Tequila is sold in three main categories: blanco (silver), reposado (rested), and añejo (aged)-so whether you’re drinking it (Margarita) or cooking with it (Blueberry Fruit Salad with Tequila-Lime Syrup), it’s good to understand their differences. Whichever kind you buy, look for 100 percent agave on the label, which means there are no additives, including caramel (often used for tequilas sold as “gold”) or glycerine (an inexpensive way of adding smoothness and sweetness).
Blanco (silver) Clear, unaged tequila. Flavor: Clean with an earthy, slightly smoky spiciness. Uses: Mixed drinks, straight sipping, and for cooking where a light flavor is required, such as a sauce base. Suggested brands: Espolón, $24; Herradura, $45.
Reposado (rested) Light amber tequila rested in oak barrels for 2 to 12 months. Flavor: Smoky and sweet, enhanced by a subtle oak overtone. Uses: Premium margaritas, straight sipping, and in dishes where a more pronounced tequila flavor is desired. Suggested brands: El Jimador, $23; Chinaco, $46.
Añejo (aged) Amber tequila aged in oak barrels for more than 12 months and sometimes for several years. Flavor: Spicy but muted by the oak, which gives it a cognac-like flavor. Uses: After-dinner drink, in cakes and other desserts instead of brandy or dark rum. Suggested brands: Cazadores, $43; Partida, $60.