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Oct 19, 2010 07:11 AM

Tequilla reccomendations for a beginner


I am interested in giving Tequila a second chance. Yet I am not interested in spending an arm and a leg on it.

I am looking for something mostly (but not solely) for making cocktails. SO PLEASE DON'T start recommending all the premium brands like Patron, Riazul, Avion, Arta, Ocho etc...

Some of the brands available to me where I live that are in my price range include:

-Jose Cuervo
(Yes yes I know there are way better tequilas out there but this is whats available for my area, price range and needs)

Which of the aforementioned brands, available in oro and blanco/plata (as well as some anejo), do you recommend.

Thanks for your feedback.

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  1. Sauza seems to be a popular workhorse. I too would be interested to know if there is a better option at about the same price. I mix with it too, rather than sip it, so I'm not looking for $40 options. I do like my cocktails with lots of base spirit flavor, though.

    BTW, if you decide you like tequila, you might also like cachaca. Different beast, but similar flavor profile, at least for me.

    1 Reply
    1. re: EvergreenDan

      BTW, I meant Sauza Hornitos, their 100% agave offering.

    2. If it doesn't say "100% agave" or "100% blue agave", don't bother.

      9 Replies
      1. re: tommy

        Yeah this above, should say 100% agave or perhaps "100% de agave". Of course there's no guarantee that you'll like it even so, but there's no point in trying to find a better mixto (e.g. standard Cuervo, Sauza, etc.) If that's all you've got, then you can stop right here.

        Now each of those brands makes a 100% agave you could try (Sauza Hornitos, Cuervo Tradicional, also 1800 is a Cuervo brand), but they cost more.

        I don't know anything about Olmeca, but it looks to be not 100% from what I can see.

        Where I live, Lunazul Reposado is within a couple bucks of the Cuervo price. That would be one you could try if available. It's actually not bad for that price IMO. There is a silver/blanco but is not carried here. Also El Jimador here is the same price as standard Cuervo, with reposado or blanco at that price. The aforementioned Hornitos is usually within a couple bucks of the standard Cuervo price. I can also get Espolon silver within a couple bucks, but it costs a couple more to get the reposado.

        I live in a place with not a lot of selection (PA) so most places should get more selection than here. Now I don't know if our price is artificially high for Cuervo, low for the others, or some combo. It's a crapshoot with the state stores, never can tell where they've priced these things compared to the typical market in other states.

        None of these are break the bank type bottles. The Cuervo mixtos cost 20 bucks. El Jimador is the same price. The highest priced one in the rest of my suggestions is Espolon reposado at $25. (Actually, I think the Cuervo Tradicional costs a buck or two more than that.) That's what I have to pay here. If you get to pay $10 for Cuervo Gold, then we're just all getting screwed in PA as usual. But then the others should be cheaper as well.

        I'd say try a reposado first, although you get perhaps the truest agave flavor (but a harsher sip generally) from a blanco/silver. But if you can't get a 100% agave bottle below your absolute price limit, then the exercise is moot, even, IMO, for mixing.

        (Although, okay, to be fair, I've been known to drink a house margarita at one local restaurant. It's not as good as the upgrade margarita, but it's drinkable. I believe they do, in fact, use Sauza and not Cuervo. It's hard to imagine it matters whether the mixto is gold or silver, hehe. I think that is just a ploy to make it appear more like the 100% agave bottles.)

        1. re: CrazyOne

          Thank you for the reply. But I have two problems:

          1: I am not in the US. So the mixtos cost premium price and the 100% agave ... well lets just say you have to take out a mortgage (j/k but not far off from reality)

          2: I was looking to make cocktails with the tequila. I think you are being a bit unreasonable. Either premium 100% agave or nothing. That's like saying: "only drink single malts, even for cocktails. No blended whiskys."

          First of all I believe that for cocktails you don't want to use garbage but you also don't need something like The Dalmore Trinitas 64 y/o ($160,000 a bottle).

          In fact why would you want to waste a decent spirit in your cocktail that's being watered down slightly with ice and mixed with other spirits, juices and bitters. When I make a Rob Roy I use Chivas or Johny Walker not The MacAllen. Same when I make a Manhattan, I use regular bourbon and not some single barrel $60 brand. However when I want to drink a spirit by its self then I'll break out that bottle of The MacAllen, Ardbeg, Highland Park, Carragenmore, etc...

          All I am asking is of the above types of Mixtos that you are acquainted with which makes a decent cocktail.

          "Good" Tequila is scarce and expensive due to import taxes by me and frankly I would rather invest in Scotch single malts, Irish pure pot stills, Calvados, Cognacs, etc... and have some decent Gin, Rum, Cachaca and Tequila on hand for cocktails.

