Updated: Oct 15, 2021
When it comes to drinking, especially in a more formal setting, pairing the alcohol with a balancing appetizer or snack comes with the territory. The problem is finding an appetizer that will complement the alcohol. With high-alcohol liquors, you need to be careful that the booziness doesn’t overpower the flavor of the food. This is why wine and cheese have become a common pairing. Cheese, which is typically very high in fat, coats the mouth in a layer that blocks our taste receptors to beverages but, the acidity and sweetness of a well-paired wine cuts through the creamy barrier and actually accentuates the flavors and textures of both.
While wine may hog the cheese-pairing limelight, tequila pairs just as well and is just as versatile. However, like wine, tequilas are not all the same, and some experimenting needs to be done to find the perfect combination.
Tequila is usually categorized into five classifications: There are three main types of tequila (Blanco, Reposado, and Añejo), as well as two additional variations (Joven and Extra Añejo). In this blog, we discuss which type of cheese is suited to each tequila category, so you can be sure that each sip you take has a delicious bite to follow.
Blanco tequila is tequila in its purest form. It is freshly distilled without any oak aging at all, allowing you to taste the full flavor of agave. Without the oak flavors or aging to hide behind, you see the true skills of the distiller. Because of the pure agave flavor, it is probably best to stick to a milder, sweeter, brie-style cheese, or even feta. If your goal is to bring out the peppery notes of Blanco and accentuate its brightness, try pairing it with a creamy, herbaceous cheese (for example, milk cheese that has been rolled in herbs like rosemary and juniper).
There are a few definitions to this category of tequila, but simply put, it is a Blanco that has been blended with an aged tequila from another category. Sometimes, Joven’s may have a golden hue, but this is where you need to be careful that not paying a premium price for a ‘cheap’ gold tequila. This is because the golden color in a Joven can come from the addition of coloring and flavorings. If you want a premium gold tequila, look for the word ‘reposado’ on the packaging to be sure.
Joven Tequilas can be relatively boozy and pack quite a punch, so you need to pair it with a strong cheese to balance it, like Cornelia cheese. The goal is to find a cheese that can stand up to the Joven flavor but not overpower the floral and citrus notes.
Reposado tequila is usually barrel-aged for between two months and a year in oak. Because of the shortened aging time, this tequila is typically softer, which is why it works well for making margaritas and other tequila-based cocktails.
The spiciness of pepper jack cheese pairs perfectly with the softness reposado, but if you do not enjoy spice, the smoked flavor profile of aged gouda or comté works just as well.
If you are looking for a cheese to pair with your tequila-based cocktail, consider tangy, buttery cheeses like goat cheese, Saint Aubin, or sharp cheddar.
This tequila is aged for one to three years in oak barrels and is typically a sipping tequila that exhibits the agave flavors and rich vanilla and floral aromas. This tequila expresses a velvety, buttered toffee flavor (complemented by the taste of oak from the aging process), so pairing it with a cheese that shares similar qualities and flavor profiles is a good idea. A rich, aged, Appenzeller-style or alpine-style cheese is a good option due to its notes of roasted nuts, salted butterscotch, and cooked cream.
This classification refers to tequila that is aged for any period longer than three years and is often described as having a complexity similar to that of cognac or whisky. Extra Añejo Tequila is also a sipping tequila and is usually enjoyed by the truest tequila aficionados.
Similarly to traditional Añejo tequila, it is always best to pair this tequila with a milder alpine-style cheese, like Annelies. Annelies shares the sweet notes of butterscotch and roasted hazelnuts, with a hint of a note of the vibrant alpine grasses, making it an excellent pairing for Extra Añejo tequila.