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Sure, tequila shots are fun at parties (and maybe gives you some liquid courage before stepping onto that karaoke stage), but artists rapping about “shots of Patrón” have really given tequila an undeservedly bad (and, ahem, cheap) rep.
These days, some of the best tequilas in the world are actually more comparable to a fine bourbon or robust glass of wine than jello shots and beer pong. Patrón, one of most well-known tequila brands in the world, actually offers a diverse portfolio of authentic tequilas that you won’t find in nightclubs or seedy bars. Despite the brand’s hard-partying reputation (blame it on lyrical shout-outs from everyone from Lil Jon to Bruno Mars), the company is actually making some incredibly interesting, flavorful and expensive tequila these days, with bottles of its Patrón En Lalique: Serie 2 going for up to $7,500 online.
Not flaunting rapper-sized bank accounts? There are a handful of smooth, premium-tasting tequilas you can get for under $100 too. You just need to know what to look for.
Tequila Buying Guide
Region of Origin: All tequila comes from the Tequila region of Mexico, and in order for a spirit to call itself “tequila,” it must be distilled from agave plants grown in that region.
Another thing to look for aside: a four-digit number that represents each distillery’s unique code. The Norma Oficial Mexicana number (or “NOM”) is assigned by the Mexican government and certifies that the bottle you’re holding is authentic tequila produced in Mexico. It also tells you which tequila producer it comes from. Tequila Patrón, for example, has a NOM of 1492.
If your bottle doesn’t have a NOM, that means it’s not certified by the TRC (Tequila Regulatory Council), and not an authentic Tequila producer.
Types of Tequila: Just like whiskey, there are different types of tequila, that run the spectrum in terms of flavor, color and potency.
Silver tequila is probably the most well-known, and it typically appears perfectly clear in the bottle. This is tequila that’s only aged for a few months, so it doesn’t have time to develop the color and characteristics that come from a longer aging process. Silver tequila is great to drink on its own, but it’s great for mixed drinks as well. It will typically taste sweeter and more refreshing, with a smooth, silky finish.
Añejo tequila can often be recognized by its rich, caramel color, and it must be aged for at least one year (though most are aged three years) to bear the “Añejo” name. This tequila is complex and full-bodied, and is recommended for sipping, though it works great for tequila-oriented takes on classic drinks like a Moscow Mule or Negroni as well.
Reposado tequila is also aged but the aging process can be anywhere from two months to 11 months. It has a smooth, even finish. It’s less harsh on the tongue and won’t give you as strong as a hangover… provided that you’re sipping responsibly of course.
Don’t be fooled by the “gold” label on gold tequila. These are often referred to as a “Mixto,” where colors and flavors are added prior to bottling. These young tequilas are less expensive and typically used in bars and restaurants for making mixed drinks.
100% Agave: Tequila comes from the agave plant, but not all tequilas are made with 100% agave sugar. In fact, many brands add artificial sugars or sweeteners to their tequila, which may taste good at first, but will leave you with a nasty hangover the next day. Look for bottles labeled “100%,” which denotes that it was made with 100% natural sugars from the agave plant.
You’ve also probably seen flavored tequila, which is tequila infused with things like coconut, lime, strawberry or jalapeno. While they may be fun for a party or to use in mixed drinks, we recommend skipping these bottles the rest of the time and just drinking tequila straight up. Why mess with a good thing?
Aging Process: Just like a fine wine, tequila also goes through an aging process. And just like wine, tequila can be aged in a number of different containers, from oak barrels to steel drums. Each aging process will bring out different flavors in your tequila, and result in unique flavor profiles that often call to mind whiskey or scotch. The aging process will also change the color of a tequila. While we may be used to drinking clear tequila, many expensive tequilas are more caramel in color, due to being aged in wooden barrels. Our suggestion: pick up a few different bottles with different aging processes to see which one you like best. This works as a great party idea too.
What is the Best Tequila?
Our editors have reviewed dozens of tequila brands over the last year, to come up with some of our favorite bottles, based on taste profile, uniqueness and value. And while there are a number of tequila brands that have launched in recent months (hot take: we were pleasantly surprised to discover that Kendall Jenner’s 818 Tequila is actually pretty good), this list runs the gamut from tried-and-true brands, to limited-edition releases that you’ll be smart to pick up if you see them available online.
Whether you want to sip on something smooth or just want to upgrade your margarita, here are 15 tequilas you can buy online and get delivered to your door in time for your next happy hour, dinner or party.
1. Roca Patrón Reposado
We love the Grand Patrón Burdeos (find it here), which is twice-distilled and aged in used American and new French Oak barrels, before being finished in vintage Bordeaux barrels (Burdeos means Bordeaux in Spanish). It’s like a fine wine that’s been aged to perfection. Still, its $500+ price-point doesn’t exactly make it an accessible bottle to buy.
