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More likely than not, you've had a traumatic experience with tequila. You've done away with it, said you'll never touch the stuff again. If that's the case, you're missing out on a delicious spirit, so let us introduce you to some top-notch tequila bars to help rehabilitate your perception of tequila — and not the tequila you drank in college.
Click here for the Top Tequila Bars in the U.S. Slideshow
Tequila and mezcal are seeing the same boom as other brown spirits, like cognac, single malt Scotches, and whiskey. Much as there are great whiskey bars and rum bars throughout the country, there are now great tequila and mezcal bars that are determined to show the versatility, sophistication, and unique profile of agave spirits. Mat Resler, from Empellón Cocina and Empellón Taqueria, says the "tequila boom" happened only a mere five years ago, and the mezcal boom, even more recently. "When I left California [a few years ago], no one had mezcal on the shelves," he says. "Now, I go into an Italian restaurant and can find two mezcals." Now that bartenders have latched onto the agave spirits, it's no wonder that drinkers are looking for new places to experience tequila the right way. "If we [the bartenders] like something, we find a way to get it to the consumers," Resler says.
[slideshow: And what transforms a typical bar and restaurant into a tequila-focused bar is a menu dedicated to 100 percent agave tequilas and mezcals, our experts say. We asked Resler, Jacques Bezuidenhout (Partida's bartender ambassador), and Cesar G. Aguilar (professional bartender and former manager of the James Beard-nominated La Condesa's bar program in Austin, Texas) to share where they like to enjoy a taste of tequila and mezcal.
You won't find a mixto tequila, artificial margarita, or sour mix in sight at these spots. And most important to a true tequila program, say the experts, is a knowledgeable staff ready to educate customers on the finer details of agave. "Sometimes at a bar, someone will pour you a shot and walk away," Resler says. "The reason I keep going to a bar is when the people behind the bar love what they're doing. They have that fascination and want to geek out about tequila."
Click ahead to find out where you too can geek out over tequila; your Cinco de Mayo plans just got a little more sophisticated.
(By Frederic Najem, director of food and beverage, Bank & Bourbon, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Bank & Bourbon
Not yet prepared to let go of your margs as the weather starts to cool down? Then this margarita variation may be the ideal drink for you. It contains the fundamental hallmarks of the traditional margarita — tequila, Cointreau, lime juice — but it replaces the more typical blanco tequila with aged reposado and adds in a healthy pour of apple cider. “Margaritas are some of our most popular cocktails, so adding apples to [these drinks] was the perfect way to make them feel like fall. [This cocktail is] warming and refreshing all at once. The reposado adds oak and vanilla flavors into the mix, which complement the spiced aroma,” beverage director Frederic Najem says of his recipe.
- 2 oz reposado tequila
- 3 oz organic apple cider
- 2 oz orange liqueur (Najem uses Cointreau)
- .5 oz lime juice
- 1 tbsp cane sugar, to rim the glass
- 1 tbsp coarse sugar, to rim the glass
- .25 tsp cinnamon, to rim the glass
- .25 tsp allspice, to rim the glass
- .25 tsp ground cloves, to rim the glass
- Orange wedges, to rim the glass
- Apple slices, for garnish
- Cinnamon stick, for garnish
- Pour sugar, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves onto a plate and mix to combine. Set aside.
- Add tequila, apple cider, Cointreau, and lime juice to a shaker and shake to combine.
- Rub the rim of a glass with an orange wedge and roll the rim in the sugar mixture. Add ice to the glass.
- Pour the contents of the shaker into the glass over the ice cube. Garnish with cinnamon stick and apple slices.
Best Overall: Fuenteseca Cosecha 2013
This tequila is a cult favorite among experts, as Yana Volfson, the beverage manager at Cosme and ATLA restaurants in New York, calls it “beautiful.” Enrique Fuenteseca, the farmer and distiller behind the bottle, chooses the ripest agave in his own estate, subjects the piñas to the autoclave-and-roller mill treatment, and lets the pot-distilled spirit rest in stainless steel tanks afterward for three years. The resulting blanco, says Grover Sanschagrin, is “super heavy on the cinnamon, olive, and brine notes—it’s just amazing.” Perfect for tequila aficionados, the limited-production Fuenteseca Cosecha 2013 is a worthy collectible.
