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Whether you're looking to take some tequila shots with friends or mix up some delicious margaritas or cocktails, finding the perfect tequila can be a tedious search. With so many on the market, it can seem impossible to find one that's right for you. But the important thing is to select a tequila that you can savor, no matter how you're enjoying it. Learn how tequila types are categorized and which kind is best for mixing into cocktails or sipping straight.
Here are the best tequilas to satisfy your needs on any drinking night.
Best for Margaritas: Cazadores Tequila Blanco
Technically, a margarita is just a sour—a cocktail family comprised of a base spirit, a sweetener, and some citrus. Sours stand the test of time and trend because they’re refreshing and easy to execute. But a cocktail with so few ingredients requires each ingredient to hold its own. You don’t need to spend a lot of money, but you do want quality.
To make a good margarita (or sour in general), your base spirit should be easygoing, but not wimpy. It should bring some personality to the table without stealing the show. For those reasons, Cazadores Tequila Blanco is one of the best tequilas for margaritas. With notes of basil and lemon blossom, it’s great for sipping, too, but it is especially well-suited for your margarita thanks to its freshness, roundness, and agave character.
Best Sipping Tequila: Casa Dragones Tequila Joven
If you’re more of a “sometimes take shots of tequila on the weekends” person, a $300 bottle of tequila may sound nuts. But, for those who like their Japanese whisky neat and dream about that one time they want to Islay, this is the tequila that will convince the terroir-loving spirits drinker of tequila’s elegance and craftsmanship.
This bottle is an unusual house blend of estate-grown silver tequila from 100 percent blue agave with tequila that’s been aged five years in charred American oak barrels (which would qualify as extra-aged añejo). Together, they become the Joven blend. This is the epitome of sipping tequila—smooth and unforgettable.
Best for Shots: Espolòn Blanco
For those who want a quality tequila that’s easy on the wallet, Espolòn Blanco is a great go-to. The label features the rooster Ramón, a reference to Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada and his role in the fight for Mexican independence.
Espolòn is crafted in Jalisco, the Highlands region of Mexico, by master blender Cirilo Oropeza, whose passion is making accessible, traditional tequilas that do Mexico proud. Grassy and mild, with some pleasant notes of coconut, Espolòn Blanco’s smoothness and neutrality make it a great tequila for whatever you need, including and especially shots. It’s made with 100 percent Blue Weber agave (i.e. no headache-inducing fillers).
Best Cheap Tequila: Arette Blanco Tequila
Eduardo Orendain used to be the mayor of Tequila (not a figure of speech; he was the actual mayor of the town). But in 1976, he started making tequila with his brother Jamie from estate-grown blue agave and never looked back.
Their family has been making tequila for five generations and is one of the few still making it in the actual town of Tequila. Arette is likely your bartender’s favorite tequila thanks to its insane value-to-price ratio. It beats bottles at even double the price for flavor, complexity, and versatility. With its balanced notes of citrus, oregano, and banana peel, you can happily drink it neat, chilled, or in a cocktail. It would also be nice infused with jalapeño or cucumber.
Best Añejo Tequila: Casa Noble Añejo Tequila
Añejo means “old” in Spanish. In order to qualify as Añejo tequila, the spirit must be aged for a minimum of a year in oak barrels. Usually, those oak barrels are new French oak or used bourbon barrels for roundness. You can distinguish Añejo by its color, which will be the darkest of the types of tequila.
Casa Noble’s award-winning and certified organic Añejo is aged for two years in new French white oak barrels, far surpassing the minimum age requirement for its category. The additional aging time imparts rich aromas of butterscotch, dried fruits, vanilla, and baking spices. Plus, it’s been triple distilled for extra smoothness and clarity. This is a superb tequila.
Best Reposado Tequila: Camarena Reposado
Reposado means “rested” in Spanish, and these “rested” tequilas will have been aged anywhere from 60 days to a year. That hint of age softens and rounds it out, meaning a good reposado will be wonderful to sip on but should mix well in your favorite tequila cocktails, too (especially something like tequila cocoa). Reposado will be slightly tan in color, with delicate, sweet aromas.
It’s hard to find a completely delicious reposado for under $25, but Camarena Reposado breaks the mold in a couple of ways: It’s double-distilled in small batches from 100 percent Weber Blue Agave, sourced from the highest altitudes of Los Altos de Jalisco. It’s elegant and silky, with aromas of caramel shortbread and honey cake. Frankly, it’s hard to beat for the price.
