The margarita may have a contested history, but few would argue over its deliciousness. As craft cocktail bars seem to open by the hour, so too do new spins on this classic drink. We’ve published a few non-traditional takes on this festive cocktail ourselves. Even Chipotle features a margarita to go with their classy fast food. Margaritas are simply too agreeable to ever be out of trend. And we’re pretty happy about that.
While store-bought margarita mixers might do in a pinch, for the ideal margarita, use fresh juice, real orange liqueur, and of course, quality tequila. Now, as we mentioned before, the margarita may be a classic, but that doesn’t mean its uniform. This list will give you tequilas both pricey and inexpensive, complex and relatively straightforward. Different tequilas will yield different kinds of margaritas. How you choose to style yours is your very own personal adventure.
Let’s start with something we’ve probably all heard of – Patron Silver Tequila. This is one big brand tequila that’s become so culturally ubiquitous its name-dropped in hip-hop songs. So, what’s actually the deal with Patron? Well, it’s versatile. This isn’t a tequila that has flavors that are particularly out there, but they are pleasant. Because Patron Silver is a blanco (unaged or stored in stainless steel) tequila, it lacks the oaky characteristics more classic margarita-drinkers might not fancy. Instead, you’ll get some fruit and plain ol’ agave. If you’re looking to prepare an ultra-classic margarita, reach for Silver Patron.
Are you about to start whipping up margaritas for a big party? Don’t worry – we’ve got you. Tapatio Blanco comes in a liter, and, like Silver Patron, it’s a simple, no-frills blanco. Citrus and a touch of crisp floral flavor make this a great introductory tequila for those looking to make margaritas on the fruity side. It’s a good deal cheaper than Silver Patron (the average cost of Tapatio Blanco is about $31 a bottle), and just as flexible when it comes to cocktail use. Feel free to add a bit of honey or hibiscus syrup to play up the sweet notes in Tapatio.
3. Grand Mayan Ultra Aged BEST OVERALL
Aaaaand taking a sharp turn from the previous two tequilas, we have Grand Mayan. Aged over three years, Grand Mayan Ultra Aged is undoubtedly a sipping tequila, which may lead you to wonder why we’ve included it on this list. Well, if you’re into greener notes (think rich green pepper), and mature tastes like vanilla that come with oak-aging, we dare you to try using Grand Mayan Ultra Aged in a margarita. After one Grand Mayan Ultra Aged margarita, you may be ready to leave the bar – and not because of a high ABV content. Rather, a Grand Mayan margarita will deliver an onslaught of flavors so intense (both warm from the tequila and sharp from the juice), we think one would leave you sated.
Like Grand Mayan Ultra Aged, Hornitos has spent time in oak. It’s aged for at least a year, so if you’re craving a margarita that has a degree of complexity without being too intense, Hornitos Anejo is a good compromise. This tequila has sat in oak for at least a year, so it’s picked up some cream and vanilla, but it holds back just a tad on the smoked oakiness. As Hornitos Anejo has a deeper, digestive quality, a margarita made with this tequila be a great drink to cap off a late-night dinner.
This is one blanco that provides flavors beyond grass, fruit, and pepper. There’s a distinct note of mocha here, an interesting palate when combined with the somewhat oily consistency of Casa Noble Crystal. That being said, there aren’t nearly as much desserty flavors as the anejos on this list. If you want to prepare a margarita that has fruit in addition to some chalky, roastiness, Casa Noble crystal is a good choice. It will turn your margarita drier and more robust than your average blanco might.
6. El Jimador Reposado BEST ON A BUDGET
Interestingly enough, this reposado tequila (aged at least two months but less than a year in oak) is cheaper than all of the blancos on this list. El Jimador has a lovely baked sugar nose – like burned molasses or hot caramel. The taste is similar: a succulent, cooked agave sweetness with a bit of spice to balance it out. Given how inexpensive El Jimador is, it’s a great tequila to keep at home whenever you feel like making spur of the moments margaritas. It’s definitely on the more sugary side (think big notes of butterscotch), but it isn’t quite as multifaceted as the anejos on this list.
Okay, so this isn’t a tequila (all tequila is mezcal, not all mezcal is tequila). It is a delicious agave spirit that’s ideal for a smoky, salt-of-the-earth margarita. Mezcal is known to be smoky, but Ilegal Mezcal Joven is surprisingly gentle, quaffable, and tangy. There’s enough smoke that Scotch lovers will be pleased, but not so much that margarita purists will be put off. If you like cocktails like the Blood and Sand or other fruit/smoke combinations, give Ilegal Mezcal Joven in your margarita a shot.