, but less than a year in oak barrels. That’s it! If you are making tequila for the first time, make a blanco then age it for 2 months… Voila. It’s that simple. We are starting to find more and more beers aged in tequila barrels, too, like the Saison Blue from Dragoon Brewing Company.
The flavor is going to be a bit more rich, and you are going to get some woody characters in this one. Because of that, you can start to pair this with a heavier meat like pork or lean beef. I have an idea… Go to your local Mexican restaurant, and order 1 shot of each style. Then order 4 tacos to pair with them. For this one, get the beef tacos. Man, I love Mexican food. I just wish there weren’t so many calories.
Now we’re talking! These tequilas are generally more expensive, but that is because they are aged no less than 1 year up to 3 years. Traditionally these are aged in smaller casks, and because they age for so long, there is a lot of evaporation allowing the tequila to interact with the wood more, producing a more refined flavor profile.
If you are pairing this with food, try ordering something a bit more substantial, like a rack of ribs or a steak. There will be a lot of flavor in this style, so make sure you are pairing it with flavorful foods. I just bought a bottle of this the other day, and while it is more expensive, the experience is worth it. Also, when drinking this, or any tequila, I recommend your first sip sitting in your mouth for a few seconds, then swishing it around before swallowing. You will get a much richer flavor profile and your palate will truly be able to experience the tequila as it was intended.
We don’t stop there! Now we are talking about a tequila with 3 or more years of age. These are rare, and are quite expensive… But if you can get your hands on a bottle, or can afford a bottle, enjoy! The flavor is rich and will remind you of a cognac or a fine single malt scotch. Spend some time with your pour, too, because, like I said, it won’t be cheap!
This style will pair well with dessert. Heck, it might even be a dessert in of itself. I participated in a tequila tasting recently and they paired a nice chunk of bittersweet chocolate with this style. It was the perfect combination and a great way to end the tasting. Oh, and the aftertaste is stunning. You will get more wood characteristics from this style than any tequila previously mentioned.
As you can see tequila is a diverse spirit. Americans like to drink this stuff, too. In 2011, the United States imported 124.84 million liters, 76% of all tequila exported from Mexico. I’ll drink to that! Cheers, and enjoy National Tequila Day.
Please drink responsibly.