Are you on the search for the best tequila to mix in your drinks? Margarita, one of the most popular cocktails, is believed to have first been made by Carlos ‘Danny’ Herrera in 1938. It has travelled the world from Carlos’ restaurant, Rancho la Gloria, in Tijuana to bars and restaurants globally.
While blanco tequila, a usually unaged spirit, is the go-to for Margaritas, there are Joven, Reposado, Añejo, and extra Añejo Tequilas to consider. Let’s discuss them all in detail below.
What Makes a Good Tequila?
Tequila is distilled from the agave tequilana plant, known commonly as the blue agave. Each bottle contains juice from the heart of the agave plant called the piña. A litre of tequila typically takes 7 kg of agave piña. Producers dilute the high alcohol content with distilled water between 35% to 55%.
The process of making tequila is labour intensive and artisanal. Technology has improved the speed of harvesting and distilling. However, there are Tequila brands that favour the original techniques. While each distillery may follow its own rules – the styles of tequila remain the same.
What Are the Different Styles of Tequila?
There are five styles of tequila which can be either blue agave or mixto tequila. Blue agave is exclusively made from the blue agave plant and doesn’t include colouring or sweeteners. When tequila is made using sugar from anything other than agave, it is considered a mixto.
Blanco describes tequila in its purest form and carries a pure agave taste. Without the addition of flavour or the ageing in oak, it shows the true expertise of the distiller. The slightly earthy note and warming sensation make blanco tequila most suitable for light and citrusy cocktails.
It is rested in French or American oak barrels for a period of two months to one year. The slight amount of ageing softens and rounds off the taste, making reposado suitable for cocktails or sipping. Unlike blanco, reposado tequila spends time ageing, contributing to its higher price.
Joven tequila is less common to find and describes any blend between a blanco and something else. Something else can be an addition of colour, glycerine or añejo tequila. A joven tequila is usually a mixto. However, it can be 100% agave when blanco is combined with aged tequila.
It often contains caramel colour, natural oak extract, glycerin, and sugar syrup to help soften the agave flavour. The addition of sugar to the fermentation process can make mixto tequilas cheaper to produce.
Añejo tequila is aged in oak barrels, fitting into the high-end price, and is considered the best of most brands’ portfolio. The type of wood, age of wood, the thickness of the barrel, the barrel’s previous use, humidity, temperature, and alcohol level all affect the taste of the spirit.
Ageing turns the spirit a darker gold colour and brings out rich flavour profiles, making it ideal for sipping. While not the first tequila to come to mind for a mixed drink, the flavours can be a great addition to a margarita or a tequila-based old fashioned drink.
Extra Añejo Tequila
Extra añejo is typically the most expensive tequila (due to the long ageing) and is typically aged for more than three years. It is unlikely they will serve extra Añejo tequila at your local bar. This ageing period leads to a dark gold colour and richer flavour, making it the most suitable tequila for sipping.
The extra añejo category is for true tequila aficionados, with bottles often becoming collectables. The tequila’s complexity and taste help it stand on the top shelf alongside great cognac or whiskeys. Due to the cost and flavour, it is not the most suitable spirit for cocktails.
Note: Consume at room temperature for the most assertive flavour.
Making a Classic Margarita
Carlos ‘Danny’ Herrera’s 1938 recipe for a classic margarita emerged as an effort to make a drink for Marjorie King, a Ziegfeld showgirl – she was allergic to all alcohol other than tequila. And so, he went on to combine tequila with triple sec, lime, and salt. Triple sec is a clear orange-flavoured liqueur made from the dried peels of bitter and sweet oranges.
The recipe continues to be served in bars across the world today. While you only need three ingredients to make the cocktail, you can adjust the ratios to your liking.
To make a single classic Margarita, you will need:
- 1 Shot De Kuypers Triple sec
- 1 ⅔ Shots lanco tequila
- 1 ⅓ Shots lime juice freshly squeezed
Shake the above ingredients with cracked ice in a cocktail shaker until the exterior of the shaker frosts. Strain the ingredients into a glass over rocks. Garnish with a wheel of lime, and enjoy!
Cointreau’s Original Margarita Recipes
Cointreau is one of the best-known brands of triple sec style of orange liqueur. The brand first released the drink in 1875 and attributes the development of the margarita to the 1948 Dallas socialite Margarita Sames.
