It doesn’t take much to make a good margarita. And it doesn’t take much to ruin one, either. Fresh lime juice and your preference of orange-flavored liqueur isn’t going to mask a lousy tequila.
So let’s get your base correct. Below, we asked several bar professionals about their preference in tequilas, but strictly as it relates to margaritas. We’re sure they left off a few of your favorites, but if you know what you like, stick with it! And if you’re not sure, let this be your guide.
“It’s an absolute banger for a margarita,” says Beau du Bois, the Bar & Spirits Creative Director at Puesto Mexican Artisan Kitchen and Bar in San Diego, noting the rich agave notes and balanced prickly pear aromatics.
“It adds a lot of flavor to a margarita without overwhelming the other flavors in your cocktail,” says Carley Gaskin, the Chicago-based co-founder of Hospitality 201 and Mix Lab. She also selects Patron for the same reason.
“It’s just a nice, clean, crisp flavor to have in a margarita, or in cocktails in general,” says Juan Bustamante, the Beverage Manager at Sor Ynez, a Mexico City-inspired veg-focused restaurant in Philadelphia. “I appreciate the pepperiness and green terroir going on.”
“I like using tequilas for my margaritas that have a lot of bright and fruity notes as opposed to a more earthy mineral flavor,” says Los Angeles bartender Cari Hah.
For Jeff Josenhans, the Director of Food and Beverage at the InterContinental San Diego, this answer required a lot of testing. “I did tasting of over 30 brands at a similar price point a few years back, and I fell in love with this producer. It has a smoothness but also subtle herbaceousness.”
“This one It has a clean taste of fresh agave that pairs perfectly with lime to create a crisp and refreshing margarita with a rich finish,” says Barbara Sibley, the Creative Director of New York’s Holiday Cocktail Lounge. “It’s a tequila that shows the true character of the agave, which shines through with citrus.”
“I prefer the mellow taste of a reposado in my margaritas over the agave-forward Blanco/Silver tequilas,” explains Christopher Mesa of Los Angeles’s Pez Cantina. “The notes of vanilla and oak here give the drink a more complex flavor.”
“It’s a Mexican owned and women-founded 100% blue agave,” says Ashley Martinez, Bartender at Serena at Moxy South Beach. “It’s semi-sweet and has tasting notes of cloves and pepper, which pairs up nicely with most cocktails.
Besides flavor, there’s one supposed extra benefit to this one. “There’s faint citrus on the palate, which really compliments the orange liqueur. And I also find this tequila never leaves me with a hangover,” claims Alexa Delgado, part of the all-female bartending team at Knife & Spoon at Grande Lakes Orlando.
This organic brand’s reposado features some “tropical fruity notes that make it a little more unique,” says Kim Haasarud, the Proprietor of Garden Bar in Phoenix. “And the aging gives it some subtle hints of vanilla and lemongrass.”
This one has flavor and a mission. “If you’re looking for a higher end tequila that is ethically sourced and built on sustaining the communities that provide us with tequila, this is my favorite,” says Paul Gonzalez, Beverage Supervisor at Delta Hotels Virginia Beach Bayfront Suites
I like the way tequilas from Los Altos — the “highlands” or plateau of Jalisco — work in a margarita, with all the extra vegetal and floral notes they bring to dance alongside the lime and orange,” says Justin Lane Briggs of NYC’s The Cabinet. “But they still need to have balance; those high falsetto notes need to play alongside some bass, to give the drink some body. Some of the small, traditional, pot-still tequila makers who are generations deep really know how to strike that balance.”
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