Transparency is essential to every aspect of life, and the same principle applies to your liquor cabinet. In the world of agave-based spirits, Cristalino is the clear, pun intended, newly-coronated king. What makes Cristalino different from its legacy tequila siblings? Alejandro Coronado, master distiller for Proximo Spirits explains that the aged tequila is a standout in that it has been filtered through charcoal to remove the imperfections and impurities from the barrel without impacting the rich flavors and textures imparted by the casing. “The result is a tequila that has the complexity and character of an Añejo with the crisp, bright notes of a Blanco; it possesses a smooth finish that is perfectly versatile for cocktail creation,” he says of the colorless concoction. Every Cristalino has its unique production process and more importantly filtration method, which is what gives the category a “bright, smooth profile.”
As it happens Cristalino is a fairly new type of tequila. “[It was] invented over a decade ago by Juan Domingo Beckmann, the founder of Maestro Dobel Tequila and 11th-generation member of the Cuervo family,” explains Coronado. In the early 2000s, Beckmann recognized a trend among Mexican tequila drinkers, that they gravitated towards premium unaged tequilas because they were “smoother, more sophisticated and approachable than the traditional Reposados and Añejos.”
According to Coronado the beauty of Cristalino tequila lies in its versatility. It can be enjoyed equally on its own or as the base spirit of a cocktail. “Since a Cristalino could be a Reposado, Añejo, or Extra Añejo, there are a multitude of options that pair well with it,” he says.
Miguel Cedeño-Cruz, master distiller at Cenote Tequila, part of Stoli Group, says there are a few variables that come into play when deciding how to enjoy Cristalino tequila: the occasion, mood, type of food to pair it with, time of day, and even the temperature outside. When it comes to food pairings, he recommends vegetables, chicken, seafood, pasta, cheese, meat, desserts, coffee, or tea. “This means that you can offer [Cristalino in a] cocktail when you receive your guests, straight to sip during the main course, or as a more complex cocktail with vegetables and fruits at the end [of a meal], or with a dessert,” he says.
For those new to the Cristalino tequila trend, they have plenty of time to hop on the bandwagon. Its popularity has been rising, particularly in the U.S., and isn’t going anywhere. “In the last five years Cristalino has increased 41% in value in the U.S. market,” Coronado says. “This surpassed growth projections by 5% in the U.S... Cristalino tequilas have grown three times the rate of the tequila category and are expected to account for 7% of all tequila by 2027.”
Cristalino Rules Of Thumb
Whether you want to sip it neat, on the rocks, or get your mixology on, exploring the world of Cristalino as a newbie can feel intimidating. Luckily, our experts weigh in on tips to make the journey as smooth as the spirit itself. Jaime Salas, master mixologist and Head of Advocacy for Proximo Spirits encourages consumers to pay attention to the label on the bottle. “When picking out a good bottle of Cristalino at the store, it’s important to first and foremost verify that the ‘100% Agave’ label is included on the product,” he says.
Cedeño-Cruz suggests thinking about the flavor profiles of tequila expressions you already like and using them as a starting point. “If you are more of a Blanco tequila drinker, first try with a Reposado or Añejo Cristalino,” he advises, “But if you like aged products, look for Añejos or Extra-Añejo Cristalinos.” But his best piece of advice is to try different brands and consume each Cristalino in different ways, from sipping straight to stirring it into your favorite cocktail to determine what variety you like and how you like to drink it.
Once you’ve got your bottle set, Coronado reminds people of another essential element of enjoying a boozy beverage. “It’s important to have the right glassware when enjoying Cristalino tequila, depending on how you choose to drink it,” he says.
“For example, if you’re drinking it in a margarita, make sure to serve it in a rocks glass. If you’re sipping it neat, use a tulip-shaped glass or a narrow-rimmed glass that can concentrate the scents, enhancing the tasting experience,” he says, suggesting Riedel Bar Tequila Flutes.
Another thing Coronado points out when it comes to enhancing the Cristalino experience is the art of patience. “Take your time when enjoying Cristalino: Sip it slowly, so you can really taste and enjoy all the different and complex flavors in the tequila,” he shares. “Take the time to learn: Educate yourself about the specific production methods and characteristics of different Cristalinos. Understanding the nuances can add layers to your enjoyment and make the experience more rewarding.”
Lastly, Coronado wants to inspire the at-home mixologist inside of everyone to experiment, explore, and step outside of their comfort zone. “Try out different recipes,” he guides. “Cristalino’s versatility can bring a unique twist to traditional tequila cocktails or spark ideas for new drink creations.”
Ahead, expert-approved Cristalino picks that will make you an enthusiast after your first sip.
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