From budget-friendly to top-shelf options.
In the world of spirits, tequila is currently having a moment. According to recent market research, tequila has seen significant growth in bars and restaurants across the country over the last couple of years. It makes sense—with its sweet, smooth taste, tequila is incredibly versatile and can be enjoyed in margaritas and other yummy cocktails as well as sipped straight or over ice.
Want to upgrade your bar cart, but not sure where to start? Below, we're sharing everything you need to know to find your perfect tequila, plus our picks for the best tequila brands, chosen by master distillers, bartenders and industry experts.
Related: 10 Fun Facts About Tequila
What Is Tequila?
“Tequila is a distilled spirit made from the agave blue tequilana Weber plant that can only be produced in certain regions of Mexico,” explains David Rodriguez, master distiller for Patrón Tequila. “Making tequila requires thoughtful consideration of both legal and technical factors defining the spirit—and many choices in the production process can have a tremendous impact on the final distillate.” When it comes to flavor, Rodriguez says tequila can range from smooth and mellow, to a warmer and bolder profile.
What Are the Different Types of Tequila?
There are three main types of tequila to choose from. Here’s a rundown of each one:
“This is tequila in its purest form without aging and is clear in color,” says Miguel Escobar Martinez, master distiller for Tequila Cazadores. “Usually in this purest form of tequila, you can taste the care given to the elaboration process of any brand.” This is the standard tequila you’ll see in cocktails due to its versatility, he adds. Sometimes you’ll see blanco tequila referred to as silver tequila.
Reposado means “rested” in Spanish. This type of tequila has been aged a minimum of two months to one year in oak barrels, which gives the liquid a light golden color, says Martinez. “This tequila pulls soft notes from the barrels like caramel and vanilla, as well as sweet, tropical fruity flavors like pineapple, and works well with the herbaceous flavors of the tequila,” adds Sylvi Roy, bar manager at Twelve in Portland, Maine.
“Aged from one to three years, this tequila pulls notes from whatever barrels it sits in,” says Roy. “You’ll get a lot of flavors that also are found in whiskeys, like creme brûlée, toast and rich vanilla.” Añejo tequilas are sometimes finished for several months in sherry or port wine casks to add nutty or fruity notes, adds Roy.
Within the añejo category, there are also two variations: añejo cristalino and extra añejo. “Añejo cristalino is aged at least one year in white oak barrels then is filtered to remove its color and specific components to make it mellower, while conserving the sensory qualities of an añejo tequila we want to preserve,” says Martinez.
Extra añejo, meanwhile, is aged in American oak barrels for at least three years. “These tequilas are soft, well-rounded and easy to drink,” says Roy. “I find that the extended barrel aging pulls out any astringent qualities that may have been in the originally distilled juice, making this the easiest to sip on its own.”
What Is the Best Sipping Tequila?
“The best type of tequila for sipping is the one in which you can taste the complexity given by the best agave source, along with a good elaboration process, providing the smoothness and sweetness you can obtain from the agave,” says Martinez. “For a more complex flavor profile, those that have been aged at least one year like an añejo or extra eñejo work perfectly.”
What Is the Best Tequila for Margaritas?
Blanco tequila is the ideal choice for margaritas, says Eduardo "Lalo" González, co-founder and master distiller of LALO Tequila and grandson of Don Julio González of the iconic Don Julio tequila brand. “The citrusy, floral, mineral flavor profile of a blanco tequila complements the rich citrus flavor of a margarita,” he explains. And if it’s a Tommy’s-style margarita, even better, says Justin Lavenue, owner/operator and co-founder of The Roosevelt Room in Austin, Texas. Martinez adds that a reposado tequila can also work well in a margarita.
Related: 75 Best Margarita Recipes
What Is the Best Tequila for Shots?
Drink experts agree tequila is best had in cocktails or by slowly sipping so you can enjoy the complexity of the spirit. But if you’re looking to take a celebratory shot, then blanco is a good option, says González.
What Is the Number One Tequila?
According to The Spirits Business, the top-selling tequila brand in the world is Jose Cuervo. This isn’t a surprise, given Jose Cuervo is an affordable, versatile tequila that you can find in just about any liquor store.
What Are the Top Five Tequilas?
The top five best-selling tequila brands run the gamut from budget picks to higher-end options. Jose Cuervo, Patrón, Don Julio, Casamigos and Hornitos are the top five tequilas, per The Spirits Business.
What Features Should You Look for in Tequila?
So, what exactly should you consider when shopping for tequila? “Look for a tequila producer that uses 100% blue agave—some companies add other flavors that distort the flavors, and you can really taste the difference,” says Roy.
