Unlike, say, National Vanilla Pudding Day (May 22 for those interested in marking their calendars), Cinco de Mayo actually signifies an important day in history. It is not, however, Mexican Independence Day (that day is celebrated on September 16th). The 5th of May that we celebrate is the one that occurred in 1862. On this day, the Mexican Army won a battle in Puebla against the French during the Franco-Mexican war; an unlikely outcome as the French were not only better equipped than the Mexicans, they outmanned them by 2 to 1. The United States also had an interest in this little battle as there was concern that the French might use Mexico as a base to assist the Confederate Army (the American Civil War was just underway).
Celebrating Cinco de Mayo
Today, the holiday is celebrated in parts of Mexico, and throughout the U.S., particularly in cities with large Latino populations. The commercialization of the holiday by beer companies may seem to have taken over any historical significance this day once had, but in my mind, it’s never a bad thing to celebrate (my) Mexican heritage by embracing its culture, food, music, and of course, our favorite Mexican export: tequila.
Although there are many bartenders these days using tequila in cocktails in wonderful, surprising ways, I like to keep things simple and classic on this day. Below you’ll find five each of my favorite blanco, reposado, and añejo tequilas along with some ways to enjoy them this Cinco de Mayo. Salud!
CINCO BLANCO TEQUILAS
These are 5 blanco tequilas that are great to use in Margaritas or Palomas!
I typically drink most tequilas neat as I’ve grown accustomed to it in my evaluation of spirits and I find a wonderful collection of aromas and flavors such as clay, pineapple, and green olives that don’t sound like they’d work together, but they do. However, this also works wonders in a margarita providing a nice depth to the sweet/tart flavors in the drink.
Siete Leguas Blanco
This a classic Tequila Valley (aka Lowlands) style of tequila with its robust flavors of earth while still retaining and balancing sweet agave along with the herbal nature of the agave plant.
Tequila Cabeza Blanco
The tropical fruit flavors found in this bottling make for an fine margarita. It doesn’t shy away into the background and is far from those tequilas that are really more like vodkas.
Siembra Azul Blanco
Siembra Azul has a lovely mix of grass, cucumber, and lime flavors while also providing a crispness with a minty finish.
El Tesoro Platinum
Much like Siete Leguas showing classic Tequila Valley characteristics, El Tesoro Platinum is the Los Altos (aka Highlands) benchmark. It is bright and vivid with a myriad of flavors including lemongrass, sweet agave, and mint.
Guide to making Margaritas
There’s nothing wrong with reposados in a Margarita (it’ll add some sweetness so adjust your recipe accordingly), but I prefer blancos in mine. And for the record, here is my perfect Margarita recipe:
– 1 ½ oz blanco tequila
– ¾ oz freshly-squeezed lime juice
– ½ oz Cointreau
– 1 tsp. Agave syrup
Pour all ingredients in a shaker with filled with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled, salt-rimmed glass. Sometimes I have it on the rocks in an old-fashioned glass, sometimes I’ll have it poured up in a coupe. Both are delicious.
Guide to making La Paloma cocktail
– 3 oz. blanco tequila
– 3 oz. grapefruit soda (like Jarritos, Ting, or Squirt)
– ½ oz lime juice
Pour all into an ice-filled Highball or Collins glass. I like to rim mine with Tajín seasoning or I add a pinch of salt to the glass. If you use fresh grapefruit juice, add ½ tsp agave syrup, stir, and top with club soda.
CINCO REPOSADO TEQUILAS
These are 5 reposado tequilas that are great served alongside a Michelada.
For the record, I like my Micheladas more basic using a salt-rimmed glass of Mexican Lager, several dashes of hot sauce and the juice of half a lime. Some like to use Clamato, but I feel it overpowers everything else, especially the tequila.
There’s a little smoky quality to this that the Jack Daniel’s barrels bring along with a bit of barrel spices, but not too much that it overwhelms the agave flavors.
Casa Noble Single Barrel Reposado
This one gets the nod for combining notes of freshly baked chocolate-chip-cookies with cinnamon red hot candies. The aging for this bottling is a day shy of añejo status. The Limousin oak aging is also not something you see everyday in tequila production.
Sometimes reposados as a whole can be overlooked as folks generally either really like aged tequilas or really like unaged. This reposado hits just the right spot balancing a sweet/savory profile.
Arte NOM Selección 1414 Reposado
There’s a beautiful butterscotch-y thing going on that plays well with the salty savory aspect of the tequila. Five stars.
There’s a fair amount of vegetal and woody flavors along with a touch of smoke and lime that go particularly well with a Michelada.
CINCO AÑEJO TEQUILAS
I enjoy these neat with a sidecar of churros or buñuelos for dessert.
Don Julio 1942
There’s a term used on the other side of the pond that I’ve discovered over the years and that is “more-ish”. As in, “Please, sir, I want some more.” That sums up this tequila for me. More-ish.
Milagro Select Barrel Reserve Añejo
This tequila is more like a brandy to me, albeit one that isn’t terribly sweet. Baking spices are the star here along with a little bitter chocolate. The gorgeous bottle is worth a mention.
This tequila may be a bit polarizing, but I quite like it. Maybe not for everyday drinking, but for special occasions, which this is one. The Sauternes casks really make an impression here leaving a honey and golden raisin flavor on your palate. Definitely a dessert on its own.
Another rich style añejo but the cinnamon notes along with the woody flavors and the not-entirely-covered-up agave notes stop it from being too sweet.
Tequila Tapato Añejo
La Alteña is well-regarded for making fine tequilas and this is no exception. The flavors found here remind me of the Mexican Hot Chocolate my grandmother used to make me (using Abuelita brand chocolate, por supuesto!)
Can’t get enough tequila? That won’t be a problem here!