The Ultimate Tequila Guide
Tequila has come a long way, hasn’t it? Discover the keys to choosing the BEST tequila for margaritas, along with the simple distinction between añejo, reposado, gold and silver tequilas.
Expensive tequila isn’t necessarily best for margaritas- learn why!
Years ago, I never thought I would say what I am about to say. I spent a lot of wasted years thinking that tequila was horrible and needed to be watered down with overly sweetened mixed drinks in order to stomach the flavor.
Now? I know better! I’ve learned to truly sip and savor my tequila! A good tequila makes alllll the difference in a margarita, and I’m going to show you how to choose the BEST tequila for your budget and your weekend margs.
I’ve become a bit of a margarita connoisseur over the last several years. Once you learn how to make a good, classic margarita, you’ll never turn back.
No more syrupy mixes from the grocery store! We can do so much better, my friends!
My Classic Margarita, Cadillac margarita and Mango Margaritas are all reader favorites, alongside this perfect margarita mix that you can make ahead!
In fact, you can read my Ultimate Guide to Margarita Recipes and get all the BEST margarita recipes I’ve made over the years!
Are you ready to mix up the ultimate scratch margarita? I think we all deserve one (or maybe three!) for Cinco de Mayo – cheers!
Table of Contents
What’s the Best Tequila for Margaritas?
This is one of those questions that might have countless answers. I’ll never claim to have the end-all answers here, but I can give you all of our personal favorites. I’m sharing these opinions, along with some serious research into the style of tequilas that work best for margaritas.
Regardless of my own personal opinions on brand or styles, experts will agree that 100% agave tequila is a requirement for good quality.
It’s often found in a higher end, more expensive tequila, but you can certainly find affordable versions too. When you’re searching for one, 100% blue agave will always be noted on the label.
I have loved learning more about the varieties of tequila in the world, and I am excited to take you on this journey with me. Let’s get started!
Learn how to set up a Margarita Bar for the ultimate fiesta! Guests can serve themselves and customize each cocktail.
How is Tequila Made?
Tequila is created from a particular type of agave plant, Agave tequilana Weber blue. It’s harvested during a very distinct stage of growth for optimal sweetness. It is only produced in Jalisco, and designated areas in four other Mexican states.
The agave juice that is fermented and distilled into tequila comes from heating and crushing the piña, which is the pit at the center of the agave plant after the leaves are sheared.
Tequila is produced under strict regulations in Mexico, regarding where and how it can be made. Fascinating, right?
Five Types of Tequila
Did you know that there are actually five defined types of tequila? It’s not as simple as expensive tequila vs cheap tequila, I promise! However, it is as simple as two main categories that encompass all tequila.
You can consider all of those five types of tequila to fall under the umbrella of one of these two categories:
- 100% Agave tequila – which means that the tequila is produced with ONLY the sugars of the blue agave plant.
- Mixto tequila – in which the tequila is made with no less than 51% agave, and then sweetened with other sweeteners.
Inside those two overhead categories, you’ll find the five following types of tequila. These are organized by age and expense, with the youngest (often least expensive) listed first.
FAST FACT: The most expensive tequila isn’t the one you want for margaritas. Save those for sipping! Choose one of the more moderately priced bottles suggested below for your mixed drinks.
BLANCO TEQUILA (Silver Tequila)
Blanco (also frequently referred to as silver tequila) is un-aged tequila, and is generally bottled quickly after it is distilled. Blanco tequila is perfectly described with its name, as it is quite clear in color. This means it works beautifully in mixed drinks, and alongside popular Mexican foods.
Because this tequila is not aged, it is generally bottled and packaged directly after it is distilled. Occasionally, distillers allow this tequila to settle and finish briefly in the tanks before bottling.
Silver tequila contains the most powerful, sweet essence of the blue agave plant since it isn’t aged in barrels. It doesn’t pick up those competitive flavors as it ages, as other varieties tend to do.
Blanco is generally considered to be the BEST go-to for margaritas and palomas because it’s easy, fresh and vibrant.
Try Sauza Blue Silver for one good option at a lower price point! Casa Noble Crystal is a good option in this category, and so is 1800 Tequila Silver Blanco.
Our favorite silver that we’ve tried so far is Tequila Don Julio Blanco. Fresh, clean, and perfect for margaritas! Patron Roca Tequila is one of the more expensive tequilas in this category, and is a highly rated option.
JOVEN TEQUILA (Tequila Gold)
Joven translates to “young” in Spanish. It is also known as gold tequila because of the golden or caramel brown color. The color comes from flavoring agents that are added before bottling.
Gold tequila can also be combined with other tequilas, like a silver tequila or extra-aged tequila. This tequila doesn’t seem to be as popular for home mixing as the other tequilas that most are familiar with: blanco, reposado, and añejo.
Gold tequila is typically a mixto tequila and is often served at restaurants for shots and mixed drinks such as margaritas because it is usually less expensive.