The legal requirement is at least 51% blue agave. High-quality tequila producers will use 100%, but others may use things like sugar or molasses to make their product cheaper, adds Roy. “The best tequila brands use only the heart of the piña (the heart of the agave) and a slow pressing method using a tahona, which is a large stone disc used to crush the juice from the piñas after they have been roasted and/or steamed,” she says.
You’ll also want to consider what the tequila is being used for. For example, if you’re looking to make cocktails, then you should choose a blanco or reposado—but if you’re looking to sip tequila on its own, then you should select an añejo or one of its variations, says Martinez.
What Are the Best Cocktails to Make With Tequila (Other Than Margaritas)?
Besides margaritas, Roy shares these three delicious cocktails you can make with tequila:
Paloma: This cocktail includes fresh lime juice, a little bit of agave syrup and is topped with a Mexican grapefruit soda like Jarritos (but fresh grapefruit juice works great too!).
Oaxacan Old Fashioned: For this cocktail, combine reposado tequila with a little bit of mezcal, a teaspoon of agave as the sweetener and mole bitters for a smoky chocolate taste.
El Diablo: Use the tequila of your choice (blanco is excellent here), creme de cassis (black currant liqueur), fresh ginger syrup, lime juice and soda water to make this drink.
Best Tequila Brands
1. Patrón Tequila, $56+
From blanco to reposado to añejo, Patrón offers every type of tequila you could desire. All of Patrón’s tequilas are handcrafted in Jalisco, Mexico at Hacienda Patrón using the finest quality ingredients (no additives here!). Rodriguez’s favorite in the collection is the classic Patrón Silver. “This was our first super premium 100% Weber blue agave tequila, and it changed America's perceptions about tequila,” he says. “It quickly became a staple then and is a mainstay still today. Lightweight and well balanced, it's a great option for both new and experienced tequila drinkers alike.” Roy adds that she’s a fan of Patrón’s Roca collection because the brand uses juice from the tahona rolling process, which pulls only the most flavorful liquid from the piñas they roast for almost three days. Patrón Tequila, $56+
2. Casamigos, $55+
Casamigos has an A-list history: The brand was launched by friends George Clooney and Rande Garber (husband to Cindy Crawford), who worked with a master distiller in Jalisco, Mexico over the course of many years to get the taste just right. All of the tequilas in the Casamigos line (they have a blanco, reposado and añejo) are made with 100% Weber blue agave with agave piñas that are slow-roasted in brick ovens. If you want to feel like a celebrity while sipping tequila, then this is definitely the brand for you. Casamigos, $55+
3. Tequila Cazadores, $23+
The recipe for Tequila Cazadores was first developed way back in 1922 by a hardworking farmer in Arandas, Mexico. Made from 100% blue agave, Tequila Cazadores undergoes a seven-step sustainable, zero-waste production process that includes double distillation, double fermentation and careful maturation. The brand offers a blanco, reposado, añejo, añejo cristalino and extra añejo in its lineup—and they recently released a limited edition reposado to celebrate their 100th birthday. “My favorite expression in our portfolio is, of course, our new limited edition bottle that we just released to honor the 100-year anniversary of our original reposado recipe from 1922,” says Martinez. “It’s a very special blend elaborated with agave that is grown on our property and was aged in a combination of our best hand-selected American oak and new French oak barrels. The tequila has a really smooth, sweet taste with notes of citrus, honey, vanilla, cinnamon and more to give it a unique tasting experience that I really enjoy.” Tequila Cazadores, $23+
4. Tequila Ocho, $49+
“Tequila Ocho is my personal favorite brand,” says Lavenue. “Each year, the agave is harvested from a different farm/estate, then expertly distilled by Carlos Camarena—so each single estate bottling showcases its own distinct characteristics which truly highlights the terroir (or terruño in Spanish) of the Los Altos region of Jalisco.” Tequila Ocho, $49+
5. LALO Tequila, $50
LALO only makes one tequila—an additive-free blanco. “We choose to only make blanco to honor the agave, the people behind our product and Mexico,” says González. “The Champagne yeast we use allows the Highland agave to shine, showcasing the cooked agave flavor up front with fruity and floral notes following.” González’s family has been in the tequila business for generations (his grandfather was the legendary Don Julio González), so you know he knows his stuff! LALO Tequila, $50
6. Don Julio 1942, $160
