A molecular organic geochemical proxy (TEX86) for sea surface temperature (SST) is compared with a foraminifera-based SST proxy (Mg/Ca) in a decadal-resolution marine sedimentary record spanning the last 1000 years from the Gulf of Mexico. We assess the relative strengths of the organic and inorganic paleoceanographic techniques for reconstructing high-resolution SST variability during recent climate events, including the Little Ice Age (LIA) and the Medieval Warm Period (MWP). SST estimates based on the molecular organic proxy TEX86 show a similar magnitude and pattern of SST variability to foraminiferal Mg/Ca-SST estimates but with some important differences. For instance, both proxies show a cooling (1°C–2°C) of Gulf of Mexico SSTs during the LIA. During the MWP, however, Mg/Ca-SSTs are similar to near-modern SSTs, while TEX86 indicates SSTs that were cooler than modern. Using the respective SST calibrations for each proxy results in TEX86-SST estimates that are 2°C–4°C warmer than Mg/Ca-SST throughout the 1000 year record. We interpret the TEX86-SST as a summer-weighted SST signal from the upper mixed layer, whereas the Mg/Ca-SST better reflects the mean annual SST. Downcore differences in the SST estimates between the two proxies (ΔT = TEX86 − Mg/Ca) are interpreted in the context of varying seasonality and/or changing water column temperature gradients.