There’s Finally a Good Use for Cristalino Tequila

Mijenta’s take on the popular but contentious tequila category has real flavor (and purpose)

March 13, 2024 2:14 pm
Mijenta Cristalino Tequila
Mijenta Cristalino Tequila — your next base for a Martini?

What we’re drinking: Mijenta Cristalino, a surprising new entry into the growing cristalino tequila category

Where it’s from: One of our favorite tequila brands, this additive-free, certified B Corp distillery hails from the highlands of Jalisco. The liquid is overseen by Maestra Tequilera Ana Maria Romero Mena, who basically created the tequila aroma wheel that’s become the industry standard in her 2007 book The Aromas of Tequila: The Art of Tasting.

Why we’re drinking this: I really like Mijenta, and I’ve put them on several “best of” lists. But I’m hesitant about the new(ish) trend of cristalino tequilas, an unofficial category that sees aged tequilas go through a charcoal filtering process to look clear. Ideally, they’d simply look like a blanco tequila but have the tasting notes and aromas closer to an aged (reposado/añejo) tequila. But they tend to be slightly sweeter and lose some of those interesting wood/oak characteristics. Still, the category saw 39% growth in dollar sales last year, so people must be drinking this, right?

Cristalinos Are the Next Big Thing in Tequila. Are They Worth It?
The pros and cons of these aged, filtered and expensive agave expressions

“It’s much more popular in Mexico than it is here,” says Mike Dolan Sr., Mijenta’s co-founder and CEO (and former CEO of Bacardi), who also seemingly read my mind regarding the idea of a good cristalino tequila. “And you know…most people say, why bother? It’s just a bleached-out reposado or añejo, what’s the point? But it was Ana’s idea to create a really great one that maintains the flavor.”

To achieve that flavor, the distillery aged its tequila in “symphony barrels,” which were made using American oak staves from forests in Minnesota, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Virginia, for eight months. Besides experimentation, Dolan admits there’s a business reason behind the launch: they’re taking aim at a market outside of agave spirits. “We’re going after the traditional vodka Martini,” he says. 

Which may mean the opinion of tequila enthusiasts like me might not make a difference, but it may also turn some skeptics into fans. “Among people who know good tequila, I think the initial reaction was ‘Please don’t force me to taste this stuff,’” Dolan says. “But then people taste it and realize it has a wonderful taste profile. It wins them over.”

We tried the Cristalino neat and in several Martini variations. Our thoughts below.

How it tastes: Coming in at 40% ABV, this one is bright and flavorful. The nose is full of cooked agave and citrus, and the texture is silky and a bit oily with additional notes of honey, coconut and vanilla (thankfully in modest amounts). Without looking at the color, I might have guessed this for an elevated joven or reposado. It’s an excellent sipper but honestly fantastic in cocktails — not so much traditional tequila cocktails but as an upgrade on vodka.

Fun fact: Because we’re talking about Martinis, here’s one (a Highlands Martini) we tried from Takuma Watanabe, the co-founder of NYC’s buzzy cocktail bar Martiny’s. You can find more cristalino tequila Martini recipes here — including, yes, an Espresso Martini variation.

Where to buy: The limited-edition Mijenta Cristalino is available for $119.99 at Mijenta’s site and Sip Tequila.


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