Your Complete Guide to Tequila: Key Basics
Are you a fan of tequila? If so, it’s time to tap into some expertise with this complete guide to tequila. Tequila is a deliciously distilled liquor made from blue agave plants in the Mexican states of Jalisco, Tamaulipas, Michoacan, Nayarit, and Guanajuato.
Tequila must be made in one of these five regions to be called tequila. If it is produced outside of these regions, it’s called a mezcal or agave spirit. Additionally, authentic tequila must be made from at least 51% blue agave.
Whether you’re sipping it, mixing it, or taking a shot of it, tequila is tasty for all types of occasions. As a central ingredient in many of the drinks every bartender should know, tequila is a tasty liquor to familiarize yourself with. So grab a glass and keep reading this guide to learn everything you need to know about tequila.
All tequila undergoes distillation to deliver strong, sweet, or spicy flavors. However, there are several types of tequila, each one with its own unique process. In this complete guide to tequila, we've listed the five main types of tequila and a few tasty drinks you can make from scratch:
5 Main Types of Tequila
The five main types of tequila are blanco, reposado, añejo, extra añejo, and joven. You can use each type in many popular cocktail recipes. Before you get to mixing, let’s break down each type:
- Tequila blanco: Also known as tequila silver, this type of tequila typically ages for less than two weeks. This makes it the purest form of tequila and a great match for any margarita.
- Tequila reposado: This type of tequila is aged between two months to one year in oak barrels. It has a light golden hue and can enhance the fruity flavors of any mixed drink. However, it’s quite tasty on its own, too.
- Tequila añejo: Aged for at least one year, tequila añejo offers smoother and sweeter flavors. It’s great for sipping and can be a substitute for cocktail recipes that call for popular whiskey brands.
- Tequila extra añejo: This tequila ages in oak barrels for at least three or more years. This process develops even deeper and richer sweet and spicy flavors.
- Tequila joven: Also known as gold tequila, this type blends pure and aged tequilas. Its golden color likely comes from additives like glycerin, caramel, or sugar.
5 Tasty Tequila Drinks
It’s 5pm somewhere! Now that you know the different types of tequila, why not make one (or more) of the top five tequila drinks? With a little bit of time and a few ingredients, you can sip any of the following in no time:
- Tequila Sunrise
- Tequila Sour
- Mexican Mule
Whether you’re looking for fruity, spicy, or bold flavors, there are plenty of standardized recipes for your favorite tequila drinks. Tequila is great for summer cocktails, winter cocktails, and everything in between. Once you’ve selected a type of tequila, it’s time to pick the best brand!
Similar to most liquors, there’s a variety of tequila brands to choose from. When you’re perusing the liquor aisle, it can be a challenge to pick the best brand for the right occasion. That’s why this complete guide to tequila outlines some of the best tequila brands below to help you settle on a selection.
Top Tequila Brands
If you’re new to tequila or simply brushing up on some bartender duties and skills, you’ll want to know the best tequila brands. In addition to popular brands like El Jimador, Avión, and 818, the following are great options for sipping, mixing, or both:
From blancos to reposados, Patrón is made to please. You can sip Patrón luxuriously or mix it with other ingredients to craft a tasty cocktail.
Known to be crisp and refreshing, Espolòn is a delicious 100% Blue Weber Agave tequila brand. It’s a perfect go-to bottle for parties (and margaritas) of all sizes.
Do you geek out on celebrities? If so, you may already know that George Clooney helped co-found Casamigos tequila! Made in Jalisco, Casamigos combines a tasty blend of light citrus, vanilla, and agave to satisfy every taste bud.
Produced in the lowlands of Jalisco, Fortaleza Tequila delivers dryer and herbaceous tones. That’s not all, though. It also comes in a hand-blown bottle topped with a hand-painted agave pineapple stopper.
Affordable Tequila Brands
Tequila, while delicious, can come with a hefty price tag. Tequila doesn’t have to be cheap in taste just because it’s cheaper in price, though. There are plenty of affordable options to pick from.
Espolón is one of the more affordable options from the list above. For more variety, consider buying Pueblo Viejo Blanco, Camarena Tequila, or Hornitos Plata Tequila. Each one offers different tastes, ranging from caramel to citrus. Even better is the fact that you can find these tequila brands for under $30.
What Tequila Brand Should I Buy?
When you’re buying tequila, there are a few factors to consider. First, think about where and how you’ll drink it. Second, pick one that matches your budget for booze.
Thirdly, try selecting a bottle that’s 100% agave. Labels that read 51% agave indicate the tequila has added sugars.
If you’re on team tequila, then you know a standard pour can be quite tasty to sip on its own. The question is, “Which is the best sipping tequila?” We’ve listed three of the best sipping tequilas that guarantee a smooth and flavorful taste from start to finish. Check them out below!
Best Sipping Tequila: Añejo
Ready to tango with a tequila añejo? The aging process of this type of tequila (as mentioned before) gives the liquor a darker color, sweeter taste, and smooth finish.
The best tequila añejo for sipping is:
Don Julio Añejo
With its well-rounded blend of caramel, baked yam, peppery spice, and ginger, it’s easy to make a glass of Don Julio Añejo disappear. Pair a few sips of this tequila with a salty snack like chips and easy homemade salsa.
Best Sipping Tequila: Blanco
Tequila blancos are one of the best tequilas for margaritas. However, their pure and agave- forward flavors make for a soothing sip.
The best tequila blanco for sipping is:
Don Fulano Blanco
You’ll be sold on just one sip of this tequila. Don Fulano Blanco delivers refreshing and sharp undertones with its blend of lemongrass, lemon peel, cooked agave, and pepper.
