accolades from Saveur, Culture, Good Food Awards, Urban Famr, and Wine Spectator

How to make the Perfect Tequila Flight

I recently returned from Santa Fe, New Mexico and while there were many highlights of the trip, the Tequila Flight (it was actually a Mezcal flight) we had at Sazón’s was definitely a food memory to emulate.  I set about putting a comparable version together as soon as I got home to Minnesota.  While the ambiance wasn’t nearly as nice, the “flight” itself (and the company) held up to the memory.

Tequila Flight

Tequila Flight with Two Sangritas

Tequila can work with a “healthy” diet!

OK, before you start the debate, I’m not saying Tequila is a health tonic with proven nutritional benefits.  I’m just saying…’s all relative.  When you compare tequila to other spirits it does seem to have a few unique benefits.  It’s not going to beat red wine in the health benefits arena, but it’s a nice option at times, and it has zero carbs.

First of all distilled spirits are allowed on a low carb or keto diet, as long as they are not flavored spirits and as long as you don’t add sugary mixers (like tonic) to them.  Now, that doesn’t mean you can party-hearty every night without impact to your low carb lifestyle.  Alcohol is primarily empty calories and it is processed first in the liver, similar to fructose, so you do need to be moderate.  And then there is the idea of letting down all those inhibitions around the high carb foods prevalent when dining out.  So, be warned.  Those are the caveats.

(Click here for a great chart showing the relative amounts of calories etc. of different alcohols)

Next, to experience any of the purported benefits of tequila, only purchase tequila that is made from 100% agave.   In Mexico, the law dictates that tequila may only be made with the blue Weber agave plant and only in certain regions.  In the U.S., however, tequila can be made with as little as 51 percent agave supplemented with other sugar sources.

Tequila is made up of indigestible sugars (agavins) that moves through your body without spiking blood sugar.  According to some studies, these agavins have also been found to stimulate your metabolism, unlike most alcohol, which slows down your metabolism.

Lastly, tequila is said to aid digestion after a meal, as it adds probiotics.

Just remember that a glass or two of red wine is going to be more nutritionally beneficial than a flight of tequila, but hey, having options is a good thing IMHO.

Mezcal vs Tequila

Basically, all Tequilas are Mezcals but not all Mezcals are Tequilas.  The difference was explained to my dinner party by the owner of Sazón restaurant in Santa Fe, New Mexico (a wonderful, wonderful restaurant that we had to visit several times).   Mezcal is essentially an agave-based liquor, which might come from any of 30 different agave plants.  Tequila is made only with blue agave and only in specific regions of Mexico.

Mezcal traditionally has a very unique, smoky flavor that is distinguishable from tequila. It also tends to taste sweeter, or richer, than tequila. Mezcal is traditionally cooked inside earthen pits that are lined with lava rocks and filled with wood and charcoal before being distilled in clay pots.  Whereas Tequila is typically produced by steaming the agave inside industrial ovens before being distilled two or three times in copper pots.

This roasting process caramelizes the agave plants, which gives Mezcal a rich, savory and smoky taste.

Tequila is categorized as blanco (aged 0-2 months), reposado (2-12 months) and anejo (1-3 years).  Mezcal is also grouped into three categories by age, which is joven (blanco 0-2 months), reposado (2-12 months) and anejo (at least one year).

Basically Mezcal is artisanal, varied, and smoky, whereas Tequila is going to have brighter citrus notes, fruit characteristics, and a vegetal component.  A Mezcal flight and a Tequila flight are sometimes terms that are used interchangeably.

How to put together a Proper Mezcal Flight (or Tequila Flight)

The Mezcal flight at Sazón’s was delightful and impressive.  Not only was the Mezcal itself outstanding, with distinctive smoky variations, but they included two wonderful chasers called Sangritas.  We learned that the orange Sangrita was to be sipped after the blanco and the reposado, while the tomato-based Sangrita was to be sipped after the smokier, more robust anejo.  Definitely something I wanted to try at home!

I first searched for the right Mezcals (Tequila is much easier to find in Minnesota than Mezcal by the way).  I then looked up a few different recipes for Sangritas.  The most widespread version of Sangrita is a blend of tomato juice, orange juice, grenadine, and chili pepper, although there are many, many variations.  I chose to try and emulate the two that I had at Sazón’s.  We make a smoked tomato shrub syrup at HeathGlen that I thought would be perfect in the tomato version…..and it was!  Here are the Sangrita recipes I used:

Recipe for Sangritas to Accompany a Tequila Flight

The Sangritas are each poured into separate glasses (or caballito) and are alternately sipped, not chased, following a sip of either blanco, reposado or anejo.

The Orange Version of Sangrita:

  • 4 oz fresh orange juice
  • 3 oz fresh lime juice
  • 2 oz grenadine or pomegranate juice
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp ancho chili spice
  • 1/2 tsp salt

In a small bowl or pitcher, combine orange juice, lime juice, grenadine or pomegranate juice, chili powder and salt.  Stir thoroughly. Taste and adjust lime, grenadine, chili powder, or other ingredients if desired. Chill in the refrigerator or by stirring with ice briefly and then straining. Serve in a shot glass alongside a good-quality blanco or reposado.

The Tomato Version of Sangrita:

  • 4 oz  fresh orange juice
  • 4 oz smoked tomato shrub (alternatively you can use tomato juice, but then add a bit of sugar or grenadine)
  • 2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1/2  to 1 tsp ancho chili spice
  • 1/2 tsp salt

In a small bowl or pitcher, combine orange juice, tomato shrub syrup (or tomato juice), lime juice, chili powder and salt.  Stir thoroughly. Taste and adjust ingredients if desired. Chill in the refrigerator or by stirring with ice briefly and then straining. Serve in a glass with no ice alongside a good-quality anejo.


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