The Tequila Bar at El Pinto carries the best selection of premium tequilas available in Albuquerque and all New Mexico. With a selection of over 160 tequilas to choose from, no matter your choice of a premium sipping tequila, a premium mixing tequila for a perfect margarita, or a high quality tequila for margarita pitchers on the El Pinto patio, there is something for everyone.
For tequila connoisseurs who want to taste the absolute best at our Albuquerque restaurant, choose from the Patron Gran Burdeos Anejo, or the unique Gran Centenario Leyenda, a Herredura Seleccion Suprema, the Don Julio 1942, or maybe a Gran Patron. Each has a distinctive character and worthy of super premium status. Also recently added is the Don Julio Real, Partida Elegante, Milagro Barrel Select Anejo, and El Tesoro Paradiso, DeLeo Diamante, and Deleon Anejo among other super premium tequilas that are added as we have requests.
At El Pinto we take our margaritas seriously! All premium margaritas are made with hand-made simple syrup made in the El Pinto Tequila Bar, fresh squeezed lime juice squeezed that day, and agave nector when appropriate.
For a perfect margarita, choose a premium handmade margarita from a wide selection of offerings. Also, be sure to try the Salsa Twins favorite margarita, the house specialty at the Tequila Bar made with El Pinto's specially produced Patron Barrel Select Anejo, Cointreau, simple syrup, and fresh squeezed lime.
Another popular favorite is the "Silver Coin" made only with Herredura Silver, Cointreau, fresh squeezed lime, and house made simple syrup. This is the best of "Old Mexico" and the way margaritas have been enjoyed for generations. It is the perfect blend of tart and naturally sweet for a relaxing afternoon on the El Pinto outdoor patio.
To get a sampling of various different tequilas at the Tequila Bar at El Pinto, choose a tequila flight. You receive a portion serving of three different tequilas and sangrita as a pallet cleanser. Choose from three different fixed flights: Patron, Don Julio or a Seleccion variety, or you can pick any three tequilas on the menu priced $13 or less and pay only $15.
The 14 Best Tequilas You Can Buy in 2021
This definitive guide to the best tequilas you can buy explores everything you need to know about the world&rsquos most popular agave spirit, including a list of the best bottles and brands to seek out.
This definitive guide to the best tequilas of 2021 explores everything you need to know about the world&rsquos most popular agave spirit, including important tequila terms &mdash such as blanco, reposado and añejo &mdash how to drink it and a list of the best tequila bottles and brands worth tracking down.
There is perhaps no spirit as villainized or misused as tequila. In America, it&rsquos all about getting trashed glugging with cheap margarita mix doing shots that are so unpalatable you need to assault your own tongue with salt and acidic lime toeing the line between lit up and throwing up. At least absinthe gets to be the bad boy.
Incredibly, that&rsquos just the tip of the iceberg for tequila&rsquos problems. Seven out of every ten bottles are exported out of Mexico, and 80 percent of those end up in the States. Our drinking culture, with its collegiate attitude toward the spirit, has reflected back on the way the spirit is now made, and its place in Mexican culture.
&ldquoAmericans did fundamentally change the industry in Mexico,&rdquo says Chantal Martineau, a spirits writer and the author of How the Gringos Stole Tequila: The Modern Age of Mexico&rsquos Most Traditional Spirit. &ldquoBy the time official laws defined tequila in the 1970s&rdquo &mdash it must be made using at least 51 percent blue weber agave, and only in five regions of Mexico &mdash &ldquothe spirit had already gained popularity in the U.S., to the point where producers in Mexico were having trouble keeping up with demand. They had to change how they made the spirit, which modernized and mechanized it,&rdquo Martineau says.
