Tequila and cheese may have you thinking of margaritas and queso. We went to explore more distinct pairings between the two at a recent Murray’s Cheese Industry Monday class. In addition, this class was in timely fashion ahead of Cinco de Mayo. Mezcal expert Tess Lampert guided us through a tasting of Blue Nectar Tequilas. Beth Ann Coulton, PRINT’s long time Murray’s cheese expert provided us the background on the spread of cheeses. All in all, we discovered the inherently complex flavors in both the tequilas and the cheeses. We then examined how they play off each other.
Mezcal vs. Tequila
Many people think that mezcal is an offshoot of tequila. However, mezcal is actually the overarching category that tequila falls under. The broad definition is any cooked agave spirit made in Mexico. Tequila is one of these types of mezcal from a specific region.
Over the decades tequila has become one of the more popularized and modernized mezcals. Production methods like triple distilling are attempts to give the consumer a smooth mouthfeel. Unfortunately, much of the agave’s flavor is dissipated in many cases. However, smaller boutique brands like Blue Nectar are focusing on presenting tequilas made from single-source agave fields in order to show the products’ full character while still giving that smooth mouthfeel.
Tequila and Cheese Pairings
The first pairing was a margarita made with blanco tequila and fresh lemon juice. This paired with a fresh, lightly smoked goat cheese from Goat Lady Dairy in North Carolina. We found that the bright citrus notes in the cheese were complemented by the lemon in the margarita. Furthermore, the smoky flavors offered a nice savory complement to the cocktail’s sweetness.
Next up was the blanco straight up with an Andalusian goat cheese called Montealva Curado. Beth Ann had us break apart a piece of the cheese and take a deep whiff of its grassy notes. Then we slowly tasted it to notice its dense flaky texture and citrus flavors with an umami finish. Usually she recommends this cheese paired with a fino sherry, but the blanco acted as a clean and fresh palate cleanser between nibbles.
The third pairing was the Reposado Extra Blend with a sheep’s milk tomme from Ossau Iraty in the French Basque region. Here the light oak aging of the tequila paired beautifully with the toasted wheat aromas of the cheese. The weight of the tequila complemented the rich texture and nutty sweetness perfectly.
The ladies saved the best for last and steered us into dessert territory with an Anejo. It expressed velvety buttered toffee, vanilla, and oak. It paired stupendously with a rich aged Appenzeller style cheese from Switzerland called Challerhocker. The Challerhocker had similar notes of salted butterscotch, roasted nuts, and cooked cream. Lastly, we were given a spiced Reposado similar to a cognac. The Reposado played off a umami rich yet sweet gouda.
We left with a new understanding not only how to create complex pairings, but also with a deeper knowledge of tequila and it’s history. In the end, we all agreed the next class should focus on pairing mezcal and cheese. We could further explore how the terroir and production methods of these artisanal products can co-mingle in the glass, plate, and palate.
Interested in learning more about our tequilas and cheese at PRINT? Visit our bar for a cocktail and light bites to try our tequila and cheese offerings!