The Margarita is Tequila's natural vehicle. Both the spirit and the cocktail are super popular not only in Mexico. In fact, in the US, the Margarita is the favorite cocktail nationwide (see here). And to make a great Margarita, you need an outstanding Tequila as the base.
There was a time when it was extremely difficult to get great Tequila for a reasonable price. -That's one of the reasons why Patron Tequila exists. Today, things are a bit different. There's a vast amount of options. Even in the lower to medium price category, you can find some perfect Tequila for making Margaritas.
The different types of Tequila
Tequila comes in different types. Depending on the duration of barrel-aging, the spirit gets classified into one of five different types of Tequila. The different types are:
- Blanco - Aged for 0 to 59 days
- Joven - Blended expression (Blanco / Reposado or Blanco + additional color & flavor)
- Reposado - Aged for 60 -364 days
- Añejo - Aged for 1+ years
- Extra-Añejo - Aged for 3+ years
When mixing Margaritas, Blanco or silver Tequila is the most common choice. It is usually unaged and has a bright and crisp flavor. Using a Reposado Tequila to make a Margarita will create a mellow cocktail. Richer in taste but less tangy and refreshing.
Naturally, you could also opt for an Añejo or Extra-Añejo. However, they are aged for a long time and thus are pretty expensive. -On average too pricey to use in a Margarita.
If you want to learn a bit more about this, read our article about the different types of Tequila.
Only use Tequila made from 100% blue weber agave
If you choose the right Tequila for making your Margarita, make sure it's 100% blue weber agave. You may have heard that Tequila always has to be made of this type of agave. And you're right. You cannot use another agave variety. Yet, not all Tequilas are made of 100% agave.
A Tequila mixto is allowed to add a maximum of 49% of sugar to the agave juice. That leaves you with only 51% agave and quite possibly a serious headache the morning after your Margarita night.
Thankfully, brands state it on the bottle if their Tequila is made of 100% agave. Just watch out for this note, and you're fine.
The recipe for a great Margarita
There are as many different recipes for Margaritas as there are options for Tequilas. For our recommendations, we refer to the classic Margarita recipe:
- 2 oz Tequila
- 1 oz Fresh lime juice
- 0.5 oz Cointreau
You can sweeten this base recipe to taste with agave syrup, simple syrup, or a mix of the two. And also, don't forget the obligatory salt rim on your glass.
So now let's look at the best Tequila for the Mexican cocktail. Here's our hand-picked list of the best options for a classic Margarita.
Choosing the best Tequila for Margaritas
The number of different Tequilas on the market is endless. And many will make for a great Margarita cocktail. Still, choosing a suitable bottle can be a confusing undertaking. So, here are some rules of thumb to make sure you don't overspend when visiting your local liquor store.
- Tequila Blanco is the type to go for. Sometimes it's called Silver, sometimes Crystal or Plata, but mostly Blanco is stated on the bottle. These bright and fresh expressions will make a traditional, refreshing, and zingy Margaritas.
- Most mid-priced Blanco Tequilas will work well in a Margarita. Some won't be perfect, and others are exceptional, but overall you can't go totally wrong when opting for a middle-class Blanco Tequila ranging from $25 - $35.
- In general: Choose a Blanco for fresh and zingy Margaritas, opt for a Reposado if you prefer more mellow versions, and stick with Añejos for sipping neat. There are exceptions, but it works as a rule of thumb. It's easy to waste a considerable sum of money on an Añejo that won't work in a Margarita.
Now that you know the basics, here's our list of the best Tequilas to mix Margaritas.
Patrón Silver is still one of my favorite Blanco Tequilas. Back when good Tequila was scarce, Patrón Tequila's mission was to bring high-quality Tequila to the United States. What began as a difficult mission is taken for granted today. Patrón paved the way for many Tequila brands after them.
The Silver expression is a small-batch Tequila crafted by blending two triple distilled Tequilas. Tastewise it's super crisp, bright, and smooth. It has a beautiful balance and notes of citrus fruits as well as agave. To me, it's still the go-to-Tequila when it comes to making Margaritas.
4 Copas Tequila Blanco
The 4 Copas Tequila isn't the most prominent one on this list. Many won't have heard of this one before. But amidst so many mediocre Tequilas, this organic Blanco Tequila clearly stands out. It is super smooth and has some interesting earthy notes to it. In fact, it's soo clean and smooth that you can easily sip it neat.
Its unique flavor profile of earthy and floral notes makes it a fantastic choice for a classic Margarita cocktail. And the fact that this bottle is also a certified organic Tequila is a plus.
Tequila Fortaleza Blanco
Fortaleza Tequila is another only little known brand producing A-grade Tequila. The Blanco expression is bright and floral with light fruity notes, a touch of minerality, and spicy notes from cinnamon, pepper, and anise.
