A rowdy fiesta with your amigos or even a restaurant night out may not be in the cards this Cinco de Mayo. But you can still toast the holiday in style with tequila, sipped from a small glass, or mixed into a cocktail. This is a perfect time to dress up your bar cart with something new.
For tips on the spirit, we turned to Ivan Tejeda, Food & Beverage Director at the stunning Chablé resort in Yucatán, which boasts one of the largest collections of tequilas in the world.
What is a good way to develop one’s palate for tequila?
"I would suggest that someone new to tequila should sample the different types of tequila to give you a better understanding between the varieties. There are five kinds of tequila: blanco, silver, reposado, añejo, and extra añejo. While these all are comprised of the same base, the time they are aged in an oak barrel differs. Believe it or not, the best expression of tequila is acquired by drinking it by itself, straight up or on the rocks, without additives or mixers. That being said, citrus fruit juices are the best companion to accompany the profile of tequila."
How to distinguish between a sipping tequila versus one that is good for mixing in a cocktail?
“Those tequilas that possess a darker color have been aged, so they are often smoother and more gentle drinks, while the white and silver tequilas are better for mixing in cocktails because they give you the sensation of raw agave. So even if you mix them, your palate will be able to distinguish the tequila from the other ingredients in your cocktail."
Any thoughts about tequila at cocktail hour, vs. with dinner, or after dinner?
"There’s nothing better than starting a dinner or reunion with friends with a nice, fresh white tequila cocktail; with dinner, I’d recommend something a bit more versatile such as a silver tequila or reposado. Either of these two options will be a good pairing with your meal. For after dinner, I highly recommend an extra añejo tequila served as a good digestive to complete the experience.”
Here are five great botellas to add to your home bar:
Each bottle of Ciudad is handsomely etched with a map of Mexico City. Offerings include a nuanced, slightly smoky blanco with spicy notes, as well as a reposado aged 11 months in white oak, and an añejo, aged 24 months in both French oak and American white oak. Ciudad was the official pour at last year’s party for Roma in Mexico City on Academy Awards night.
Looks can be deceptive: although this is a clear spirit, it has actually been aged for three and a half years in whiskey and Bordeaux barrels, then filtered nine times, and then redistilled, to become what QUI calls “the world’s first and only platinum extra-añejo tequila.” QUI Tequila has been getting plenty of attention including a nod of approval from the Wall Street Journal.
Clase Azul Reposado is something special, crafted from Weber Blue variety agave and aged for 25 months. The particular oak used for aging, Tejada says, makes for “a sweet and smooth experience and is great for sipping.” And the bottle, he notes, is made with talavera pottery “which is beautiful, and a representation of Mexican culture.” Each bottle is signed on the bottom by both the indigenous Mahazua artisan and the master distiller.
Espolòn is aged in barrels that are smaller than the industry standard, thereby providing more contact between the product and the wood. After ten months the añejo is finished in Wild Turkey Bourbon barrels for additional richness. Espolòn’s labels are full of artistic allusions to episodes in Mexico’s history (with Ramón the Rooster serving as a symbol of national pride).
The smooth taste of Camarena Silver with its warm savory finish on the palate has garnered awards at spirits competitions. Here’s a formula for a perfect margarita:
• 2 oz. Camarena Silver
• 0.75 oz. Simple Syrup / Agave Nectar
• 0.75 oz. Lime Juice
• 0.5 oz. Triple Sec
Shake with ice. Strain over more ice. Garnish with a lime wedge.