Best Sipping Tequila: Reposado
With a combination of light gold hues and subtle sweet flavors, you won’t regret choosing this reposado.
The best tequila reposado for sipping is:
Siete Leguas Reposado
This tequila’s blend of earthiness and tasting notes of vanilla and baking spices will keep you warm and wanting more. If you’re looking for a light bite to go with your glass of Siete Leguas Reposado, consider making something from this appetizer list.
How to Choose the Best Sipping Tequila
Not sure which tequila you want for sipping? Think about the flavors you’re craving. A tequila blanco is a great choice for bright hints of citrus. On the other hand, an añejo offers a blend of sweet and spicy.
Once you’ve made your choice, make sure to sip your tequila correctly. If you’re an expert at smelling wine, try doing the same with your tequila. With a few swirls, sniffs, and delicious sips, you may never go back to mixing. However, if you prefer a mixed tequila drink, this complete guide to tequila lists the best tequilas for margaritas and tequila sunrises.
Whether you’re making a single serving or a pitcher, choosing the best tequila for your margarita recipe is essential. For your convenience, we’ve listed the best tequilas for margaritas below. But first, let’s talk about the best overall tequila for your margarita.
The Overall Best Tequila for Margaritas
You don’t have to be a magician to make a magical margarita. Instead, buy the brand that guarantees satisfaction.
The best overall tequila for margaritas is Roca Patrón Silver. Produced in Jalisco, Mexico, the Roca Patrón Silver is a match made in heaven for your margarita. Its harmonious blend of black pepper and herbaceous tones make for an unforgettable taste.
The Best Blanco Tequila for Margaritas
The best blanco tequila for your margarita is ElVelo Blanco. Combining hints of grass, stone fruit, green peppercorn, and mint, this tequila will deliver fresh and bright flavors in your margarita. Better yet, you can find bottles of ElVelo Blanco for under $30.
The Best Reposado Tequila for Margaritas
The best reposado tequila for margaritas is Milagro. This tequila reposado rests in American oak barrels between two and four months after distillation. Blending caramel, allspice, and notes of stone fruit, Milagro will enhance the sweetness of your margarita.
The Best Añejo Tequila for Margaritas
The best añejo tequila for margaritas is El Tesoro. Unlike a tequila blanco, El Tesoro añejo has less of a bite to it. Instead, its harmonious balance of pepper, floral, oak, and vanilla tones works wonders to complement any margarita.
How to Make a Margarita
Now that you’re an expert on the best tequilas for making margaritas, try making some! With just a few ingredients, you can make the following standardized recipe in no time.
Gather the following ingredients for your margarita:
- 4 oz. tequila silver
- 2 oz. triple sec
- 2 lime wedges
- 1 ½ oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
- ¼ c. salt
This recipe yields two servings. If you want more, simply double or triple the recipe. Next, follow these simple steps to make your margaritas:
- Place the salt on a small plate. Rim your serving glasses with the lime wedge. Twist the rims in the salt.
- Place the tequila, triple sec, lime juice, and ice into a cocktail shaker. Shake for five seconds.
- Strain the mixture evenly between your two glasses. Top with a few ice cubes. Garnish each glass with a lime wedge.
You don’t have to be a morning person to enjoy a delicious tequila sunrise. However, you’ll want to pick the best tequila to bring this cocktail’s zesty and refreshing flavors to life. With that, let's (sun)rise to the occasion by talking about the best types of tequila for a tequila sunrise.
This complete guide to tequila lists five of the best tequilas for a tequila sunrise below. Once you make your selection, sip some sunshine by making your own tequila sunrise!
5 of the Best Tequilas for a Tequila Sunrise
The options are endless when it comes to selecting a tequila for your tequila sunrise. No need to stress. Pick one of the ones below and you’ll be (sun)set.
Espolòn Blanco Tequila
Espolòn Blanco tequila mixes bright agave flavors with notes of lemon zest, white pepper, and vanilla. This combination makes for an extra fresh tequila sunrise.
Don Julio Blanco
This tequila blends sweet and citrus tastes to create a crisp and smooth cocktail. With this tequila, you’ll be drinking sunrises until the sun sets.
If you’re looking for more of a kick, consider Casamigos Blanco. It balances citrus, vanilla, and pepper to enhance the fruity flavors of your orange juice and create a well-rounded taste.
Milagro Silver works miracles. Why? Its earthy aromas blend effortlessly with sweet and fruity flavors that can help limit the strong bite of a regular tequila silver.
Clase Azul Reposado
Almost as beautiful as a tequila sunrise, the Clase Azul Reposado offers smooth hazelnut and vanilla flavors. These sweet undertones pair perfectly with the sweetness of the orange juice and grenadine.
How to Make a Tequila Sunrise
Ready to sip sunshine? Time to make your tequila sunrise! All you need is five minutes and the following ingredients:
- 1 1/2 oz. tequila (select one from above)
- ¾ c. orange juice (we recommend freshly squeezed)
- ¾ oz. grenadine syrup
- Orange slice (for garnish)
- Maraschino cherry (for garnish)
This recipe yields one serving. But just like the margarita recipe above, simply double or triple the measurements to make more.
Next, follow the simple steps below:
- Place the ice into your glass.
- Add the tequila and orange juice.
- Slowly pour or drizzle the grenadine down the side of your glass.
- Garnish with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry (learn how to make maraschino cherries).
Now that you're an expert on this complete guide to tequila, go make yourself a delicious tequila drink. Cheers!