Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
When it comes to tequila, the basic choice is simple: 100% agave, or not 100% agave. Of course, this is like saying that when it comes to music, there’s Mozart or there’s a guy named Steve-O playing the kazoo version of Eine kleine Nachtmusik alone in a basement in Cleveland, but whatever. You get the point: One is the real thing.
So let’s ignore the mixto category, which only requires tequila to be 51% agave (the rest is typically a neutral spirit made from sugar cane) and concentrate on those labeled 100% de agave or 100% puro de agave.
Top-quality blanco tequilas are equally good for sipping or mixing. (General rule of thumb for cocktails: Look at the bottle in your hand. Can you imagine drinking it straight, or does the idea make you shudder? If the latter, don’t use it for cocktails either.) For sipping, serve good quality blancos neat, the way you would a single-malt scotch, for instance - cool temperature, no ice (and no salt or lime). Even better, serve the tequila alongside a sangrita, a classic accompaniment that was originally a blend of pomegranate juice, orange juice, lime juice, chile pepper and sometimes salt and chopped onion. These days, tomato juice usually takes the place of the pomegranate.
And what the heck, today is National Tequila Day: a fine excuse for drinking some good tequila. Here are a few top-quality blancos to check out.
Camarena Silver ($20)
Tapatio Blanco ($35/1 liter)
Fortaleza Blanco ($50)
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