Speaking of Don Julio, no list of the best tequila brands would be complete without this iconic option! Don Julio 1942, specifically, is one of the most premium options from the brand (hence why it comes with a hefty price tag). An award-winning tequila, it’s aged for a minimum of two and a half years and produced in small batches. And fun fact: It was created in tribute to the year Don Julio González started his tequila-making journey. Break this one out for the most special of occasions. Don Julio 1942, $160
7. Cincoro Tequila, $90+
Back in 2019, basketball legend Michael Jordan launched Cincoro Tequila alongside a few other NBA owners—and in just three short years, the brand has sold a million and a half bottles and won more than 20 awards. Cincoro Tequila produces five tequilas: blanco, reposado, añejo, extra añejo and the newest addition to their collection—Cincoro Gold—which blends the best of all four of their other varieties into one ultra-premium tequila. It’s one of only a handful of 100% de Agave Gold tequilas. All of Cincoro’s tequilas are made with 100% Weber blue agave from private farms in Jalisco, Mexico and are produced in small batches. Cincoro Tequila, $90+
8. Espolòn Tequila, $32+
Lavenue says Espolòn Blanco is one of the best-value tequilas on the market. It has notes of vanilla, ripe fruit and butter and can be enjoyed neat, with salt and lime, chilled, or however else you like to drink your tequila. Espolòn’s collection also includes a reposado, añejo, reposado chardonnay and añejo cristalino. Brand founder Cirilo Oropeza named the brand Espolòn, which means “spur” in Spanish, to honor his commitment to the tequila craft. Plus, all of Espolòn’s tequilas are made with 100% Weber blue agave. Espolòn Tequila, $32+
9. Gran Coramino, $60+
Funnyman Kevin Hart teamed up with Juan Domingo Beckmann, an 11th-generation tequila maker, to create Gran Coramino. The brand offers two options: reposado cristalino and añejo. Both tequilas are smooth, complex and crafted from hand-selected piñas that are harvested at peak maturity. Gran Coramino’s tequilas are roasted in traditional stone ovens and barrel-aged. You can enjoy them neat, over ice or mixed into a cocktail. Gran Coramino, $60+
10. Clase Azul, $137+
Clase Azul wins for the packaging alone. Each tequila decanter is handcrafted by indigenous artisans in a small village in Mexico who create beautiful patterns on the ceramic surface of each bottle. What’s inside the decanters is pretty neat too: Clase Azul offers a variety of top-notch tequilas, including reposado, añejo and gold varieties. This is one tequila brand you’ll want to display prominently on your bar cart—and savor every last drop of! Clase Azul, $137+
11. Casa Dragones, $70+
Casa Dragones is a small-batch tequila producer that crafts some of the smoothest tequilas on the market. They’re made from 100% blue agave and are meant for sipping. Choose from blanco, añejo, reposado and more. The female-owned and led brand was co-founded by CEO Bertha González Nieves, the first female maestra tequilera certified by the Mexican Academy of Tequila Tasters. All of Casa Dragones’ tequilas are made in small batches using a sustainable production method. Casa Dragones, $70+
12. Casa Noble, $45+
Most tequilas are aged in American oak, but Casa Noble is different. Their tequilas are aged in toasted French oak for a refined and elegant flavor. What’s more, they were one of the first brands to use certified organic agave, and they’re committed to doing good for the environment. (They even make their own compost!) Choose from blanco, reposado and añejo for sipping solo or creating incredible cocktails. Casa Noble, $45+
13. Jose Cuervo, $26+
There’s a reason why this is the best-selling tequila in the world. It’s affordable, accessible and goes down easy. Jose Cuervo has been in the tequila game for more than 250 years and was actually the first tequila brand to bottle the spirit individually. And legend has it, the first margarita ever made featured Jose Cuervo. The brand offers blanco, reposado and añejo varieties as well as pre-made margaritas, mixes and canned cocktails. Jose Cuervo, $26+
Related: 35+ Best Canned Cocktails and Drinks
14. Tequila Fortaleza, $47+
Looking for the best sipping tequila? “Fortaleza Blanco, Reposado and Añejo are all fantastic sipping tequilas from the Los Valles region,” says Lavenue. “This incredible distillate features notes of olives, herbs, earth and grass. It truly is a paragon of the subregion and doesn't get much better given its price point.” Tequila Fortaleza, $47+
15. Hornitos, $29+
One of the top five selling tequilas in the world, Hornitos is a premium tequila brand crafted with 100% blue agave. The brand has been around since 1950. Founder Don Francisco changed the tequila process forever as he was the first person to cook agave in little ovens. (ICYMI, Hornitos means "little ovens" in Spanish!) Whether you prefer blanco, reposado or añejo tequila, Hornitos has something for you in their robust lineup. Hornitos, $29+
16. Teremana Tequila, $35+