And so the bar for tequila was lowered. We became consumers, largely, of what&rsquos known as mixto &mdash tequila made using only 51 percent agave and 49 percent non-agave sugars, usually cane sugars. If we broke tequila, however, we can also fix it. Made with 100 percent agave, our picks are affordable, expensive, subtle, aromatic and everything in between. These are the best tequilas you can buy.
INTRODUCING TEREMANA TEQUILA
Crafted in a small Mexican town, amidst the highest peaks of the Jalisco Highland mountains, every step of our tequila making process is meticulously done the right way at Destilería Teremana de Agave. The jimadores harvest fully mature naturally sweet agave, we then slow roast them in small traditional brick ovens, and distill in handmade copper pot stills. This creates a bright flavorful tequila that honors the land it comes from.
In life we care about the things that have deep meaning to us - family, friends, work, good times and the not so good times. Our tequila is no different. TEREMANA combines two words that are meaningful. 'TERE' derived from the Latin 'terra' meaning earth and 'MANA', the Polynesian word meaning spirit - Teremana is the "Spirit of the Earth".
COME HAVE A DRINK
The good things in life don’t come easy. Teremana is a result of incredible dedication and daily effort. Our work is never done, but when the day is done, it’s only right that we gather with family and friends and raise our glasses.
4. T1 Tequila
T1 is produced by Master Distiller Germán González, great grandson of General Manuel González, former President of México between 1880 – 1884. It’s a brand known for its numerous connections: Germán González’s father also launched the first ultra-premium tequila imported into the United States: Chinaco.
So it’s fair to say that T1 was produced as a result of learning from only the best. The brand uses only mature agave plants from the Mexican highlands, ensuring a higher concentration of natural sugar.
T1’s reposado tequila is aged for six months in “very old” Scotch barrels before being bottled and sold. It’s a tequila bursting with flavour – most prominently creamy flavours of cinnamon and ginger alongside stewed agave. A deeper taste of the bottle offers hints of pine nuts with a mellow finish. It’s one you’ll buy again and again. And if you want something even older, check José Cuervo, it’s the oldest tequila brand in the world.
The Top 10 Tequilas and Mezcals of 2019
Tequila continues to grow in popularity and market share, thanks to a glut of high-quality, 100% agave spirit on the market. You can also thank a surging interest in mezcal, as artisanal offerings continue to push the smoky spirit into new places, with focuses on terroir and single varietals of agave. Today we take a look back at the year of tequila and mezcal, highlighting our top 10 releases to hit the market since the end of 2018.
1. Don Julio Tequila Reposado Double Cask – Lagavulin Barrel – Tequila and Scotch have been cautious bedfellows for years, but this combination of silky reposado tequila and lightly salty Islay Scotch is the proof of concept we’ve all been waiting for. Don Julio finishes its tequila for a mere two weeks in Lagavulin casks, which is just the perfect kiss of sea spray on top of an already delightful experience. $65 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
2. El Tesoro Paradiso Extra Anejo – Not a new expression, but now more commonly available in 2019, this extra anejo, created alongside Alain Royer of A. de Fussigny Cognac, spends five years in French oak, ex-Cognac barrels (instead of the usual bourbon barrels). Loaded with both traditional and unexpected flavors, it’s a wild combination of citrus, vanilla, spices, and pepper – with a Mexican chocolate finish. $130 [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY]
3. El Mayor Tequila French Oak Chardonnay Cask Finish – Here’s a new reposado from El Mayor that spends 9 months not in bourbon barrels but in French oak chardonnay casks. It’s a wild idea, but it makes for one of the sunniest and most fruit-forward reposado tequilas I’ve had in years. A gem. $110
4. G4 Tequila Blanco – This estate-grown, organic tequila comes to us from Felipe Camarena, part of the renowned Camarena family. Sharp and peppery, the crystal clear blanco settles into a groove that offers notes of melon and other fruits. A solid sipper, but also quite versatile come cocktail time. $40 [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY]
