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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.
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% 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.
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% Blue Weber agave (i.e. no headache-inducing fillers).
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.
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.
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% 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.
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.
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.
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% 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.
Not all tequila is made with 100% 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% 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.
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.
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.