The Ultimate Tequila Pairing For Cinco De Mayo Molé, According To An Expert

Mexican mole sauce and ingredients
Mexican mole sauce and ingredients - Marcos Castillo/Shutterstock

Tequila carries a lot of star appeal in Cinco de Mayo celebrations, and rightfully so. It's widely considered the national drink of Mexico and is by many measures its most famous international contribution to the world of spirits. But, Cinco de Mayo, which honors Mexico's battlefield victory over France in 1862, is not just about drinking and partying. A huge component of the widely celebrated holiday is the food, which centers on Mexican classics such as molé sauce.

With food and tequila holding equal sway on the 5th of May, it's wise to consider pairing options and how the flavors complement one another. That's why we've tapped into some expert knowledge from Molly Horn, Manager of Cocktail Strategy & Spirits Education at Total Wine & More. Mexican molé is a rich, complex sauce with many iterations, all requiring a true labor of love with over 20 ingredients and many hours of careful layering. Such a mighty, momentous effort on a revered holiday certainly deserves a perfect pairing partner.

Horn explains what the tequila-molé tango should entail, and it comes down to one word: reposado. As one of five tequila styles, the aged reposado best stands up to bold flavors in an authentic Mexican molé. "The rich, earthy, nutty flavors that make up the backdrop of many molés are best complemented by a robust reposado tequila with similar qualities and enough intensity to hold its own against the dish," Horn notes.

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Tequila, Molé, And An Alternative Pairing

Reposado tequila shots with lime
Reposado tequila shots with lime - Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Cinco de Mayo is certainly a Mexican holiday, but it arguably holds equal significance in Mexican-American communities commemorating strong connections to Mexican heritage and culture. It has also spread into populations at large, sometimes blurring the lines between appropriate tequila flavors for food pairing. But, there's a reason why experts such as Molly Horn help draw them more tightly.

When pairing with food, the type of tequila matters. A young agave-forward blanco tequila is mostly unaged and carries a light, citrusy flavor with vegetal tones. That could be ideal for margarita cocktails or causal sipping, but less appropriate for accompanying a deeply complex molé sauce. On the other end of the spectrum, a well-aged añejo tequila may bring concentrated oak flavors that clash with molé rather than enhancing it.

Straddling the middle, the single-year aging of reposado glides right into the Cinco de Mayo sweet spot of molé and tequila pairings. The name itself means "rested," and it brings rich but gentle flavors of caramel, vanilla, and honey, accentuated by more complex notes such as cinnamon, chili, or chocolate. Since making molé from scratch often involves chocolate, cinnamon, and chilis, you can see how reposado and molé become a marriage made in culinary heaven. That said, Horn also gives a thumbs-up to tequila's agave-based counterpart. "You could also opt for a reposado mezcal," Horn says, "where the pronounced smoky and earthy notes can really complement the breadth of mole flavors."

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