5. Los Vecinos del Campo Mezcal Espadin – Los Vecinos del Campo is a new family of mezcals produced by a brotherhood of mezcaleros, and Mezcal Espadin – made from the more common espadin agave plant – is the brand’s first product. It’s a classic and classy expression of mezcal, meaty and herbal with a bit of sea spray in the mix. A gentle sweetness increases the mezcal’s approachability. $34 [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY]
6. Don Julio Tequila Reposado Double Cask – Buchanan’s Barrel – We mentioned the second of Don Julio’s special edition reposados in our #1 pick above this was actually the first in the series, a reposado that spent a month in Buchanan’s Blended Scotch Whisky casks. The results are excellent, with the tequila taking on a depth of flavor not often seen in reposado, with notes of citrus melding nicely with peppery, tobacco leaf notes. $60 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
7. Mezcal Union El Viejo – Another cooperative-built brand, Mezcal Union is just getting going with a pair of offerings, including this one, a complex beast made from espadin and tobala agave harvested at up to 14 years old. Heavily smoky and quite herbal, it’s loaded up with spices and saline notes that make for an introspective sipper. $48 [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY]
8. Nosotros Tequila Blanco – Another solid blanco, unusual since the agave comes not from a single region but rather 50/50 from the Highlands and Lowlands. Complex but approachable, and plenty versatile. $36 [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY]
9. Tequila Alacran Blanco – The striking black bottle for Alacran (“scorpion”) is just the beginning of the intrigue here, as unusual notes of coconut and grassy mesquite give the aromatics an unusual composition. Slightly earthy but otherwise light and wholly approachable. $42 [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY]
10. El Mayor Tequila Single Estate Blanco – Somewhat less exciting than our #3 pick above, this is nonetheless a delightful blanco that offers a spicy, pepper-heavy punch that’s chased by fruit and sweetness. The old hammer in a velvet glove dichotomy. $66 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
So, that’s the top 10 for 2019 – but hey, this is just our opinion. We’d love to see your own top 10 tequila/mezcal list, and we’re talking to you @vancouverguero!
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12 Best Tequila Brands to Drink Right Now
We're calling attention to the tequila makers who use traditional methods&mdashwith a few exceptions.
Americans are in love with their spirit to the south, tequila. Year after year, the category continues to grow in the States, according to the Distilled Spirits Council. Forget about mixto, the subpar blend of agave and sugar juice that inevitably leaves you with a bad hangover. We&rsquore talking 100-percent blue agave tequila (actually a sub-category of mezcal), which can only be distilled in five Mexican states.
The traditional method of making tequila involves harvesting agave, cooking the piñas (the heart of the plant) in an oven, crushing them with the tahona (a large stone wheel), and then fermenting and distilling the juice and fiber. Of course, technology has advanced and some distilleries use more modern methods, replacing the tahona with a mill or even using something called a diffuser to &ldquocook&rdquo the agave. A diffuser is basically a giant machine that extracts sugar using hot water (and sometimes sulfuric acid). This results in what some unflatteringly call &ldquoagavodka," which is often infused with additives to boost the flavor.
Naturally, this method is unappealing to hardcore tequila fans who believe diffuser-made tequila is an inferior product. But some argue that using a diffuser actually makes tequila cheaper and therefore accessible to more people. Overall, tequila makers aren't very forthcoming about the use of diffusers, which is part of the problem&mdashtransparency goes a long way in the spirits industry.
For this list, we tried to focus on brands that use traditional methods, with some exceptions. And we couldn't include everything&mdasheven George Clooney's baby Casamigos, which was sold to Diageo for close to a billion dollars in 2017, didn't make the cut. Ultimately, regardless of whether a brick oven, stainless steal autoclave oven, or diffuser was used to make the tequila, it&rsquos all about taste. So here are 12 of the most important and iconic tequila brands available right now. Try them all and decide for yourself.
