Last weekend we had family visiting from California, which could only mean one thing: I was mixing up cocktails. We were making Mexican food for dinner, so we decided to spice it up a little by having a tequila tasting to kick things off.
I brought out five varieties of silver (or blanco) tequilas to taste. We started off by sipping all of them neat to compare the flavors, and then we tried them in Margaritas. The shots of tequila were accompanied by shots of Sangrita, a Mexican aperitif that is traditionally served along with tequila. (It's kind of like a tangy Bloody Mary mix.)
Here are the brands we tried:
All five of these tequilas are made from 100% Blue Agave, and all of them are the unaged expressions from their distillers. They each come in at 40% abv (80 proof).
As a general rule, silver/blanco tequilas are usually used for mixing, while the aged varieties (reposado and añejo) are saved for sipping. However, only by tasting it straight can you enjoy the pure flavor of the tequila, and a few of these made very respectable sippers.
Here are the results, compiled from the reactions that the three of us had. The grades are based on the flavor/quality of the tequila, without regard to price.
Milagro Silver (Final Grade: B)
A solid, herbal aroma of agave. Very zesty flavor, but slightly bitter and citrusy. Came in on the hotter side of the "smooth" scale -- it had more of a burn than some of the tequilas we tasted. Not as balanced. Made a delicious Margrita.
Avión Silver (Final Grade: A)
A wonderful grassy aroma. Pure agave on the tongue; spicy, floral and bursting in flavor. Very smooth and balanced. Easily the best of the night. I didn't mix this one in a Margarita -- I wanted to save it to enjoy neat.
Corazón Blanco (Final Grade: B+)
Another tequila with a plesant, vegetal smell of agave that carried over into the flavor, along with hints of fruit. This one was a little sweeter than the other tequilas, with a moderate, welcome heat on the finish. A very nice flavor overall. I didn't mix this one in a cocktail, but I'm confident it would work quite well.
Familia Camarena Silver (Final Grade: B-)
Good agave aroma and a peppery flavor, but not as smooth as the others. This one definitely had the most heat of the brands we tasted. This tequila was solid all around, but didn't leap out as a sipper. It did make an excellent Margarita, however, so use this one for mixing.
Cazadores Blanco (Final Grade: B)
The strongest aroma of the five tequilas -- it was almost pungent on the nose -- but the lightest flavor. Very smooth, with the only heat coming on the brief finish. Certainly not bad, but not much point in sipping it. Clearly designed for mixing, and it made delicious Margaritas.
The Avión Silver was easily the winner of the taste test -- it stood out from the pack with its delicious taste and smooth character. It's the one I would go to first for a sipping tequila. It was also the most expensive, so this is an example of getting what you pay for.
I wouldn't hesitate to use any of these five tequilas in a cocktail. All of them have the agave flavor that you want from a tequila and are very mixable. At its price point -- I've seen it on sale for around $16 -- the Camarena Silver would be hard to beat. I would recommend the Cazadores Blanco to those drinkers who aren't "tequila fans" and are looking for something lighter in their drinks.
Here's my Margarita recipe, so you can try some of your own:
1 1/2 oz Tequila
1 oz Triple Sec
1/2 oz Lime Juice
Shake with ice, then strain into an ice-filled rocks glass.
Make sure you use a good quality Triple Sec. Cointreau is the gold standard, although I used Patrón Citrónge this time around and it worked very well.