The powers that be — AKA marketing teams and the people of the internet — have declared October 4 as National Taco Day. It’s also supposedly National Vodka Day, but honestly, every day should be National Taco Day, so it takes precedent.
In America, tacos are generally paired with over-sized margaritas, tequila and cheap cerveza. But it’s time for a change, and that change needs to be mezcal.
The folks over at Party Excuses Network (the actual name of the company that owns National Taco Day’s website) forgot to include any information on mezcal and taco pairings, though. They managed to fit in other taco facts — the first recorded reference of the taco was the tacos de minero (or miner’s tacos) in the 19th century — but they also credited Taco Bell with making Mexican food popular in the United States. Sure Taco Bell can make a case for some Chateau Montelena pairings, but getting credit for the popularity of the food from America’s closest southern neighbor?
Luckily we are here to fulfill your taco and mezcal pairing needs. Mezcal can be made with any of the more than 30 types of agave plant. Traditional mezcals smoke the heart of the agave plant (called the pina) underground, which gives mezcal that oh-so-distinctive smokey flavor profile. The most common type of mezcal that can be found outside of Mexico is Espadín, which is made from a common variety of agave, and the taste varies from producer to producer.
In honor of simplicity and a need to get right to the eating and drinking, this pairing guide will focus on the age of the mezcal: Joven, which is aged up to two months, reposado, which is aged two months to a year, and anejo, which is aged one to three years.
Keep these pairings in mind as you celebrate National Taco Day, as well as every other day of the year that you bite into the delectable, versatile food group that is the taco.
Joven with fish tacos
Joven mezcal is one of the most location-dependent mezcals, because the producers can’t rely on the masking flavors of oak. Joven is generally peppery, has a fresh agave flavor and, of course, is smokey (apply the “smokey” descriptor to all mezcal). This makes it perfect for fried fish tacos with cilantro crema, purple cabbage and a little chipotle salsa.
Reposado with chicken tinga tacos
Reposado doesn’t sit in oak long enough for it to dominate the flavor profile. It also doesn’t have as pure of a straight agave flavor as the joven, though. You will find the pepper and agave flavors in joven, but it will be a touch sweeter from the oak. Pair a reposado with a chicken tinga taco topped with cilantro and queso fresco.
Anejo with carne asada tacos
Anejo has the full on oak flavors a person can expect from a spirit that rested in oak for more than a year. It pulls sweetness from the oak, and loses a lot of the traditional mezcal flavors. Instead, expect more vanilla, wood and caramel. Pair it with carne asada tacos loaded with a serrano-based salsa, a thin slice of avocado and lots of lime.