When it comes to sweat-inducing spirits, tequila may very well be king. Sure, there are chili-infused liqueurs and countless flavored vodkas and white rums (some of which attempt to bring the heat), but nothing is as synonymous with natural spice as distilled agave. Milagro, a tequila brand founded by two Mexico City natives during the late 1990s, aims to celebrate the purity of Mexican soil and the blue agave plant with a portfolio of flagship tequilas and select barrel-aged iterations.
The flagship line, which includes a blanco, a reposado, and an añejo, is smooth enough to be enjoyed neat, but these spirits also work equally well in cocktail form. To bring out the black-pepper notes in the blanco, Jaime Salas (Milagro’s brand ambassador) recommends the Mercadito (click here for the recipe), a margarita-like libation that is enhanced by cucumber slices, cilantro, and jalapeño. “The cilantro adds some savoriness,” he explains, “the cucumber builds off of the freshness [in the tequila], and the jalapeño adds that sweet heat.”
The brand’s flagship reposado, which is aged in oak barrels for six months, is still agave-forward, like the blanco, but it delivers more caramel flavors and a red-chili-pepper spice. “If you wanted to craft an old-fashioned or if you wanted to make a very classic tequila cocktail, the reposado has the element of spice that we really like,” Salas says. However, in his opinion, the cocktail that best brings out the spice in the reposado is El Vocho (click here for the recipe). It’s a playful take on a traditional tequila-and-sangrita pairing, and is named after the green Volkswagen Beetle taxicabs that were popular in Mexico during the 1980s. “It’s got a lot of bright green notes,” he says, which come from the blended mixture of mint and cilantro leaves. “It’s that sweet heat, with pineapple and tropical notes coming through, and it ends with some spice.”
Milagro’s flagship añejo is aged for a year and a half in oak barrels, but it’s blended afterward to create a well-balanced spirit. “You get all the beautiful American oak notes—caramel and toffee and a little smoke from the char—which are in conjunction with the spice,” says Salas. In cocktail form, the añejo pairs wonderfully with flavors of Mexican chocolate, which makes an appearance in the Manhattan Moderne (click here for the recipe).
For those looking for a sipping tequila to pair with spicy cuisine, Salas says that both the Select Barrel Reserve Silver (an unusual blanco in that it is aged in oak barrels for a little more than a month) and the Select Barrel Reserve Reposado are ideal choices. The reposado, he says, provides a complimentary spice, while the Silver offers sweet, rich vanilla notes. But both stay true to the staple ingredient. “It’s about always having that beautiful agave note present,” Salas says. “At the heart of it, there should always be that herbaceous, fruity, sometimes mineral and spicy characteristic.”