The Professional Tips You Need For Pairing Foods With Tequila

Friends toasting tequila at dinner
Friends toasting tequila at dinner - Knape/Getty Images

It seems everyone's drinking tequila these days, from making fresh agave margaritas to mastering the art of the trendy ranch water cocktail. Long gone are the times when tequila was served only as a shot or a margarita; lately, there is a lot more to know about this spirit, and there are several premium brands that are smooth enough for sipping, just like a single malt Scotch. So it would be understandable if you're not sure which tequila to serve with which food since there are so many great examples to choose from. Not to worry, because Daily Meal spoke to Pablo Antinori, co-founder of Texas-based Socorro Tequila, who shared his expert pairing advice.

The most important guidelines to keep in mind if you're planning to pour tequila with a meal is to serve lighter blanco tequilas with foods that are light and fresh, like seafood, and save the reposados and añejos for heavier dishes. But, with that in mind, Antinori said you can also drink what you like. "Tequila is all about preference. If you enjoy a Jalisco Old Fashioned with a[n order of] ceviche, go you! Tequila should be a reason for getting together with loved ones and for enjoyment."

Read more: The Ultimate Vodka Brands, Ranked

What To Eat With Blanco Tequila

Silver tequila shots with lime
Silver tequila shots with lime - Alexpro9500/Getty Images

The first category of tequilas is blanco, also known as silver tequila. It's bottled within two months of production and has no color -- which is how it gets its name -- since there is no oak aging. Blancos have delicate aromas of vegetal herbs, grass, and citrus fruits, which can easily get overpowered by dishes with big flavors, so save the big, meaty dishes for other bottles and aim instead for dishes that are light and aromatic.

Pablo Antinori said that he loves pairing blanco with bites from the sea. "I enjoy either an aguachile, ceviche, or pulpo zarandeado (octopus) paired with Socorro tequila blanco," he said, adding that it pairs especially well with foods that are sweet and acidic. You could also try a plate of linguini and clams. "My top pairing is octopus tacos from Revolver Tacos [in Dallas, Texas] with salsa verde and a Socorro Blanco Ranch Water."

Pair Heavier Dishes With Reposado And Añejo

Reposado tequila shots with lime
Reposado tequila shots with lime - Bhofack2/Getty Images

When you're ready to serve a second course, or at least something more substantially savory, it's time to reach for the reposado and añejo tequilas. The word "reposado" is Spanish for "rested," and they are aged for anywhere from two to 12 months in oak before they're bottled. "Añejo," which means "old," is aged anywhere from one to three years, and anything aged longer than that is considered to be "extra añejo" (or "extra old"). Because of the oak aging, these tequilas all have bigger profiles than blanco, so they're better suited to dishes with stronger flavors, much like big, aged Cabernet Sauvignon wines.

Try pairing grilled meats with spicy sauces and toppings next to a reposado cocktail or with a pour of top-shelf añejo. "To me, reposado tequila calls for lamb, guisos, and red meat enchiladas with dried [chili] sauces," said Pablo Antinori. "For the aged expression, I am always looking for something more savory. Añejo tequila and anything mole, sign me up."

Don't Be Afraid To Break The Rules

Ranch water cocktail with lime
Ranch water cocktail with lime - Bhofack2/Getty Images

Tequila tasting may be getting more serious when it comes to spirits enthusiasts, but try to remember that pairing it with food should still be fun, and it's totally fine to break the rules. It's all about finding what tastes right to you, and what better way to hone your palate than by trying different tequila-based cocktails with dinner? Pablo Antinori recommends pairing a mole dish with a tequila old fashioned, a blanco-based ranch water with fresh seafood crudo, and a reposado ranch water with guisos or a rack of lamb.

You also don't have to think only in terms of savory food for your tequila pairings. Antinori said that blanco tequila is delicious with a slice of key lime pie or lemon cake. Reposado, on the other hand, is ideal with tres leches, capirotada or flan, and añejo tequila is a match with a brownie sundae. You don't even need to bring food into the equation when it comes to desserts, either. Try subbing tequila into an after-dinner classic cocktail. Antinori said, "Reposado Tequila pairs amazingly in an espresso martini (Martínez) with desserts."

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