3/22/2012 12:05:00 PM

Tequila Spotlight: Casa Romero, Masa, The Painted Burro, Papagayo, Tico

Bar at Tico
Tequila's not just for margaritas anymore - it's become a craze. Many of Boston’s new Mexican and Latin restaurants boast 100-plus kinds of the distilled spirit on their lists, and tequila tastings and dinners are commonplace. Generally speaking, there are three basic types: blanco (unaged), reposado (aged at least two months) and añejo (aged at least a year). Yes, that’s a simplified version...we’ll leave the details to the experts behind the bar. But what we can offer are some hotspots where you can start your edification:

Casa Romero: This Back Bay longtime Mexican favorite may have a modest list (about 40 different ones) compared to newbie bars, but it’s still a solid option. Tastings include a sampling of three different tequilas at various ages of one brand, such as Don Julio. If you're worried about being able to stand afterward, bartender Mariana recommends the fish tacos to go with ($20-$29 per a tasting, 617-536-4341).

Masa: The South End locale boasts 122 tequilas and 15 mescals; belly up to the bar to sip the Fidencio or Los Nuhales, try a flight of three or check out their website to stay abreast of tequila dinners. Whichever way you go, there’s always the blackened shrimp and goat cheese quesadilla to keep you company (617-338-8884).

The Painted Burro: At this sleek hacienda-style Mexican in Somerville, you can compare notes with your comrades over two-ounce tastings like a flight of Highlands tequilas, which tend to be fruity, according to the bar keep ($21, LeCerteza Blanco, Sietas Leguas and El Tesoro Platnum). Try it with the Heritage pork chicharrones or the shrimp taco, or continue drinking with “A Study of Añejo," a flight of aged tequilas ($32), or a “Study of Mescal," which is distilled from the maguey plant ($18) (617-776-0005).

Papagayo: When you sip your way through the 175-plus list of offerings at this lively South Boston Mexican, you can earn a dinner for two (25 tequilas), a tasting dinner for four (50 tequilas) and up to a tasting dinner for 10 complete with a plaque ceremony (100 tequilas) as part of the Tequila Club (you give the bartender your e-mail and let them know when you’re sipping). Kill a couple birds (three at one time) with flights of 1.75-ounce tastings, ranging from the Crystal (Casa Noble Cristal, Poqui Blanco, Riazul Blanco, $15) to the Rico (Gran Patron Burdeos, Partida Elegante, Herradura Suprema, $100). Lean on the late-night braised short rib taquiza to get you through. That’s something to strive for (617-423-1000).

Tico: With a mix of Mexican and South American eats, this Back Bay Pan-Latin boasts 120 tequilas, from the handcrafted 1800 Coleccion to the small-batch Casa Dragones, and a challenge to the brave: sample up to 88 tequilas to earn everything from a Tico hat or coaster, to a shot glass or even dinner for four as part of the Tequila Club. You get a “frequent taster” card, which the barkeep checks off as you earn another notch on the agave shuffle (617-351-0400).

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