Serious Eats: Drinks
Slow Down With These 5 Sipping Tequilas
We love the intense herbal flavors of blanco tequila, but when we're sitting with a snifter, we lean toward the aged versions of this spirit. When aged tequila hits the right balance, there isn't a line between agave and oak, just a seamless blend of flavors: lighter and more herbal than grain-based booze, but complex just the same.
Where to start? We loved the aged version of some of our top picks in silver tequila: Siembra Azul Reposado stands out for us, offering lemongrass and hay-like agave flavors that mesh beautifully into vanilla-laced oak. This tequila tastes like spicy freshly-peeled ginger root, but it also has a briney side, reminding us of the savory liquor left from steaming clams in wine. It sells for under $40.
Teaming up with some friends to collect a few different expressions of one brand's tequila is a fun way to explore. Try Gran Centenario Reposado, which has a ribbon of caramel that mingles nicely with its fresh herbal side. It's smooth but offers a burst of spicy cinnamon sticks and pepper, and there's vibrant orange peel and thyme flavor there too. (We really like this stuff.) The Gran Centenario Anejo pours the color of maple syrup. This stuff is smoky, smooth, and weighty, reminding us of a pecan bun dripping in cinnamon and caramel sauce. As you leave it in your glass, this anejo tequila shifts toward a savory side, like a pork-roast gravy made with sherry, apples, fennel and sage. Apparently you can pick up either one for under $30 at BevMo, and you should—they're often priced closer to $50.
The takeaway: Don't take shots of these tequilas, and don't make your mind up based on the first sip. Not just because you'll be drinking too fast, but because you'll miss one of the most exciting things about these spirits: they change in your glass.
Take El Tesoro Anejo. Initially, the scent is sweet and fruity, like a strawberry-banana smoothie with ribbons of caramel. In 5 minutes, though, it evolves from butterscotch-sweet to chamomile and bay leaf, and moves even more savory—a hint of smoke, herbs, olives, and fennel bulbs. You're left with a peppery scent, like vermouth and booze-soaked olives sitting at the bottom of a martini.
These tequilas took their time, so you might as well give them a few moments. 7 Leguas Anejo rests for two years in oak barrels, and when you crack the bottle open, the scent is like celery root with a little caramel. On your tongue, the caramel gives way to matcha tea, olives, celery salt, each sip unfolding another layer. It goes herbal—cilantro, parsley, dill, oolong, with just a touch of vanilla. It's fascinating—and you'd miss it in a margarita.
Do you have a favorite sipping tequila? Let us know in the comments.