Fortaleza is produced using traditional methods: cooked in old brick ovens, milled by a Tahona, fermented in wooden tanks, and double-distilled in copper pot stills. It is an insider tip that works excellently in a Margarita cocktail.
Olmeca Altos Plata
Founded by two renowned bartenders, Dre Masso and Henry Besant, Olmeca Tequila is produced with the help of master distiller Jesus Hernandez. The result is an affordable Tequila that works brilliantly in cocktails either at home or in professional bars.
Olmeca Altos Plata is full of sweet agave notes with only a hint of lemon, lime, and spicy mint. It's not the best Tequila to sip neat but an excellent ingredient for cocktails. Just what you need when you want to make a delicious Margarita.
Don Julio Blanco Tequila
Don Julio Blanco is another excellent choice made by one of the more famous Tequila brands. Previously, this was one of the more expensive Tequilas, but today it's actually quite affordable compared to the competition. That is not because Don Julio has lowered the price, but because the competiton has notably increased theirs.
The quality, just like the price, stayed the same. You get a wonderfully smooth Tequila with notes of citrus and pepper. In a Margarita, Don Julio works beautifully in combination with Grand Marnier. And if you sip a Tequila neat from time to time, Don Julio is also suitable for that.
Herradura Silver Tequila is a product of one of the largest distilleries in Mexico. Nevertheless, Herradura roasts their pinas in traditional clay ovens. On top, even the silver expression ages in barrels but not long enough to be labeled a reposado. These wooden notes in a Blanco are pretty rare and make Herradura Silver a great ingredient for a Margarita cocktail.
The time in the barrel also makes this expression quite edgy. Instead of smoothing out the raw parts of this spirit, the spicy notes of the wood even emphasize them. Herradura Silver is a quality Tequila to sip that works even better in a Margarita.
Casa Noble Crystal
Casa Noble Crystal made some news in 2011 when music legend Carlos Santana joined the board of the Tequila brand. Not only this, but Santana is now also one of the owners of this famous Tequila.
The quality of this Tequila is exquisite, but the profile is not for everyone. Casa Noble Crystal has strong earthy agave notes. On top, there are also vegetal notes and hints of clay. This unusual flavor profile does turn some people off, but for others, that's exactly what makes the expression so sensational when used in cocktails.
Roca Patrón Silver Tequila
Roca Patrón Silver is the second espression by Patrón in this list. The line focuses on old production methods like using a stone wheel tahona for milling agave. This traditional way of milling piñas is said to extract more flavors. The result is a milder and more refined Blanco, especially compared to Patrón's standard Silver.
The price for this Tequila is premium, but you also get an extra 5% of ABV. On the palate, this is hardly noticeable as the Roca expressions are super smooth. Instead, you will notice the sweet notes of cooked agave, lemon and lime zest, and pepper.
Casa Dragones Tequila Blanco
Casa Dragones Blanco Tequila is one of the smoothest Blanco Tequilas out there. Its taste is bright and clean, perfect for incorporating it in a zingy Margarita. The full-bodied aroma fullly unfolds in combination with fresh lime juice, Cointreau, and a sea salt rim.
Of course, you can also sip this premium Tequila neat. In fact, the guys behind this spirit intended to create a superb sipping Tequila. So rest assured that you can serve this Casa Dragones neat to your best friends.
1800 Tequila Silver
1800 Tequila is a premium line of Tequila produced by Jose Cuervo. This double-distilled spirit is a smooth sipper with a clean, dry, and fruity flavor. If you're looking for the best value for money, the 1800 silver Tequila is probably it. Usually, you will get the 750ml bottle for less than $30. -A price most competitors can't beat.
And it's not only a great Tequila to use in a Margarita, it's nice for sipping, too. It might not be as complex as other offerings on this list, but it's of very high quality. This Tequila should not be ignored when stocking up on Blanco Tequila for your homebar.
Olmeca Tezòn Reposado
Olmeca's Tezòn Tequila is named after the volcanic stone (Tezontle) from which the tahona wheel is made. This Reposado is a fabuous mix of fresh agave notes and warm, creamy notes of vanilla, butterscotch, and caramel.
At a relatively low price point, you can get a Reposado Tequila full of character. The smoky and peppery spice, chocolate, and coffee notes on the palate and a long fruity and smoky finish make this Tequila super interesting. -Especially when used in a Margarita.
Don Julio Añejo Tequila
Just like the Silver expression of Don Julio, this Añejo is of outstanding quality. It's super smooth, rich in flavor, and simply an excellent sipping Tequila. Some might argue that it would be wasted in a Margarita. But, actually, the spirit shines through beautifully and makes an excellent, mellow version of the cocktail. If you can afford it, give it a try and see how different a Marg can taste simply by changing the Tequila base.