Best Silver/Blanco Tequila: Tequila Partida Blanco
Sometimes, blanco (sometimes called silver or white) tequila is written off as the simple young stuff that you’d really only want to mix in a cocktail or take shots of. With Tequila Partida Blanco, you’re drinking something special. This estate-bottled product is made with hand-harvested, fully matured blue agave plants, ranging from seven to 10 years old. Much like the finest wines coming from old vines, tequila that comes from mature agave plants has a unique character that’s hard to surpass—this spirit is crisp, vibrant, floral, and gently citrusy. A tequila worth savoring.
Best Don Julio: Don Julio 1942
Don Julio is an iconic tequila brand, found in almost every bar. Its most iconic bottle is easily the Don Julio 1942, created to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the brand’s creation, and named after the year that founder Julio González started his “La Primavera” distillery.
Aged for two and a half years in small batches, this premium tequila is silky and smooth, with notes of Tahitian vanilla, marzipan, tropical fruits, and grandma’s homemade caramels. Technically an Añejo, you’ll want to savor this tequila neat or over a giant rock, perhaps with a wedge of your favorite aged cheese.
Best Patron: Patrón Roca Silver
Even if you don’t know tequila, you likely know Patrón. The brand has been a leader in tequila since its 1989 inception. Its barrels, corks, and bottles are all crafted at the distilleries. And, while many of its expressions are delicious, the Roca Patrón Silver is something special, made in Jalisco, Mexico, at the Hacienda Patrón distillery with 100 percent Weber Blue Agave.
After being baked in brick ovens for 79 hours, the agave is then pressed using a traditional tahona stone (as opposed to a mill, much more often used in large production). The agave flavors are at the forefront here, with a long finish.
Best 100% Agave: Tequila Ocho Plata
Not all tequila is made with 100 percent agave. In fact, a lot of the tequila brands used in your favorite cocktails from the corner bar are going to be half agave-based spirits and half something else. There’s nothing wrong with that, exactly, but if you’re drinking tequila, why not drink the real stuff?
Tequila Ocho is made with 100 percent estate-grown blue agave, and the company takes that ethos of transparency one step further, even labeling its bottles by vintage. As with wine, the flavors will change by vintage but typically will include notes of wild rosemary, avocado leaf, and Castelvetrano olives. This is truly spectacular tequila.
Best for Paloma: Chamucos Blanco Tequila
Believe it or not, the margarita is not Mexico’s most-loved cocktail. That honor goes to the Paloma, a charming and very customizable cocktail traditionally made with grapefruit soda and lime juice. The sweetness, freshness, and slight bitterness of grapefruit does lovely things with agave spirits, but you do need a tequila (or mezcal, if you’re feeling fancy) with a nice depth of flavor.
The Chamucos Blanco Tequila is perfect, with its fruity, woodsy flavors and citrusy base notes. It also happens to be incredibly smooth, meaning it’s great for sipping or mixing into a Bloody Maria as well.
What to Look for in a Tequila
Great for Mixing
Tequila can be sipped straight, but it is also commonly used in cocktails, namely margaritas. If you're looking to buy a tequila specifically for making margaritas, make sure to find out if it mixes well. You don't want your tequila to overpower the other ingredients in your mixed drink.
Añejo vs. Reposado vs. Blanco
Different tequila types are categorized by how long they are aged. Añejo is aged the longest, followed by Reposado and then Blanco. Añejo is the darkest in color and is excellent for sipping on its own. Reposado will be tan in color and is great for tequila shots or mixing into heavier cocktails. Blanco is clear and is perfect for mixed drinks.
Real tequila is made of 100 percent blue agave. However, in order for a drink to be classified as tequila, it only needs to be 51 percent agave and can be 49 percent something else. These tequilas are known as mixto tequilas and aren't as high quality as the real thing.
Is a shot the best way to enjoy tequila?
Although tequila shots are a popular way to imbibe the liquor, a true way to savor this type of alcohol is to sip it slowly so you can really enjoy the aromas and flavors. Good quality tequila is nice both on the rocks and straight up.
Should tequila be chilled before serving?
You may have heard of people storing their bottles of tequila in the freezer, but this type of alcohol is best stored in a cool, dark spot, such as a cabinet. If you are serving the tequila straight up, whether as a shot or in a glass for sipping, it should be at room temperature.
Besides the margarita, what other cocktails are made with tequila?
You may think the only choice is frozen or on the rocks when it comes to a tequila cocktail, but there are actually many interesting and delicious recipes besides the margarita. The paloma, for example, has gained recent popularity; it's a mixture of tequila, lime juice, and grapefruit soda. There is, of course, the tequila sunrise, but you can also make drinks like the tequila sangria and a tequila screwdriver.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Christine Clark is a professional eater and drinker who happens to be obsessed with agave spirits. She’s taught classes around the country on pairing it with cheese, and her Arizona origins also have ensured that she makes a darn good margarita. She has a podcast about cheese.