For a similar experience at a more casual price point, we like the Roca Patrón Reposado, which is a lighter, more buttery take on the bold and robust Burdeos.
The Reposado features notes of sweet vanilla, oak, mushrooms, ginger, caramel and citrus, which gives it that perfect balance of earthiness, sweetness and spiciness with an easy finish and no lingering aftertaste. Handcrafted using the time-honored “tahona” process, the Roca Patrón Tequila collection offers a sophisticated and complex flavor profile that’s an elegant and elevated take on tequila.
2. Casamigos Blanco
Casamigos is a favorite among the Hollywood crowd, thanks to its co-founder George Clooney, but it’s actually got a lot of substance to go with its style. One of the smoothest, most natural tasting tequilas on our list, Casamigos is made in the Jalisco highlands from 100% agave. Clooney, and co-founder Rande Gerber, say they wanted to make, “the best-tasting, smoothest tequila that didn’t have to be covered up with salt or lime.”
Whether you’re at an A-list after party or just chilling at home, nothing beats a “Casamigos and soda” for a refreshing, celeb-approved drink. Each batch is distilled for a minimum of two months in stainless steel barrels, and delivers a nice mix of sweet agave, light citrus and just a hint of vanilla.
3. Santo Mezquila
When it comes to celebrity tequila brands (or just premium tequila, for that matter), rock and roll legend Sammy Hagar is the original. He’s been in the tequila business for almost thirty years, starting out with the award-winning Cabo Wabo brand back in 1991. Now, the Red Rocker is throwing his hat back in the ring with Santo, a joint effort tequila brand with Guy Fieri. “I’m really into making the greatest tequila in the world,” says Hagar in a recent interview with Rolling Stone. “I’m just hell-bent, and Guy’s got the same passion.”
Santo specializes in high-end “old-style” tequila, but the brand is anything but old-fashioned. Case-in-point is Santo’s debut tequila – which isn’t technically a tequila. It’s called Mezquila, the world’s first and only tequila-mezcal blend. The Mezquila is more flavorful than your typical tequila, but not in-your-face smokey like most mezcals. This means you’ll pick up some herbs and light smokiness with a mellow bite, making the Santo Mezquila great for adventurous cocktails or unique tasting on its own. Also be on the lookout for Santo’s excellent Blanco and Reposado tequilas.
4. Fortaleza Blanco Tequila
This tequila is produced in the lowlands of the Jalisco region, so it won’t exhibit the same sweetness or fruit-forward flavors as some of the other picks on our list. Instead, you’ll pick up a slightly drying, more astringent palette of black pepper, dried herbs, olives and citrus. Needless to say, this is one of the more complex tequilas on our list — making it one that aficionados will undoubtedly appreciate.
A nice touch: the hand-blown glass bottle, which is topped with a hand-painted agave piña and vintage-inspired label.
5. Casa Noble Anejo Tequila
When anejo tequila is done right, it’s at once rich and flavorful, smooth yet complex. That’s what you get from Casa Noble’s anejo blend, aged in new French oak for two full years (most anejos are aged for a year max) with notes of dried fruit, toasted oak, creamy butterscotch, chocolate and spice. An undertone of sweet cooked agave recalls this tequila’s fresh Blanco roots.
Like all of Casa Noble’s offerings, this one is certified organic, and took home the Best Añejo Tequila prize at the 2017 World Tequila Awards. Best sipped slow for a warm, inviting mouthfeel.
6. Código 1530 Rosa Tequila
Smooth and delicate, Código 1530’s Rosa Tequila makes for perfect after-work sipping, or used in a hand-crafted cocktail. Produced using the tequila-making traditions of the Los Bajos region and its tequilieras, the tequila is meticulously aged in French White Oak red wine (Cabernet) barrels from Napa Valley. That gives the Rosa a subtle pink hue, and a sweet yet dry finish.
Country singer George Strait is an investor in the brand, and even wrote a song inspired by the tequila (aptly named “Codigo”) off his 2019 album, “Honkey Tonk Time Machine.”
7. Chamucos Blanco Tequila
A silky and savory tequila, Chamucos goes as well with Baja fish tacos as it does with a simple lime slice. A carefully handcrafted tequila produced in small batches, the Chamucos Blanco features notes of vanilla, citrus, cinnamon and fennel. It’s fresh and flavorful, with just the right amount of spice and a hint of earthiness. The tequila finishes with a little heat before going down smooth.
8. Cenote Blanco Tequila
Cenote makes a super drinkable tequila that’s flavorful without overwhelming the palette. While some tequilas make us pucker, or burn the inside of our mouths and throats, Cenote’s Blanco Tequila is light, mellow and refreshing. It’s aged in oak barrels for three weeks, and delicate notes of bright citrus, greens and pepper lead to a crisp and smooth finish.