Founded by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Teremana Tequila crafts their tequilas in a small Mexican town up in the highest peaks of the Jalisco Highlands. They roast their agave in brick ovens for three days before shredding it to extract the juices for fermentation, and then they distill the tequila in handmade copper pot stills made by a local artisan. The result is a clean, smooth tequila. We can smell what The Rock’s drinking, and it’s good! Teremana Tequila, $35+
17. El Cristiano Tequila, $48+
El Cristiano Tequila handcrafts sustainable, additive-free and gluten-free tequilas with only the finest aged Weber blue agave from the Jalisco Highlands. From their signature silver and reposado tequilas to their ultra-premium extra añejo, you’re sure to love these award-winning spirits for their taste and quality. El Cristiano Tequila, $48+
18. Dulce Vida, $28+
All of Dulce Vida’s tequilas are handcrafted in small batches, made with 100% blue agave and aged in American oak whiskey barrels for a refreshing flavor and smooth finish. Whether you decide to sip Dulce Vida’s blanco, reposado or añejo neat or include them in your favorite cocktails, you’ll be sure to enjoy their pure taste. Dulce Vida, $28+
19. Tears of Llorona, $285
This rare, handcrafted extra añejo is a complex sipping spirit with layers of flavor to unravel. It’s aged in a sequence of Islay Scotch, Spanish brandy and Spanish sherry oak barrels for five years before being blended by the brand’s master distiller. Because of how time-consuming it is to create (and how hands-on the distilling and aging processes are), it’s released in very small batches and comes with a large price tag—but the excellent taste makes it worth the splurge! Tears of Llorona, $285
20. Sauza, $20+
Sauza clocks in as the ninth best-selling tequila brand in the world—and for good reason. They’re one of the most affordable tequila brands and offer silver, gold and añejo varieties to suit any taste. Sauza crafts all of their tequilas using a process known as gentle extraction, which involves using the nectar of pure Weber blue agave and cooking the juices after they’ve been extracted from the piña. This ensures the freshest agave flavor—and you can tell. Sauza, $20+
21. Cenote Tequila, $41+
Cenote is an ultra-premium tequila inspired by the beauty of the Yucatan Peninsula. In fact, the brand is named for the breathtaking underground water systems that are unique to this region. All of Cenote’s tequilas (the line includes blanco, reposado, añejo and cristalino) are diligently crafted by the brand’s master distiller and master blender. Cenote Tequila, $41+
22. Olmeca Altos, $28+
Olmeca Altos’ tequilas are made from 100% blue agave grown in Los Altos, the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico. Their agave is slow-cooked in brick ovens and then distilled in copper. They offer three classic options: blanco, reposado and añejo. Their reposado and añejo tequilas are aged in ex-bourbon barrels for that smooth taste you know and love. Olmeca Altos has won quite a few awards over the years and are worthy of a place on your bar cart. Olmeca Altos, $28+
23. Tequila Bribón, $26+
Tequila Bribón is the result of a two-year mission to produce high-quality tequila that appeals to newbies and aficionados alike. The blanco, reposado and añejo spirits were created by Palm Bay International, in partnership with Casa Don Roberto, using fully matured agaves that have been harvested by hand. The flavors are complex and sophisticated while still being approachable and easy to drink. Tequila Bribón, $26+
24. El Jimador, $21+
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly tequila that tastes like it costs way more, then look no further than El Jimador. One of the top-selling brands in the world (it clocks in at sixth!), El Jimador’s tequilas are made from 100% Weber blue agave with no fillers or added colors. What you get is pure flavor that’s perfect for sipping or adding to cocktails. El Jimador, $21+
25. Mijenta Tequila, $43+
This award-winning, additive-free, sustainable tequila brand is the only one to earn B Corp certification. It was founded by Ana María Romero Mena, who grew up in Mexico City and started her career in tequila more than 30 years ago. From blanco to reposado to añejo, all of Mijenta’s tequilas are produced with the utmost care for exceptional flavor. Mijenta Tequila, $43+
26. Eterno Verano, $52+
Eterno Verano, which means "endless summer" in Spanish, was inspired by the 1966 movie The Endless Summer. The brand founders wanted to recreate the sense of wanderlust experienced by the surfers in the movie. The result is a collection of blanco, reposado and añejo spirits that are made from 100% blue agave and perfectly capture summer in a bottle. Eterno Verano, $52+
David Rodriguez, master distiller for Patrón Tequila
Miguel Escobar Martinez, master distiller for Tequila Cazadores
Sylvi Roy, bar manager at Twelve in Portland, Maine
Eduardo "Lalo" González, co-founder and master distiller of LALO Tequila
Justin Lavenue, owner/operator and co-founder of The Roosevelt Room in Austin, Texas