Patrón helped to define premium tequila when it launched over a quarter century ago. Everything from the bottle design to the marketing to the higher price tag was meant to reinforce its position as a higher-end spirit, and it worked. Nowadays the premium tequila category is thriving, and Patrón (now owned by Bacardi) remains one of the best, with the Roca range at the forefront. Roca differs from the standard Patrón lineup in that the piñas are crushed solely using a traditional tahona stone instead of a mill, resulting in a more agave-forward flavor. (Patrón uses a combination of the tahona and mill for its core range.) All of this adds up to a great sipping tequila, whether it&rsquos the silver, reposado, or añejo expression.
Casa Noble is one of several organic-certified tequila brands, but that&rsquos not why it&rsquos good. No, this is good tequila because it&rsquos a crisp, spicy, flavorful, and very versatile spirit. There is a joven expression available, which is a blanco that&rsquos been aged for just six weeks in a barrel, something many brands don&rsquot offer. But what really sets Casa Noble apart from the competition are its unique single barrel offerings. There are currently two available, an oaky reposado and a rich extra añejo, both of which are matured in French oak casks. While a few other tequila brands also offer single barrel expressions, Casa Noble consistently releases some of the best.
El Tesoro has the power of Beam Suntory behind it as far as ownership, but the tequila stands strong on its own with a history dating back to the 1930s. From blanco to añejo, El Tesoro produces excellent sipping tequilas, with vegetal notes that play nicely with the sweet agave undercurrent. For something truly special, try El Tesoro Paradiso (featuring a newly redesigned label), a complex extra añejo tequila aged for five years in French cognac barrels that pops on the palate with bursts of vanilla and fruit. El Tesoro claims to be the first tequila brand to use cognac casks for maturation, as well as creating the first extra añejo in the '80s, which it called "muy añejo" at the time.
Espolòn, part of the Campari America family, is an inexpensive tequila option that still bursts with notes of agave and spice. The distillery, located in the Highlands of Jalisco, cooks the piñas in modern autoclaves instead of traditional ovens. The tequila is then distilled in both pot and column stills, and the aged expressions use smaller virgin American oak barrels with a lighter No. 2 char, although the añejo is rested for an additional two months in heavily charred barrels that once held Wild Turkey (also part of the Campari family). Overall, Espolòn is a solid option if you&rsquore looking for a dependable tequila that doesn&rsquot cost much.
Milagro is a relatively recent addition to the tequila world, created by two friends in 1997. Apparently, they had a good amount of foresight about the future popularity of the category, and William Grant and Sons purchased the brand in 2006. Milagro bottles are instantly recognizable&mdashtall, sleek, modern looking, and completely different from any other tequila presentation out there. The liquid within is soft and slightly floral with notes of sweet and spice. In addition to the core lineup, there&rsquos also the Select Barrel Reserve range (aged in both French and American oak), and Unico II, a blend of silver and aged tequila that is filtered to remove the color.
Partida, another newcomer on the scene, is named after the late agave farmer Enrique Partida. The brand came together in the early 2000s with the intention of creating another high-end entry in the premium tequila field. At the distillery, the agave is cooked in autoclaves before being fermented and double pot-distilled. It&rsquos a lovely spirit&mdashparticularly the blanco, which is a remarkably vibrant un-aged tequila that sips very nicely on its own and also works well in cocktails.
Herradura is Brown-Forman&rsquos popular flagship premium tequila brand. Several other brands are produced at the same distillery, like the cheaper El Jimador, that are rumored to use the diffuser method instead of ovens to cook the agave. But Herradura officially says that only clay ovens are used for its portfolio. In addition to the core range, there are special bottlings like the Double Barrel Reposado, which is aged for an additional 30 days in new charred barrels after an initial 11 months in oak, and the extra añejo Seleccion Suprema, which is aged for 49 months in white oak barrels.
