A few years ago we found enough tequila bottles under $30 to warrant a dedicated article on the best cheap tequilas. But with time for reflection and inflation — and an improved palate — we think that’s…actually still a pretty good number! There are plenty of good, inexpensive bottles of tequila that can be used for, say, batched drinks. And surprisingly, some of those tequilas are pretty damn fine sippers as well.
That said, where you live may play a big role. Not surprisingly, $30 doesn’t go that far in NYC liquor stores. For this updated guide, we’re sticking with $30 (and occasionally even $20) but do recognize that with delivery, taxes and 2023 cost of living prices, the bottles here may go a little above our prescribed budget.
Also, please note: You’re getting a flavor profile with the tequila that goes beyond the expectations presented by the sticker price. And while these brands are offering something decent for $20-$30, they probably have a few expressions that cost a bit more (and are worth the upgrade).
Best Cheap Tequilas (Most under $30)
50% tahona-crushed agave and 50% roller-milled, this plata tequila was recently voted the #1 Tequila for Margaritas according to the 2023 Drinks International poll of bartenders. (See our list for the best tequilas for a margarita) It’s got hints of citrus and vanilla with just enough earthiness to make it stand out (a bit) in cocktails but smooth enough to be a crowd-pleaser (the reposado is also pretty solid).
There’s nothing unique about this tequila brand — except for the price. To find a blanco that real character (earthy, a slight minerality, spicy) at $25-ish is a steal, and the newer reposado expression is still just $30.
Blanco tequila infused with grapefruit and hibiscus (they also offer Valencia Orange and Cucumber Jalapeño flavors). It’s also female-owned, which is sadly still a rarity. The fruit on the nose here is exquisite. It’s not a sipper but your ideal base for a Paloma.
It’s hard not to find a tequila on this list that’s not 100% Blue Weber agave. And while the world of mixtos isn’t always great, El Tequileño is a 71 percent agave and 29 percent piloncillo tequila that’s cheap and yet good enough to serve as the base for the Batangas at La Capilla, a frequent “World’s 50 Best Bars” entry.
Not only did Corazón win World’s Best Tequila at a recent World Tequila Awards, it hails from a female-owned distillery headed up by a female distiller. Does the Reposado match the hype? It features nice flavors of cooked agave, cinnamon and vanilla, falling a bit more toward an añejo. It’s rich and pleasant.
There’s a lot of heritage here: Lunazul was founded by Francisco Beckmann, a seventh-generation descendent of Jose Antonio de Cuervo. And the brand’s big selling point is to keep things affordable ($20 is a starting point for these expressions). Their El Humoso bottle, which gets its campfire element from smoked mesquite wood, is part of a small but growing trend in the tequila business to make things a bit smoky (but not quite like mezcal). Bonus: This might be the only brand that makes a decent añejo tequila for under $30.
You can probably find a few expressions of Cazadores below $30 and you’ll get yourself a fine mixer. But more interesting, the highland distillery — which, fun fact, plays Mozart during the fermentation process to soothe the yeast — just released Cazadores Cafe, a $30 tequila coffee liqueur (33% ABV) that should serve as a solid replacement for the discontinued Patrón XO Café.
A random find of ours. If your local bar uses this blanco for shots, you’re in luck: while lacking much character, Pueblo Viejo is incredibly smooth (even the overproof 104 release).
The best margarita we tasted last year utilized a very basic recipe (Cointreau, lime juice, tequila, salty rim) and involved this blanco, which is bright and citrusy with just enough pepper and spice to hold your drink up, but smooth enough to keep you going back for, well, way more than you should.
Finding an additive-free tequila is challenging enough — they only represent 30 percent of the market. Finding one under $30? Incredibly difficult, but this highland distillery offers up something a little drier on the palate with some real complexity … for both its 1L blanco and its reposado.
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