This post was updated on May 1, 2020.
Happy Cinco de Mayo!
Did you know that May 5th is a celebration of the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War? Now you do.
Will most of you use Cinco de Mayo as an excuse to drink a lot of agave-forward cocktails and indulge in a shot (or three)? Probably, and count us in.
This is not your guide for sipping tequilas (though we do suggest one). This is a day of modest pleasures; below, a curated selection of tequilas that are unpretentious, reasonably priced ($30 or less) and versatile — they’ll work well on their own or in cocktails.
“I think tequila has one of the widest ranges of quality from the bad to the good,” says Mark Murphy, an independent bar consultant. “You can avoid the hangover by sticking to better tequila. But the good thing is that ‘better’ doesn’t have to mean drastically more expensive.”
(Note: Some of the choices below are ours, and some are choices from our bartender friends.)
“Milagro has really great quality for its price. Nice flavor and excellent for mixing cocktails. You get a lot of bang for your buck.” — Irene Reyes, managing partner at The Springs (NYC)
Either the Silver and Reposado. 100% agave and diffusor-free. Fruity Highlands style it’s not ashamed to smell or taste like agave.” — Nick Vendetti, drinks advisor
“It comes in around $20 and some change for a bottle of the blanco, and it goes very well with cocktails or just chilled and shot back.” — Spencer Recor, bar director at Messhall Kitchen (Los Angeles, CA)
Viva XXXII Joven
A friend of ours at Thirsty suggested this as a nice alternative to high-end sipping tequilas. Viva’s bottle (with all the black triangles) really sticks out, and 10% of net proceeds go to help save abused and abandoned animals.
Pueblo Viejo Blanco
If your local bar uses this for shots, you’re in luck: While lacking a lot of character, it’s incredibly smooth.
Just launched, this blanco tequila is married with ghost pepper extract. The result is surprisingly smooth and sweet upfront with a kick at the end — perfect for shots or spicy margaritas.
Lunazul Blanco Tequila
“A peppery tequila with vanilla and agave flavors that is awesome for cocktails … or shots.” —Bonnie Wilson, mixologist and Area Manager for Don Sebastiani & Sons Winery (Dallas, TX)
Olmeca Altos Plata or Reposado
“Super versatile for cocktails or to sip. It competes with tequilas twice its price, and is 50% tohona-crushed agave and 50% roller-milled.” — Jillian Carroll, Lead Bartender at Chicken Pharm (Petaluma, CA)
“A great depth of flavor at a price point that’s amazing for a 100% agave tequila. Perfect for summer barbecues and making margaritas for friends.” —Dave Kaplan, owner of Death & Co (New York)
“The barrel-aged process adds a lot of nuance that you don’t get from a silver tequila. Great in a margarita or in fun variations of classics like the Negroni (sub for gin) or an Old Fashioned (with agave syrup and citrus bitters).” —Bryan Galligos, il Solito (Portland, OR)
Gran Centenario Anejo
“A beautiful product and a hidden gem. They are the only people I am aware of that blend different age statements to make their añejo. It’s the type of tequila that an agave snob would greet with an approving Robert De Niro face if it was found nestled among a few other quality bottles.” —Dylan Stewart, Beverage Director for The Ruin Daily (Chicago)
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