The secret to Cenote’s smoothness? The company says it sources naturally filtered water from an “artesian well” located at their distillery, which sits at the base of the Jalisco volcano. Cenote says the water goes through a reverse osmosis process and carbon filters with silver ions help to eliminate any chance of impurities affecting the taste.
This tequila is great on its own or with a splash of soda. Bartenders love Cenote in a Paloma too, and the company responded by introducing the first-ever “World Paloma Day” last May.
9. El Tesoro Añejo Tequila
If you want to discover an authentic Mexican tequila with a bold yet traditional flavor, then order a bottle of El Tesoro. El Tesoro may be owned by Beam Suntory, the Japanese company responsible for Suntory Whisky, but this tequila is still made from traditional methods and local agave. In fact, the grandson of founder Don Felipe Camarena oversees production today. The Añejo variety is aged in American oak bourbon barrels for up to three years, which results in a nice blend of warm agave and oak flavors. If you try this tequila neat, you’ll notice notes of maple, vanilla and caramel, balanced with pepper and floral tones.
10. Teremana Small Batch Tequila
The Rock’s premium tequila brand has been flying off store shelves ever since its launch last March. Now, fans of Dwayne Johnson and tequila alike can purchase Teremana online and get it delivered to their door.
The “ultra-premium highlands tequila” uses all the beverage buzz words, like “small batch production,” and “distilled in handmade copper pot stills.” But beyond the hype, it’s a smooth, easy to drink option; naturally sweetened with the rich aroma of mature agave plants, with a clean finish.
The name, Johnson explains, was inspired by his Polynesian background. “TERA means of the Earth and MANA is our powerful Polynesian spirit that guides us. Spirit of the Earth,” he says.
11. Mijenta Tequila Blanco
A new entry into the tequila market, Mijenta launched in September 2020 with a name and offering inspired by the Spanish phrase “Mi Gente,” meaning “My People.” The idea: using tequila to bring people together as a community. This is a great tequila to gather around too, with a wonderfully distinct flavor profile that’s at once sweet and complex. Notes of rich honey and caramel are balanced with hints of tropical fruit and a touch of floral and spice. The tequila goes down smooth and silky, with just enough bite to keep things interesting.
Though we prefer Mijenta as a sipping tequila, its smooth flavor can make for some beautiful cocktails too. Everything is made in small batches and numbered, and we like what the brand is doing with their Mijenta Foundation too, which re-invests proceeds back into the local community, to support farmers and jimadors as they continue their centuries-honed craft of tequila making.
12. Dano’s Dangerous Tequila Añejo
One of the most-awarded bottles on our list, Dano’s Añejo Tequila is aged 18 months in virgin French white oak barrels and produced using 100% agave at a family-owned distillery that dates back to 1840. A small sip reveals aromas of roasted agave with woody notes, before the tequila opens up with hints of caramel, coconut and oak.
Founded in Steamboat Springs, Colorado in 2018, Dano’s Tequila just won Best in Class Añejo at the 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Dano’s also won the Gold Medal in the 2019 Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) Tasting Competition, and the Double Gold and Gold in the 2018 SIP Awards.
Think of this as the “cognac of tequila” — best for sipping neat, or with an ice cube.
13. Espolòn Blanco Tequila
If you’re hosting a party or large gathering, you’ll want to stock up on bottles of Espolòn. Made from 100% pure Weber Blue Agave harvested after 7 to 10 years of growing, this tequila is clean and crisp, and perfect for making margaritas and other mixed drinks. You don’t get the same distinct flavor profile as some of the other bottles on our list, but for a refreshing, straightforward Blanco, this one is a no-brainer to pick up.
14. Clase Azul Reposado Tequila
If Casamigos is what you serve at your party, Clase Azul is what you break out for the select few invited to stick around after the crowd leaves. This may be one of the priciest options on our list, but this top-shelf tequila is worth the premium price. Clase Azul’s tequila comes in this instantly recognizable (and supremely collectible) bottle, which you see on the top shelf of high-end bars and restaurants. At over $100, this is a true premium spirit, with a bottle and flavor profile worthy of its price.
Made from blue agave plants in Mexico, Clase Azul Reposado Tequila features notes of spice, cream soda, apple cider, jasmine, cinnamon and honey. The bottles, meantime, are like a work of art, inspired by traditional Mexican colors and motifs. Each bottle is hand-crafted and hand-painted, so no two are alike, making Clase Azul a great gift idea as well.
15. Siempre Tequila Plata
Siempre’s blanco tequila is deceptively simple – clean and crisp to start, with a floral and complex finish. Founded by three best friends in Canada, Siempre combines a unique flavor profile (think notes of pepper, sea salt/brine, sweet berries and candied citrus) with a traditional tequila making process using 100% agave.
Great for sipping, Siempre is incredibly smooth and naturally sweet (I.e. none of the artificial additives that make you pucker); try it over ice for a refreshing summer tequila tasting too.