Chef Pati Jinich Explains How To Pair Every Meal With Tequila

For award-winning chef, cookbook author, and television host Pati Jinich, great Mexican food should always be paired with cocktails. In an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, Jinich shared her tips for making the perfect tequila drink pairing. Any meal is cause for celebration, and where there's a celebration, there's tequila. Per Jinich, "Tequila is my number one, in Mexico, it's so big, we celebrate with tequila — it's synonymous with Mexico." She has shown her passion for the drink by collaborating with Gran Centenario Tequila on a series of recipes that show how Mexican dishes can be elevated by tequila cocktails.

When entertaining, Jinich pays as much attention to the drinks as the food. "It's really fun when you think about a drink as something as exquisite as a dish ... I want it to be so good that I'm going to be sipping on it slowly." No matter what time of day you're having people over, Jinich has a cocktail idea that will be perfect. Here are Jinich's favorite tequila drinks for every meal, from brunch to dessert.

For brunch, make a tequila-spiked mimosa

Tequila might not be everyone's idea of a morning beverage, but Jinich assured us that "tequila goes from morning to night in the way you can use it." If you're preparing a festive brunch for friends, why not follow Jinich's lead and spike your mimosas recipe with tequila? We already know that tequila tastes great with all kinds of citrus juice, so the pairing of mimosas and tequila is more natural than it may seem at first blush. Tequila's savory, herbaceous taste will add a bit of an edge to the classic mix of sparkling wine and orange juice, which can sometimes be overly sweet.

The key to nailing a tequila-spiked mimosa is to not overdo it on the tequila. You want to taste it, but you don't want to overwhelm the wine and orange juice. Pati Jinich's tequila mimosa recipe uses 1½ ounces of blanco tequila per mimosa and balances out the extra booze with some honey, so the drink is still an easy sipper. She also swaps out the orange juice for grapefruit juice, which adds some bitterness and makes the cocktail a bit like a breakfast Paloma cocktail.

Try a charro negro with lunch

Jinich's favorite tequila cocktail to serve with lunch is a charro negro. At its base, this drink is a simple mix of Coca-Cola and tequila, but with a splash of lime juice. The hint of citrus turns the drink into something like a tequila version of a Cuba Libre; the acidity from the lime makes the drink extra refreshing, perfect for washing down an outdoor lunch in the sunshine.

As a super-summery twist, Jinich likes to chill the drink with a lime-flavored ice pop. This not only keeps your charro negro cold, but as its melts, it adds more citrus flavor to the drink. It also makes the cocktail look quite festive, with the popsicle stick poking out of the top of the glass.

If you want a daytime tequila cocktail that gives you the refreshing bubbles and citrus of a charro negro without the sugar from the soda, ranch water is a good way to go. This drink combines lime and tequila with unflavored sparkling water instead of Coke.

Margaritas are perfect for dinner

With dinner, you have an opportunity to serve heavier, boozier drinks. People are done with work for the day, and it's time to focus on fun. Jinich's go-to Mexican dinner cocktail is a margarita. She likes to make creative margarita variations following a 3-2-1 ratio: three parts citrus juice to two parts tequila to one part sweetener. That gives you a cocktail that feels strong and balanced at the same time. You can play around with flavor profiles within that formula, swapping out different types of citrus juice or flavored sweeteners to create custom margarita variations.

Jinich prefers pairing some dishes with reposado or añejo tequila on the rocks rather than a margarita. These are typically warming, chile-rich dishes made with red meat like a slow cooker birria or pozole. The robust, almost whiskey-like taste of aged añejo tequila is a natural match for the dark flavor of slow-cooked beef. With hints of wood, caramel, and nuts, the flavor of añejo tequila is complex enough to stand on its own without a mixer.

A tequila with sweet notes will complement desserts

Jinich is a big fan of Gran Centenario Cristalino tequila, perhaps the most unusual bottle the brand makes. This tequila spends time in casks previously used to age calvados (apple brandy). It's then filtered through silver, which clarifies it. The process gives Cristalino the complex, rounded flavor of an aged tequila but retains some of the bright, fruity pop of a younger spirit. This unique combination of flavors makes it the ideal accompaniment to sweet dishes, according to Jinich. "Cristalino has notes of cucumber and apple, it's so refreshing," says Jinich. "I like using it for desserts."

Of course, you have more options for pairing tequila with dessert than just Gran Centenario Cristalino. Any tequila with sweet notes can work. Aged tequilas can pick up vanilla-like flavors during the aging process, which would pair well with a variety of desserts. Think about the dessert when selecting a tequila pairing; a lighter, fruit-forward dessert might work well with Cristalino, while something more robust, like chocolate cake, could go better with an aged reposado or añejo tequila.