The price tag might be high, but the spirit inside the beautiful bottles of Clase Azul is elegant and flavorful. According to a distillery rep, the brand does not use diffusers, only stone ovens to cook the agave, and no additives are used to flavor or color the tequila. The bottles themselves are towering ceramic pieces handmade in the town of Santa Maria Canchesda. Perhaps that helps explain the hefty price tag, which can reach as high as $1,700 for the Ultra expression (it&rsquos aged for five years in sherry casks and bottled in a decanter with platinum, silver, and gold embroideries). In fact, the brand encourages you to upcycle your bottle after it&rsquos empty and turn it into a lamp or use it for the legs of a bedside table.
The history behind Tequila Corralejo dates back a few centuries to the founding of Hacienda Corralejo in 1755. Nowadays agave piñas are slow roasted for 27 hours before being distilled using the Charentaise distillation method, taken from the French process of distilling cognac. This basically means that the tequila is distilled for a second time in alembic copper pot stills, along with a few other details, but it&rsquos also a nice marketing story to help set it apart. Fortunately, the tequila lives up to the hype, with the reposado and añejo aging in American oak, and a few other products like the triple-distilled reposado and some extra añejo expressions.
Don Julio, which is owned by Diageo, has been around for close to a century. The brand is famous for its 1942 expression, an añejo aged for a minimum of two and a half years that has become a symbol of high-end, luxury tequila&mdashand a staple of the nightclub scene. But the rest of the range is worth checking out as well, such as the recently released Reposado Double Cask that was finished in Buchanan&rsquos whisky barrels. According to a statement from a brand representative, the agave piñas are &ldquosteam cooked in traditional masonry ovens for three days.&rdquo
Yes, Jose Cuervo deserves a spot on this list, haters be damned. The brand is enormous and has permeated the public consciousness. For many years the Especial mixto range was the only exposure to tequila that Americans ever had. But consumers are better educated now and have hopefully moved on from mixtos and prepackaged margaritas, because Cuervo actually has some pretty good 100-percent agave tequila in its lineup, particularly the Reserva de la Familia. This extra añejo is made up of tequila that is aged for at least three years and can include liquid up to 30 years old that is &ldquohand selected&rdquo from the Cuervo family&rsquos &ldquoprivate collection,&rdquo according to the brand. The packaging is nice to look at as well, as Cuervo collaborates with a different Mexican artist each year. Give this one a try and erase those unpleasant mixto memories for good.
Gran Centenario is an inexpensive tequila brand that is owned by Casa Cuervo and imported and distributed by Proximo Spirits. The agave is cooked using both traditional ovens and diffusers, according to the brand, to create various flavor profiles. There are three main expressions available: plata (aged for up to seven weeks in oak), reposado (four months), and añejo (16 months). Gran Centenario uses something called the &ldquoSeleccion Suave&rdquo process, in which it blends together newly rested and aged tequilas for some of its products. Look for distinctively earthy, almost smoky notes here that set this tequila apart.
23 Tequilas You&rsquoll Want to Sip All Summer Long
Happy summer! And by that I mean happy time of year when I can down a pitcher of margaritas by 4 p.m. and not be judged at all. RIGHT?!
Everyone knows that an ice-cold marg is as much of a summer staple as sunscreen, but there's so much more we can do with tequila than mix it with lime and Cointreau (if you know, you know). That could mean straight shots of tequila or a fun Paloma. Whatever you decide to go with, the tequila you choose is the most important part.
Did you know that there are three different variations of tequila? Because I sure didn't. Blanco is the one you're probably most familiar with&mdashit's the clear one! Reposado generally rests for two months to a year in an oak barrel before being bottled. And Añejo tequila is aged for at least one year and up to three years. The extended aging process gives the tequila a darker color and a richer, more complex flavor.
Now that our tequila lesson is done for the day (fun, right?!) and you know all the
, it's time to impress your friends with your new-found knowledge and appreciation for the agave-aged deliciousness that is tequila. If you're just looking for a pretty bottle to throw on your bar cart or something to make your margaritas stand out, browse the options listed below to figure out which one is right for you.