Margaritas are one of my favorite cocktails. However, a Margarita is only as good as its ingredients, so it is very important to make sure the tequila you’re using is a good one.
10 great tequilas to fit every taste and budget. CLICK TO TWEET
Just as different regions produce different wines, tequila is affected by the type of plant and geography. You won’t find anything about it on the label, but there are two unofficial styles of agave plants: highland and lowland. The highland agaves are grown in the volcanic uplands and tends to be brighter and more acidic, with notes of olive brine and green pepper. The lowland agaves grow in an area near Guadalajara, and tend to be a bit more fruity with tropical notes. Please sip and taste your tequila. If you need to shoot it with salt and lime, it probably isn’t a good tequila.
Tequilas are classified according to how long they are aged: Blanco, Joven, Reposado, Anejo and Extra Anejo. The longer a tequila is aged, the more complex the flavor becomes and the harshness of the alcohol mellows. Prices for good tequila can be all over the map, but here are 10 great ones that will fit a variety of budgets.
Blanco: This is often referred to as white or silver tequila. It is bottled or stored immediately after distillation, or aged less than two months in stainless steel or neutral oak barrels.
1. Avion Silver – Fans of HBO’s Entourage will recognize this one. It is clean-tasting, with a crisp alcohol bite,a hint of chamomile and black pepper. A great mildly flavored tequila, perfect for a Margarita.
2. Don Julio Blanco – This Highlands tequila has a fresh, sweet, floral notes. It is smooth and rich tasting, creamy with a delicate herbal notes. Great to sip as well as in a cocktail. Even people who say they don’t like tequila will like this one.
Joven: Unaged. This tequila goes into the bottles immediately
3. El Silencio Joven Mezcal – Mezcal has been referred to as the “single malt of the agave world” El Silencio has done a blend of three different kinds of agave, which gives it the signature smokiness of a mezcal, but nice and buttery with light smoke, sweet agave, and vanilla. Makes a fantastic Margarita, but not everyone will enjoy sipping it.
4. Casa Dragones – At $275 a bottle, you wouldn’t use this in a Margarita. It’s labeled as a sipping tequila and has smooth, floral, and almost creamy finish, with new flavors were present with each sip. A hint of extra-aged tequila that is added to the blend which elongates the finish. This tequila is a favorite of Oprah and is made by the first woman to be certified a Master of Tequila.
Reposado: Is aged a minimum of two months, but less than a year in oak barrels of any size.
5. Casamigos Reposado – Casamigos is Spanish for house of friends, which is appropriate since this tequila is made by George Clooney, Rande Gerber and Mike Meldman, neighbors in the exclusive El Dorado enclave in Los Cabos, Mexico. Clooney and Gerbe say, “We love tequila: on the rocks, by the shot, at times straight from the bottle. Our idea was to make the best tasting, smoothest tequila, whose taste we didn’t have to cover up with salt.” Their Reposado is a sipping tequila, aged for seven months in American white oak barrels, reconditioned after originally being used for premium-aged whiskey. It is smooth, clean and with a hint of caramel.
6. Herradura Colección de la Casa, Reserva Port Cask Finished Reposado – This tequila ages for 11 months in medium-char American oak barrels, then is transferred into Douro Valley port casks for the last 2 months of the aging process. The aroma is intense, with salt, prickly pear, dried fruit, and a bit of sweetness. The flavor starts a bit sweet, then progresses to that agave bite. Undertones of plum, cinnamon, leather, and a sweet port. It finishes long and warm, with no burn whatsoever, lingering oak and spices melt into chalky dark chocolate.
Anejo: Is aged a minimum of one year, but less than three years in small oak barrels.
7. Partida – Aged in Jack Daniels barrels, creating an intense concentration of aroma and flavor from expert aging. The barrel imparts a rich copper color and the bouquet with notes of cherry, almond, dried fruit, and allspice in addition to the peppery notes lent by the agave. The palate is captivating with flavors of honey, chocolate, pear, and vanilla. Unlike many other tequila producers, Partida only uses blue agave from their own carefully tended estate, allowing them complete control over quality from the soil to the bottle. Partida is the first tequila to ever earn a five star rating for their entire line in F. Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal.
8. Chinaco Anejo – The aromas are intense, dominated by earthy agave with a strong presence of pepper, citrus, chamomile, caramel, smoke, and butterscotch with a hint of wild flowers, vanilla and baked apple.
Extra Anejo: Is aged a minimum of three years in oak barrels. This is a relatively new classification, starting in 2006.
9. Don Julio Real – Mexico’s most popular premium tequila, Don Julio Real is made using handpicked seven- to ten-year-old blue agave and then aged in American white oak barrels for three to five years. The extra aging of the two tequilas at the top of the line add notes of oak and herbs with a hint of citrus. Rich dark chocolate-caramel and a peppery notes at the finish.
10. Gran Centenario Leyenda – 100% blue agave with an average aging process of 4 years in French Limousin oak barrels. The spirit is blended with Tequila reserves that are aged up to fifteen years for richness and complexity. The flavor has a light and sweet woodiness, with aromatic flavors of oak, maple, roasted almond and cloves. With a long, warm cinnamon finish, it is perfectly suited for an after dinner snifter or the most refined cocktail.
There you have it! 10 of the best tequilas around! Grab some friends and some chips and salsa and you’re all set. If you’re in Los Angeles, be sure to check out these great Mexican restaurants.