The tequila selection in the United States has never been better: Between the influx of options being brought in from Mexico and the bartenders across the country championing all kinds of agave spirits, there’s a reason tequila is set to overtake vodka as the most popular spirit in the nation. But sorting through the options can be overwhelming, which is why we always opt to trust the experts. To get their take on a workhorse option, we asked bartenders to share with us their go-to tequilas. Here’s what they said.
Go-to tequila, according to bartenders:
- Tequila Ocho
- Tapatio Extra Añejo
- Siete Leguas
- El Tesoro Blanco
- Don Fulano Reposado
- Mijenta Blanco
- Cascahuin Blanco
- Volans Blanco
- Corazon Blanco
- El Tesoro Reposado
- Teremana Blanco
“I love tequila as most people do, but have noticed the celebrity-branded tequilas have really taken over the category. Those are not my go-tos. I’m a big fan of Tequila Ocho and Tapatio Extra Añejo. If you like the Don Julio 1942 and Clase Azul‘s of the world, you will love these two.” —Jason Jeffords, beverage director, Pando Park and Pando 39, New York City
“Siete Leguas, named after Pancho Villa’s favorite horse. Great bottle and label design; it’s just a great tequila. Clean, amazing texture from slow cooking that agave. Good in a cocktail, better alone.” —Derek Tormes, general manager and beverage director, Joliet & Tropezon, Miami
“We were reintroduced to Tequila Ocho at Fiola Miami recently after the tequila boom the last few years. This tequila of the finest quality for a very reasonable price. The lightness and complexity of Ocho’s aged tequilas is astounding, and allows for flavor notes that are usually missed in other tequilas — due to additives and color adulteration — to come alive.” —Daniel Bishop, head sommelier and beverage director, Fiola Miami, Miami
“Our go-to tequila is El Tesoro Blanco. It’s everything a blanco tequila is meant to be, at a reasonable price. It has a fresh vegetal nose, and tastes of cooked agave and pepper. We don’t support any tequila brands that add additives (glycerin, artificial coloring or flavoring, etc), nor do we support any brand that uses a diffuser. Obviously, El Tesoro does neither and is a brand with full integrity. Delicious any way you can ingest, this tequila really excels in a classic Paloma or salty Margarita.” —Brandon Ristaino, co-founder and beverage director, Good Lion Hospitality, Santa Barbara, Calif.
“If it’s available at a bar, I’m a fan of Tapatio. It’s a great value and is great just as a shot, or in a Margarita or Diablo. But I can guarantee you, if there’s an agave spirit I don’t recognize on your back bar, that’s what I’m ordering.” —Kimberly Patton Bragg, beverage director, Palm & Pine, New Orleans
“My go-to tequila is Don Fulano Reposado. It’s a fantastic tequila because it is a single-estate tequila finished in French Limousin oak, which is very rare, and has a flavor profile of vanilla, baking spices, and fresh black pepper. It is used a lot as a replacement tequila in our most popular cocktail called Tropic Thunder that’s a riff on the Spicy Margarita.” —Brian Christie, assistant general manager and beverage manager, Union New American, Tampa, Fla.
“Mijenta Blanco is a really good all-around tequila that is additive-free and has beautiful blend of citrus, pepper, and cooked agave notes on the palate and the nose. Great in stirred boozy cocktails, but also shines through in Margaritas or Palomas, so you can use it for most cocktails! It’s starting to become more and more popular, so it’s definitely a tequila to have. Their Reposado and Anejo are also great if you need something with some more age.” —Sondre Kasin, principal bartender, Cote Korean Steakhouse, New York City
“I want to taste the earth in my tequila, not a mouthful of vanilla. I’m not a fan of oak flavors or additives in my tequila, so I prefer blancos and my go-to is Siete Leguas. Full of citrus and herbs, it’s got a great complexity. I’d argue that the brand’s 70th anniversary release, Decadas, is the best tequila on the market!” —Michael Carlisi, beverage director, Barrio, San Francisco
“Cascahuin Blanco from brothers Chava and Bngi Rosales Trejo in El Arenal, Jalisco, who make the best tequila I’ve ever tasted. Cascahuin is a brand that I reach for often when my guests or friends want to learn more about what authentic tequila should taste like. Tequila should taste like agriculture, like cooked agave. If you’re scratching your head in an effort to articulate those flavors, you may be drinking the wrong tequila.” —Beau du Bois, vice president of bar and spirits, Marisi, La Jolla, Calif.
“Knowing the environmental and social justice problems that are plaguing agave-growing parts of Mexico, we scrutinize new tequila selections with a particularly watchful eye. Volans Blanco, produced by a husband and wife team at El Pandillo Distillery, has notes of minerality, white flowers, black peppercorn, and orchard fruits that make it super compelling while still being at an approachable price point.” —Chris Struck, beverage director, Ilili, New York City
“Corazon Blanco has hands-down been my favorite since stumbling upon it over the past few years. It has become a cult-like spirit with the hospitality world [for] getting the most ‘bang for your buck,’ as one would say. It is great served any which way: neat, rocks, or cocktail.” —Erin Green, bartender Haven, Tampa, Fla.
“I have recently really been enjoying El Tesoro Reposado. I love reposado tequilas for the fact that you still get all of the grassy and spicy notes, but you also start enjoying the complexity that comes with oak aging. It is a great tequila with no additives, unlike many of the tequilas that we see nowadays.” —Andy Cabrera, Bartender, Café La Trova, Miami
“My go-to tequila is Teremana Blanco. Not only is its crisp, citrusy flavor profile the perfect clean backdrop for any tequila cocktail, but the tequila itself is made in small batches with incredible attention to detail. Although I’m a blanco girl, this attention that Teremana gives to the integrity of the agave plant and how they center the agave as a focal flavor note in each of their expressions means that Teremana Reposado and Teremana Añejo are also my go-tos for tequila with some age on it. When you throw in Teremana’s affordability, it’s a no-brainer!” —Resa Mueller, bartender, R&D Philly, Philadelphia
“Those close to me are all too aware that among agave spirits, tequila is far from my first choice. That being said, if I have something positive to say about the Blue Weber spirit, it’s nothing short of incredible. Siete Leguas Blanco has consistently been among my favorite tequilas out there. It’s smooth: There’s beautiful green and grassy notes on the palate, balanced by just a hint of sweetness and vanilla. The cost has rightly increased over the years, as most producers over-cultivate the agave in order to keep up with the world’s insatiable demand, and yet Siete Leguas refuses to compromise in the quality of their product or cultivation practices. I cannot recommend it more.” —Rob Struthers, Beverage Director, Gair, New York City
“One of my favorite tequilas at the moment would be Fortaleza. More nuance is present as the spirit displays vegetal notes of rosemary, lime pith, olives, and subtle hints of salinity. It is a go-to for stirred and boozy cocktails like Rositas. The vermouth and bitter Campari notes play harmoniously well together.” —Jon Pizano, beverage director, Lazy Bird, Chicago
“My new favorite tequila that I always have to have on hand is Tequila Ocho! I fell in love from the first sip. They stay true to the process, and stick to the slow artisanal way of making a wonderful spirit without any additives, which most ‘popular’ tequilas do. Tequila Ocho is not just a drink, it’s a journey through the agave fields, the distillery, and the soul of Mexico. Sip by sip, you can taste the history and passion that goes into every drop.” —Alida Acosta, mixologist and restaurant general manager, TAP Gastropub, Warren, N.J.