Tequila is one of those spirits that has a distinct high and low end. When it’s good, it’s transcendent. When it’s bad… yeesh, it can be pretty harsh. There’s a fine line between subtle vegetal agave toastiness and an alcohol burn that’ll kick up a gag reflex. A great bottle of tequila will engage your palate while getting you lit. A bad one will toss you in a gutter and leave you for dead.
The great thing about good tequila is that it doesn’t have to cost a small fortune. You don’t need to travel too far up the shelf at the liquor store to find a serviceable bottle that works as both a tasty shooter and a solid cocktail base. There’s a nice range to choose from clocking in at $20 per bottle — each sure to hit every marker of smooth drinkability.
The ten bottles below show a range of relatively cheap bottles of tequila that hit that perfect Paloma or marg-mixer and “party all night”-shooter balance. We’ve mostly erred towards blanco (or plata) tequilas here to keep costs down. Generally speaking, if you dig the blanco expression, you’ll really love that label’s Reposado and Añejo riffs.
Use this list as a starting point from which to build your tequila shelf.
Story: Located in Corralejo, Pénjamo, Guanajuato, Hacienda Corralejo is the home of Tequila Corralejo, one of the most awarded tequilas in the world. The distillery makes a number of tequilas, including blanco, reposado, añejo, and extra añejo. Referred to as “Mexico’s best tequila for the world,” Corralejo’s tequilas are designed to be mixed into your favorite cocktails or sipped neat, depending on your taste
Tasting Notes: This highly prized (but not highly priced) tequila was aged for four months in three different barrels, including French oak, American oak, and Encino oak. The result is a tequila heavily influenced by the various woods — creating a very smooth, balanced tequila with hints of vegetal agave, pine, and vanilla. –Chris Osburn