Try and taste Cointreau’s original margarita recipe below:
- 1 Shot Cointreau
- 2 Shots blanco tequila
- 1 Shot fresh lime juice
Combine all the ingredients in a shaker and add ice. Next, shake and pour into a salt-rimmed rocks glass and garnish with a lime wheel. And finally, enjoy your delicious margargarita.
What is the Best Tequila for Margaritas?
While blanco tequila is considered the best tequila for margaritas, we explore a variety of options below.
Budget Tequila for Margarita
While we don’t recommend using ‘cheap’ spirits, the following is a great budget tequila for margaritas.
Jose Cuervo Gold
Jose Cuervo Gold is a golden-style joven tequila made from a blend of reposado and other younger tequilas. The 700 ml bottle has a firm history of use in margaritas and offers 15 shots for drinks delivered at room temperature or on ice.
Best Blanco Tequila for Margarita
The best blanco tequila for margarita adds a pure expression of distilled agave to your drink. The below tequilas may appear in higher priced drinks at a bar.
Espolòn blanco tequila stands out for its quality and flavour profile. The agave taste is sweet and floral with a light pepper finish. The 700 ml bottle has a 40% alcohol content, which is ideally delivered as 15 shots. It contributes a hint of vanilla bean, grilled pineapple, and spice to your mixed drink.
Patrón Silver Tequila
Patrón silver tequila in a 750 ml bottle has an alcohol content of 40%. It is produced from Weber Blue Agave and has a smooth flavour profile with a slight pepper finish. It has a sweet, fruity, and citrus aroma making it an excellent tequila for any of the cocktails mentioned above.
Best Reposado Tequila for Margarita
The best reposado tequila is smooth, offers an authentic agave taste and can carry wood notes.
The Patrón Reposado 700 ml bottle has a 40% alcohol content. It is made from 100% Weber Blue Agave and is aged for two months. It contributes a fresh agave flavour with a hint of wood when included in a cocktail.
Casa Noble Reposado
Casa Noble Reposado carries a lovely roasted agave and toasted flavour into a margarita. It has floral notes with aromas of lemongrass and vanilla. You can appreciate the ageing of this reposado tequila – it spends one year in new French oak barrels.
Best Aged Tequila for Margarita
Aged Tequila offers rich flavours, which are best enjoyed neat and at room temperature. However, the below tequilas can add great aromas to a mixed drink.
Patrón Añejo in a 700 ml bottle has a 40% alcohol content and is made using only agave. It carries a smokey and sweet flavour attributed to being stored in French oak, Hungarian oak, and used American whisky barrels.
Don Julio Añejo
The full-bodied flavour of Don Julio Añejo tequila adds cooked agave, wild honey, and oak-infused butterscotch to a Margarita. It has a 38% alcohol content and is aged for 18 months in American-white oak barrels.
Premium Tequila for Margarita
Choosing a premium tequila to mix in a drink is uncommon. If you can afford to use the below tequilas, the strong flavour profiles can elevate your evening’s drink.
Roca Patrón Añejo
Roca Patrón Añejo is handcrafted using the time-honoured “tahona” process of applying a large stone wheel to crush the agave before the spirit is aged for 14 months. It has complex flavours of wood, nut, raisins, and grapefruit, making it a creative addition to a margarita. The spirit has a 44% alcohol content and is made from 100% agave.
Prospero Reposado Tequila
Prospero is a celebrity-owned tequila produced by UK singer Rita Ora and the female master distiller, Stella Anguiano. It is a handcrafted spirit made from blue agave grown in the tequila valley. It is aged for a minimum of six months and has an alcohol content of 40%. Use it in your margarita recipe to add notes of vanilla, white flowers, and spice.
Casamigos Añejo Tequila
The brand Casamigos, co-founded by the American actor George Clooney, offers a premium tequila made from Weber Blue Agave grown in the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico. It has an alcohol percentage of 40% and offers soft caramel and vanilla notes to a margarita or manhattan.
Which Tequila Will You Use in a Margarita?
While blanco tequila is the right choice for making margaritas, it is up to you to find the flavour profile that fits your palate. It could be that the most appealing tequila to use in your mix is a reposado of a particular age. Remember to experiment and enjoy your drink responsibly.
Do you have a favourite tequila to use for your drinks? Share your recipes with us in the comments below.