However, just because it’s inexpensive doesn’t mean there aren’t decent options on the shelf! You can even find 100% agave gold tequilas, which are always going to be better than a traditionally inexpensive mixto version.
Julie’s suggestion: If you’re on a tight budget, check out Agavales Gold, which can start at around $13 a bottle. That’s very inexpensive for a 100% agave tequila!
Tequila reposado is so named because it translates to “rested”… or aged. It is aged in oak barrels for a minimum of two months, but no more than a year after it is distilled.
Although it is gold in color like joven tequila, a reposado is often aged in white oak and French oak barrels. In a process that sounds remarkably similar to wine-making, the resins and tannins of those barrels dictate the final flavor of the tequila.
In fact, reposado tequila will often acquire a variety of different flavors because those barrels had a previous life! They might have been used to house whiskey, bourbon, and yes… wine. No wonder I love this type of tequila so much!
As tequila ages, it becomes more mellow and sweet over time, so you’ll find many higher end but very approachable tequilas falling into this category.
Reposados are perfect for sipping but also work well in fresh margaritas where you want your tequila flavor to be a standout.
Recommendation: Try Camarena Reposado, or Tequila Don Julio Reposado in this category. Another crowd pleasing favorite around here? Anything from Casamigos.
A less expensive but still quality option is 1800 Tequila Reposado.
Añejo translates to “old” in Spanish. And while anejo tequila might not technically be old, regulations guarantee that it is aged for a minimum of one year, but less than three years in oak barrels.
This tequila is generally aged in oak whiskey barrels, French oak casks, or even barrels of Cognac.
In comparison to reposado, añejo tequilas will be even darker in color, smoother and more complex – perfect for sipping.
These are not the tequilas you want for your mixed drinks. That’s because those richer flavors might be lost in your margarita, so choose another type of tequila if you’re working on mixed drinks.
Try Don Julio 1942 Tequila. (Can you tell Don Julio is one of our favorite brands? It never lets us down!)
A recently discovered brand we are enjoying: Tequila Herradura Anejo.
Higher end? Try Rey Sol Anejo Tequila.
EXTRA AÑEJO TEQUILA
It’s the ultimate! This type of tequila has only been recognized since 2006 when the Mexican government dubbed it as a true (new) tequila.
Thought Añejo was richly aged? Well extra Añejo takes that aging process even farther. It’s distilled exactly like a traditional Añejo, just aged for longer than three years.
It’s the deepest color of all the tequila bottles you’ll find on the shelf. With that said, it’s also the most expensive! Save that steep price tag for a gift for the tequila connoisseurs on your list.
Bottles of this tequila will start at around $75 and go up from there. Like I said, save it for sipping and enjoy the experience!
Recommendation: On the lower end (in this most expensive category), try Casa Azul Reserva Extra Anejo.
Tequila Ley 925 Extra Anejo will be a great choice as well.
Gran Patron or Rey Sol Anejo Tequila are a couple of the big names in this category. Hey, if you’re going to go for it, go all the way, right?
FAST FACT: During my research, I discovered that while many brands of tequila like to boast about their “triple distilled” process, this has very little to do with the quality of the final product. In fact, that third round of distilling might be covering up a lack of quality tequila in the first two rounds – so don’t put too much stock in that distinction!
What kind of tequila is best for margaritas?
My recommendation will always be for a blanco or reposado tequila for margaritas. I’ve learned that I am not the biggest fan of gold tequila in my margaritas.
However, tequila gold is a popular choice for fruity restaurant margs because it’s inexpensive and the flavor is easily manipulated in mixed drinks!
If you want a lighter, more refreshing agave taste in your margarita, go for a blanco (silver tequila). Looking for a slightly richer experience? Try a reposado!
Let’s look at some common questions about tequila!
Absolutely. It’s one of my go-to options for homemade margaritas. It just depends on what kind of margarita I’m making and which flavor profile we’re in the mood for!
As mentioned above, the least expensive categories of tequila are going to be the silver and gold options. Go for a blanco (silver) because it’s always 100% agave and won’t compete with the flavors of your margarita mix.
You can also grab an inexpensive bottle of gold tequila, but it’s harder to find one that is 100% agave.
If you’re looking for a true sipping tequila (generally considered to be a connoisseur’s tequila), the answer to this question is going to be añejo. The price tag will often reflect the quality because it simply takes so much longer to produce.
My opinion? Try a Herradura for a great quality top shelf option that isn’t over the top expensive! We really enjoy the Herradura Ultra because it is easily accessible, runs around $60, and perfect for sipping.
Generally, I think anyone looking for a smooth tequila has sipping in mind. In that case, go for a quality reposado or añejo. Casamigos is a newer brand that we love, that is known for smooth quality!
Love a good cocktail? Learn how to set up a DIY Mojito Bar that will be the best feature of your next gathering! Don’t miss it, along with the Best Rum for Mojitos for your complete RUM GUIDE!
I hope this guide to tequila gave you some new information! If it helps you make more informed choices the next time you’re at the liquor store, I call that a win. Cheers!
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