I’m sometimes asked what kinds of tequila I drink. Of late, I’ve been asked enough that I wrote a few down and have now decided to put it in a blog entry that I’ll keep updated.
Now, bear in mind, there are close to 1,000 different tequilas on the market today and I’m not an expert. In fact, most of the tequila that I’ll list below will not show up as “top tequilas” in a lot of different lists or reviews. That’s not to say they haven’t been top picks or won awards, it’s just that with so many tequilas some will appeal to certain consumers or judges where others will not.
Me, I like silver tequila… it’s the purest but not the fanciest. But, that brings up a good point: before ever discussing tequila, it’s a good idea to get a little bit of information about what the different names mean. A good place to start is at Tequila.net and their Classification page.
But, for brevity sake, here’s a cheat sheet:
Categories of Tequila: There are two; 100% Blue Agave, and Tequila Mixto (Mixed). Mixto Tequila contains at least 51% Blue Agave, where the other 49% is made up of other sugars. Bottles of Mixto must be labeled as simply “Tequila” as the 100% Blue Agave bottled are labelled as such, e.g., Tequila 100% de agave or puro de agave, or . IMHO, stick with 100% Blue Agave.
So, when you hear someone like, well, me say Jose Cuervo isn’t “real tequila” it’s because with a few exceptions, the gold or silver you get at a bar is Tequila Mixto, not 100% Blue Agave. The exceptions include the exceptional and $120ish Jose Cuervo Reserva De La Familia Anejo or $50ish Platino (Silver, which I have). Like a lot of folks, I drank and used Jose Cuervo Gold for margaritas and would always get a headache afterwards, usually headed off at the pass with a Goodies powder. It was only after I decided to learn a bit more about tequila that I learned to stick to mostly silver, 100% Blue Agave and if I stick to that… no issues, i.e., headaches or hangovers.
Types of Tequila: Anyway, now that you know about 100% vs. Mixed, there are five general types of tequila that you’ll encounter:
- Gold or Oro – Gold usually means you’re getting Mixto. Jose Cuervo Gold is the most well-known (see above). Gold should not be confused with Reposado or Añejo, those are not “Gold”. And there is also something called Joven, with is a blend of Silver & Reposado (see below) which are both 100% Agave: yes, it can be confusing… but 100% Agave is your friend!
- Silver or Blanco – Silver is clear and not aged, as it bottled right after being distilled or stored in stainless steel tanks for up to a month to let it settle before bottling. Now, there is also Blanco Suave which is silver tequila that has been allowed to settle for up to two months, for an even smoother taste.
- Reposado – Reposado translates to “Rested” in English. Tequila that has been “rested” means it was aged in a wood barrel for more than 2 months but not more than 11 months. The barrels are usually American or French Oak, and certain distillers will use barrels that were previously used to age whiskeys (usually bourbon), wine or other spirits to add additional flavor to the tequila as well as a golden hue from the oak.
- Añejo – Aged or extra-aged tequila means it has been allowed to rest in barrels for more than 11 months to give it a deeper gold or amber color, while also making the flavors more rich and complex. These are usually very smooth-tasting tequilas and as you’d expect, more expensive than Reposado tequilas.
- Extra Añejo – “Extra Añejo” or ultra-aged Añejo is a tequila that has been allowed to age for more than three years, making them even more rich and complex than the Añejo and, yes… a lot more expensive.
So, with that in mind, here’s what you’ll find in my tequila bar.
CAMARENA REPOSADO & SILVER TEQUILA – Great replacement for Jose Cuervo for making Margaritas. The Silver is excellent as well, but for a Margarita the “gold” Reposado provides just the right flavoring you need for a Maggie. Oh, and both are great sipping / shooting tequilas, but best when chilled.
DON JULIO BLANCO, 70, ANEJO & 1942 – Just a great silver Tequila, one of the best. All of the Don Julio’s are really good. The 70th is the best silver and the 1948 is the best Añejo (period). Their Añejo is also very good, but very robust and not as smooth as the others. These are all too good for shooting. You can do it, but it’s analogous to shooting 12-year old single malt scotch.
LUNAZUL BLANCO – Also very good, a little less expensive than Don Julio Blanco. Just a great go-to tequila for shooting or sipping. Best served chilled.
SAUZA 1800 SILVER – An edgy silver compared to the Don Julio and Lunazul; just not as smooth but still very good and one of my “go-to” tequila’s at home. At one time I was able to get the 100 Proof Sauza 1800 with the grey label; wow! The Sauza 1800 Repasado is also a very good, reasonably priced tequila best served cold.
ESPOLON SILVER – A less expensive but really smooth, tasty silver tequila. In fact, it’s actually smoother tasting to me than some of the other more pricey silvers. By the way, the name Espolòn pays homage to the Spanish-American fighting roosters as the “espolòn” is the spur on the back of a rooster’s leg.
AVION SILVER & REPOSADO – A really, really good tequila… one of the best. On par with Don Julio but a little less expensive The AVION REPOSADO is also a very highly rated tequila that’s a joy to sip right up there with the more aged Añejo. These are all definitely worth a try, but it’s the Silver that caught my attention.
HERRADURA SILVER – All of the Herradura tequilas are very nice, and there are a lot of them. I stumbled onto the Silver at our local bar and it’s my go-to tequila as it’s a ‘best value’ at that particular bar. Elsewhere, it’s on par with Sauza 1800 silver, but comes into its own with the more pricey Ultra Silver, Reposado Double-Barrel, Coleccion Reserva 2015 and their ultra-expensive seleccion Suprema ($300+ a bottle). Of them all, the Double-Barrel is really a great treat and, again, on par with the other really good Reposados. And, there are actually quite a few other variations in the Herradura family of tequila including the el Jimador brand, often times a well-tequila in bars that’s actually pretty good: after all, it’s 100% agave! Note that for a while they switched el Jimador to a Mixed/Mixto blend and it was awful stuff. Thankfully, they switched it back.
PATRON SILVER – Last but not least, there is of course a few bottles of Patron Silver. I’ve never bought a bottle of Patron, but it seems to be what family and friends like to buy for me when holidays or birthdays come around… and I do appreciate it! While Patron Silver is good, I struggle because it’s not any better than most of the other “very good” silvers but it commands a premium price, i.e., when Herradura is $8 a shot Patron is $9-10. Marketing works! But, that said, there is an AMAZING Patron called Gran Patron Platinum and it’s some of the best tequila I’ve ever had. Our friend and owner of Old Towne Tavern & Grill, Billy, treated me to a shot of this ‘nectar of the gods’ a while back and it was hands-down, the best silver tequila I’d ever tasted. But, at $150-$170 a bottle, it should be!
Anyway, there you have it. That’s what’s in my tequila bar. I’m always looking for something new and better but since we don’t hang-out in trendy bars we tend not to see a lot of trendy tequila. But, these all do nicely.