          Still I will try to see if there are any 100% agave tequilas around in my range

          1. re: Faune

            Tequilas tend to be more expensive for a similar quality than a lot of other spirits like gin, rum, or whiskey. In that way tequila is like brandy. There's not a lot of point in debating whether Christian Brothers or E&J will make a better Sidecar, because most people will find either one pretty unpleasant.

            Now it also depends on what you plan to mix the tequila with. If you are going to make a tequila sunrise with orange juice from concentrate, it won't matter what tequila you use. Same thing if you use bottled sour mix and cheap triple sec for a margarita. Now if you're using fresh lime juice and Cointreau, you probably want to use 100% agave tequila, because the mixtos will not make a great drink and you will waste the Cointreau and the effort you put into juicing the limes.

            You have to decide whether a mixto is good enough for your drinks or not, preferably by tasting it before you have to buy a full-size bottle.

            Liquor prices also vary wildly by location. I can get a 100% agave tequila (Agavales) much cheaper than a bottle of Chivas where I live.

            1. re: Faune

              A mixto is only 51% tequila, essentially (technically 51% agave). It can be more, has to be at least 51%, but it isn't likely to be more because it's the non-agave part, usually sugar cane, that's cheaper. Not the same as blended vs single malt IMO. It's basically the same as you don't want to use garbage. The difference here is, well, despite the advertising and retailers wanting to tell you there are levels of mixtos, they're all garbage. ;-)

              Have a read here for example: Here's a good quote about how 70% of tequila in US is used in margaritas, and that most of the sales are in mixtos: "That's in part because of a popular notion that it's a waste to use premium tequilas in margaritas or other mixed drinks. It isn't: 100% agave tequilas make better margaritas."

              I'm sure wherever you are the brands available will be different than here, and it's entirely possible that whatever 100% agave bottles you can find won't really be that great anyway. Or perhaps it's so uncommon that they only bring in really expensive ones. Perhaps they are in fact worth that cost, but there is a limit to what is worth mixing in a drink. It's just that the limit is not below the bottom of the 100% agave line but instead somewhere in the middle of the 100% agave range. BTW, Patron is not a good brand to strive for, even if you can get it. Because tequila is a growing segment, there's a fair amount of marketing hype even in the 100% agave brands. Patron is decidedly average, for a price that's higher than some other possibilities that can be equally good or better.

              In the end, if you'd rather invest in other types of expensive spirits, that's fine. Which of the mixtos you listed is the least of your concerns at that point. I'd say don't bother buying any tequila at all. But, if you want to have one on hand, pick whatever is cheapest and be done with it. Just don't mix it with any other high quality stuff, because it will be a big waste of the other stuff (fresh squeezed juice, Cointreau, etc, all very good stuff for your margarita, pricey, and wasted if you mix it with Cuervo Especial and the like).

              There is a type of drink where it would matter and yes a type where it wouldn't, I suppose, except that the nasty mixto is more likely to give you a hangover in addition to not tasting that good. There's a reason you're calling this giving it a second chance, after all, right? I don't know what it is for you, but for people in this country the "tequila=hell no" usually comes from that they never had a worse hangover than after doing shots of crappy mixto. ;-) But I mean if you're making a long island iced tea or something, I suppose it really doesn't matter then. ;-) If you want to make a really good margarita or other drinks where tequila is the main alcohol flavor, though, it's not going to happen with the mixto.

              1. re: CrazyOne

                I agree with the CrazyOne completely. If you can only budget for mixtos, don't bother. It's not some effete, elitist crapola. It's simply not tequila. To correct your analogy to scotch whiskies: It's not the same a comparing blends vs single malts; it's comparable to comparing a single malt with a low-end whisky diluted with 49% cheap vodka.

                Here (California) the best value 100% agave tequila is (need I add, IMHO) Milagro @ $20ish/750ml. But if you're forced to select among your listed choices, I would say: Just flip a coin. It ain't gonna matter. They'll all make the same poor excuse for a margarita and you won't want to drink any of them neat.


                Also, seconding the comments on Patron. Many, many better choices.

                1. re: Gustavo Glenmorangie

                  @ Gustavo and Crazy
                  Blended whiskys usually contain neutral grain spirit, meaning that they blend malt whiskys together with the equivalent of vodka. Isn't that similar as a mixto which is a mix of at least half agave and sugarcane based spirits?

                  See Wikipedia:
                  "A blended whisky (or whiskey) is the product of blending different types of whiskies. It is generally the product of mixing one or more single malt whiskies (made from 100 percent malted grain such as barley or rye) together with other grain whiskies or neutral grain spirits."


                  So it would seem SIMILAR (not the same) as the Mixto Tequila

                  For some perspective, Sauza Hornitos costs ~$91(import tax is a pain) by me so you can guess what the others cost.

