Should You Be Pairing Your Cheese Board with Tequila?

How I Assemble a Simple Cheese Board(Image credit: Landis Carey)

Today is National Cheese-Lover’s Day and, while pretty much every day feels like a good day to celebrate (and eat!) cheese (lots and lots of cheese), today is an especially good day for it. You may find yourself leaning toward a decadent triple-crème or a slightly salty blue or maybe something sharp and hard.

Whatever the case, if you are like me and planning to make a meal of it, you may also find yourself wondering: What should I drink with my plate of cheese and accoutrements?

Now, the first answer that probably comes to mind is wine. I like wine, you most likely also like wine, and, most importantly, cheese likes wine. But is wine the best mate? Maybe, but also maybe not.

Allow us to present a case for pairing your cheese with tequila.

But First: Why the Cheese Should Not Stand Alone

Okay, perhaps that’s a little too dramatic. After all, we fully support eating cheese all by itself. But Adam Goddu, a certified cheese professional and the Associate Director at Murray’s Cheese in New York, says that there’s something special that happens when food and drink come together.

“We look for magical math: 1+1=3. You want the combination to complement each other, but you also want the flavor to evolve into something more,” he explains. That’s an equation we can get behind.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Casa Noble)

Why You Should Pair Cheese with Tequila

When it comes to pairing cheese (or any food) with tequila (or any high-alcohol beverages), Goddu admits that it can be challenging. “That booziness can overpower many elements,” he says.

But, he adds, “I do think wine and beer hog the limelight. Tequila can be just as versatile and special with the right combination or flavors.” And cheese — be it Gruyère, a clothbound cheddar, or a mild blue — can bring out a different side to your tequila.

Of course, not all tequilas are created equal. Some are much easier to pair with than others. For example, anything barrel-aged allows for more freedom in pairing. “When you have a tequila like Casa Noble’s Single Barrel Anejo, the sky is the limit,” says Goddu. “A funky washed rind or fudgy, spicy blue pair wonderfully.”

But this cheese expert doesn’t shy away from a challenge: “Finding the perfect cheese for Joven is just a lot of fun.”

(Image credit: Karen Biton-Cohen)

How You Should Pair Cheese with Tequila

Goddu applies the same general principles to tequila pairings as he does to all pairings: “We go by three basic principles: like with like, opposites attract, and what grows together goes together.” (Read more about Mexican cheeses here.)

So, how does this translate to your bottle of blanco and that wedge of brie in your fridge? Here are a few suggested pairings.

If you like Joven: Joven are quite boozy and pack a punch, so you need a cheese strong enough to stand its ground.

If you like Blanco: Blanco tends to have a clarity and subtly with sweet corn and grass coming to the forefront. Stick with a milder, sweeter brie-style cheese.

If you like Reposado: Higher-butterfat cheeses, like sheep or water buffalo milk cheeses, do very well overall.

If you like Anejo: Anejo’s oaky, vanilla notes lean toward Alpine-style cheeses with caramel and roasted almond flavors dancing beautifully together.

Pure Mexican Margarita(Image credit: Sara Kate Gillingham)

Or, if pairing straight tequila with your cheese seems too intense, try a tequila-based cocktail. “With tequila-based drinks, I like to play off the herbal and fruity tones of the drinks,” says Laura Burgess, a certified sommelier and frequent Kitchn contributor. She suggests pairing your margaritas and palomas with tangy, buttery cheeses, like fresh goat cheese, Saint Aubin, or sharp cheddar. Or for aged tequila cocktails she likes “something that highlights the smoky flavor like an aged Gouda, Comté, or anything that’s actually been smoked.”

What do you think? Would you drink tequila with cheese, or stick with a more traditional pairing?

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