Admit it — you don’t drink tequila because of that one regretful run-in in college. You remember it: Shots were slammed, the room seemed to crater, porcelain was embraced, and the next day your head endured a piñata pounding.
So I understand your hesitation. But please hear me out: Today’s high-quality, nuanced, “sipping” tequilas are a world away from the syrupy firewater that you used to hide from your RA, who, it turns out, had his own stash of the stuff.
In fact, I’m so into fine tequila that I discussed it at my seminar with Food Network’s very own Marcela Valladolid at the South Beach Food Network Wine & Food Festival today. Whether you attended the seminar, or just read on, I aim to make you a convert, too, by dispelling these tequila myths:
1. All tequila is heavy and sweet: Not so. The “blanco” or “silver” category of tequila is clear and pure tasting. Citrusy and herbal, good blancos are like a high-alcohol Sauvignon Blanc — perfect as an appetite or joy-stoker.
2. All tequila is sharp: When tequila is aged in oak barrels — as in the “reposado” (some oak) or “añejo” (even more time in oak) styles — it is richer, smoother and smoky. If you like a buttery Chardonnay or a snifter of Scotch, these styles make great sippers.
3. Always use a shot glass: Speaking of snifters, they are ideal for enjoying tequila, as their balloon-like shape allows you to aerate and nose the tequila with abandon. No snifter? A tulip-shaped champagne glass will do the trick.
4. Always use salt and lime: Though most of us apply the “lick-shoot-bite” ritual to tequila, insiders like to drink their tequila unadorned to savor its nuances. If you want to tone down its alcoholic taste, try serving it chilled or even cold. You can also try chasing it with a spot of sangrita, the Mexican drink that is comprised of orange juice, chile pepper and sometimes tomato juice.
5. Tequila doesn’t go with food: As I demonstrated at the South Beach Festival, tequila can be a super-charger for food. The mouthwatering acidity of blanco tequila makes it a toothsome accompaniment with citrusy and seafood dishes, from Marcela’s Tilapia Ceviche to Paula Deen’s Warm Mexican Crab Dip. The richer, smokier nature of reposado and añejo tequila makes it a smash hit with the deep flavors of Marcela’s Mole Nachos and the smoke and protein of her Chipotle-Plum BBQ Pork Ribs.
6. Tequila doesn’t have its own toast: As I demonstrate at the end of this video, tequila lovers like to celebrate with an ebullient, four-part blessing.