                  In any case I am going to try and see if I can get a friend who is traveling to try to find me some of the 100% agave stuff in a duty free shop if they can, or the next time I travel for business or to see the folks I'll get it for myself.

                  I am a big Whisky/Whiskey, Gin and brandy fan and I just wanted to give tequila a second chance. I see that the only fair thing to do would be to go for a 100% agave this time round... even if that means I have to wait a bit.

                  It's just a pity because I have a ton of limes now and they will soon be unavailable untill next year... I guess that means more Caipirinhas, Pegu clubs, etc... for now.

                  Thanks you all for your help...

                  Just one more question which 100% agaves are widely available and don't make a huge dent in your wallet?

                  1. re: Gustavo Glenmorangie

                    Milagro silver is around the same price in my area (upstate NY) and is a very good value tequila IMO as well.

                  2. re: CrazyOne

                    @ Crazyone

                    I just read the article in the link included in your post it was very comprehensive and helped clear up a lot.

                    Thank you.

                2. re: CrazyOne

                  I bought a bottle of Lunazul Repo on sale for $16 a while back, not good stuff even for the money. I didn't think it was all that bad until I tried it next to some 1800 Repo - then I noticed a distinct soapy taste. The 1800 Repo is decent - smooth but a little bland, compared to the El Conquistador Repo I got a couple weeks ago.

              2. The original comment has been removed
                1. I find this a perplexing post. Apparently you've tried tequilla before. It would be helpful then to know what you have and haven't liked about it in the past. You did mention that you plan to use it in cocktails which is helpful. But we can't tell you what you will like or not like in a tequilla without some additional info. What's considered the "best" for straight or cocktails may not be to your liking

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Chinon00

                    There is not much that is or should be perplexing about this post. Peoples tastes change, mature. Some people like to try new things or give old things a chance. Not everyone is born with a set of given tastes which stay constant their whole lives.

                    That having been said...

                    I had a few straight shots of tequila years ago, I am talking like, at least 4 yrs ago, I don't remember the brand but I am pretty sure it was a Mixto and I remember two things I didn't like about it at the time were: the taste and the headache. Since then I have not touched the stuff. I know there are better brands of tequilas and now I know there is a huge difference between Mixto and 100% Agave.

                    I appreciate many spirits: Scotch Whisky, Irish Whiskey, Bourbon, Cognac, Calvados, fruit brandies, Gin, Aperitifs, Digestifs, Anise, Rum, Rhum Agricole, Cachaca etc... You get the picture.

                    Yes, I know there are more refined spirits and less refined, but I just don't need tequila like congac, single malt scotch, calvados, etc... for sipping. I was interested in exploring tequila in cocktails (although I am not so sure about that now due to a number of reasons).


                    1. re: Faune

                      I agree with you that tastes change over time. Therefore why not give any brand a try? You might now enjoy Mixto. Again with no specifics provided as to why you didn't like it I fail to see what path anyone could reasonably guide you down approximating what you'd like. My suggestions then: everything you can get your hands on once.

                      1. re: Chinon00

                        "Again with no specifics provided as to why you didn't like it"

                        See Faune Above:
                        "I am pretty sure it was a Mixto and I remember two things I didn't like about it at the time were: the taste and the headache."

                        1. re: Faune

                          If asked what you don't like about a beverage isn't a response of "the taste" a rather vague one? For example I presently prefer any quality silver over both anejo or reposado as I desire an intimacy with the fruit character of Tequilla. Anejo is nice but it hides too much of the fruit and ends up tasting closer to a whisky. Reposado is a nice middle ground as the wood adds some elegance.

                          1. re: Chinon00

                            Well four years is a long time so its hard for me to say. I do believe it had a slightly yellow/gold hue to it so I am guessing it was a Reposado Mixto as opposed to a Plata Mixto?

                            1. re: Faune

                              Do you like agave nectar? If you can find that in your area try it before spending on the tequila. While not exactly the same, if you cannot stomach the agave nectar then it's the tequila taste itself you probably didn't like.

                              1. re: pthaloearth

                                Agave nectar tastes more like honey than it does tequila. In fact I don't sense any flavors of tequila in agave nectar whatsoever.

                  2. Can you get Casadores? I think it's an excellent 100% agave tequila at a fairly affordable price. Of what you can get, I don't know Olmeca but wouldn't bother with the other two.

                    If you ever get into the Patron price range, skip the Patron and spend the money on some Don Julio.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: andytee

                      Thanks for the advice, I will check it out.

                      1. re: andytee

                        Totally agree on Casadores; it's our house tequila for cocktails, but could be sipped neat if someone wanted.

                        Also agree on the Patron. It's just really not that interesting for the price.