With Cinco de Mayo only about a week away, it’s time to start stocking up on margarita supplies! Of course this means fresh limes, a gigantic bottle of Cointreau… but most importantly it means making sure you have a good tequila. But what tequila is the right one for this specific drink? The answer to that question may be a bit subjective, but we have some suggestions.
Best General Purpose Tequila: Tequila 512 Blanco
The trick here is to have a spirit that is expressive without being overpowering to the rest of the components in the cocktail, and good enough quality without being too expensive. Something solidly in the middle of the road, that delivers a good value for money… and that’s exactly what Tequila 512 Blanco gives us, entirely by design.
In a cocktail, this tequila delivers all of the usual herbal and citrus notes and does it with enough saturation and fidelity that it is still clearly discernable against the strong lime juice and Cointreau. And the best part: you can get all of this for a price that won’t break the bank.
Best “Splurge” Blanco Tequila: Casamigos Blanco
If you’re looking to spend a little more money to get a better tasting margarita, then my recommendation is the George-Clooney-backed Casamigos Blanco.
When I see a celebrity endorsed spirit, I usually run for the hills. That’s normally a solid indicator that it’s just a cash grab — something designed to make a quick buck off the strength of the celebrity instead of the strength of the product.
But that’s not what’s going on here. In fact, this tequila was never intended to be made available for sale.
Designed by George Clooney and a few close friends for the sole purpose of stocking it in their vacation houses as their “house tequila”, this spirit was built from the ground up as a delicious experience no matter how you take it. But the elongated nap this takes in American oak barrels (yes – even this blanco expression!) means that there’s some great barrel aging flavors like vanilla and a hint of marshmallow or caramel that adds to the experience.
Best Tequila for People With Too Much Money: Clase Azul Reposado
There’s a level of “treat yo’ self” that makes sense — upgrading from a bottom shelf liquor to something a little more refined in cocktails is something I often do myself. But there are limits. I wouldn’t reach for a $300 bourbon to make a Kentucky Mule, and using some Clase Azul Reposado in a margarita seems similarly ridiculous.
Don’t get me wrong — the results will be delicious. I’ve tried it myself, out of obligation since all our reviews are graded against the same set of tests and a marg is one of the usual tests for a tequila. In this version, you’ll get the herbaceous notes of the base spirit and the barrel aging notes of the oak (vanilla, baking spices, caramel, vanilla) all combining for a delicious and truly next-level drink. But at what cost?
There are a ton of tequilas on the market. The ones we’ve talked about here are a good basic start but there’s a whole world out there to explore (for the more adventurous, try a smoky and earthy mezcal, which can add a whole new shade of flavor on the old favorite). Take these as a good jumping off point, and find your own favorites — and let us know in the comments if you find a gem!