Charcuterie Cheeses That Will Amplify Your Tequila

Few drinks pair better with a plate of tacos and cheesy nachos than those made with tequila, and few drinks improve a lousy plate of tacos and nachos like tequila. But if you're looking to up your tequila game by pairing the blue agave liquor with the right cheeses, there are some charcuterie cheeses you have to try.

The haters will say it's heretical to bring out the tequila with a charcuterie board. After all, wine has been meat and cheese's perfect companion since its 15th-century inception, especially since the trend of board assembly reached fine-dining restaurants and high-end parties.

But look — the cheese police aren't going to come to your house or crash your party if you pair tequila with fine cheeses. Not every cheese is compatible with wine, anyway. Some are best used to amplify the tastes of whiskey and floral cocktails (via Wisconsin Cheese) or vodka, rum, and gin (via Alcohol Professor). And as you're about to discover, some cheeses pair well with tequila, too.

What cheeses pair well with tequila?

In interviews with Asonta Benetti of Food & Wine, bartenders and chefs from across the country weighed in on foods to pair with the Mexican liquor. One restauranteur proposed a place among charcuterie boards for the fiery golden drink. "The funky, vegetal nature of Lowlands tequila and the sharp, citrus notes of Highlands tequila –– along with the natural perceived salinity and mineralogy –– pairs perfectly with cheese and olives," said Aaron DeFeo, the co-owner of Little Rituals in Phoenix, Arizona.

Overwhelmingly, the mixologists and chefs suggested smoky flavors to complement tequila. David Tyda, co-owner of Phoenix's Barcoa Agaveria, suggested an aged gouda to pair with reposado tequila. "The cheese [provides] smokey, cooked milk notes, and the tequila [brings] a light, uplifting quality to the pairing," he said.

Another cheese suggestion Tyda makes is manchego paired with añejo tequila. How well your manchego pairs depends on where it's sourced from — original Spanish manchego is made with sheep's milk from the La Mancha region and boasts a sweet flavor that gets sharper and stronger with age (via Castello). On the other hand, Mexican manchego is made with cows' milk, making it softer, thicker, and milder. Given that Mexican cheeses tend to be crumbly or soft, better for melting or garnishing than for slicing and eating with cured meats, it might be best to stick with the Spanish version.

Try these other tequila cheese pairings

Eager to expand your cheese palate? Since tequila pairs so well with smoky, complex flavors, there are some wild, diverse choices, some of which only the most die-hard cheese connoisseurs might seek out. The most mainstream cheeses are cheddars, with grassy aromas and nutty-savory notes that will entertain tequila lovers without scaring off the faint of heart — the well-known Montgomery's cheddar (one of the priciest of this bunch) and the less conventional Lincolnshire poacher, both English cheeses made from unpasteurized cow's milk, might fit the bill.

The 10th-century French monk who invented Maroilles cheese wouldn't have even known what tequila was, yet here we are. The cow's milk cheese is creamy and smooth, perfect for the soft-cheese spot on a charcuterie board, and sports a pungent aroma that locks arms with its mushroom, walnut, and bacon notes. A more obscure semi-soft cow's milk cheese, the aisy cendre, also hails from France. Its aggressive flavor might better match the smoky appeal of tequila, considering it's coated in ash.

If you're into sheep's milk cheeses, pair your tequila with the Spanish idiazábal, an award-winning smoky delight. If you're daring, grab a wheel of barricato al pepe (also on the expensive side). It's a firm Italian cow's milk cheese with ivory insides enshrouded in a coat of crushed black peppercorns — the ideal way to ensure your tequila isn't the most pungent taste at the table.