It’s one thing to have a margarita with your chips and guac; it’s quite another to sip an anejo tequila alongside a big grilled veal chop in a creamy mushroom sauce. You’ll find that pairing the classic Mexican spirit with a snack or meal can enhance both the drink and the food, though.
Years ago, you wouldn’t think of tequila as a spirit to sip, as you might bourbon or vodka. But in the past decade, it’s become increasingly popular, with high-end and bespoke brands entering the market and finding legions of fans. If you’re thinking you might like to learn about tequila, drinking it with food you love is a great way in.
Here, Mexican chef and cookbook author Pati Jinich shares her expertise with MarthaStewart.com. First Jinich, who has partnered with classic tequila brand Gran Centenario, lays out the basics. Tequila is a distilled spirit that comes from the Mexican region of Jalisco, and it’s only made from blue agave. There are three types, ranging from least to most complex. And all of them can be excellent alongside food.
Plata, or silver, tequila has a pronounced agave flavor and natural sweetness; its light, fresh taste is a natural match for lighter foods. Jinich notes that it has a transparent, light straw color and says it can taste citrusy, fruity, and herbal. She likes it with seafood, whether ceviche or a lobster salad, or a salad. This tequila won’t overpower, but will rather offer a bright element that will make the flavors of both the food and the tequila shine.
Next is reposado, which varies in color but generally is more amber-tinted. It’s full-bodied and may taste a little sweeter and more intense than the silver variety. Jinich says reposado’s woody, oaky, even vanilla flavor goes well with soups and stews, or with heartier dishes like tacos or enchiladas.
Then, there’s anejo. “It’s the boldest of the tequilas and it has the most intense taste and color,” says Jinich. Think: bolder, spicier, sweeter. The grilled veal chop we mentioned earlier? It’ll taste even richer alongside an anejo. But Jinich says this variety, which can have caramel notes, also goes incredibly well with desserts, from cookies to cakes; she even likes to spike her hot chocolate with it.
And you needn’t limit your tequila food pairings to Mexican cuisine (although Jinich admits tequila is a natural match for so many dishes from the country’s varied regions). She says French, Italian, and Peruvian cuisine all have dishes that can go well with tequila. If you stick with her basic guidelines—plata with lighter foods; reposado with heartier dishes; and anejo with heavy meals or desserts—you can’t go wrong.