Tequila recommendations

by Michael Alderete on 8/20/2006 · 6 comments

When Rochelle and I go out, and especially when we travel, we often run into other tequila enthusiasts. Many of them are just beginning their appreciation of this fine spirit, and the number one question we get is “what is your favorite tequila?” We always disappoint, because we can never limit ourselves to one, or even a couple. We tell them what we can, point to good selections on the current bar’s list (part of our “love the one you’re with” philosophy), and promise to follow up with recommendations. But we have never attempted write down a list of our favorite tequilas. Until now.

I have written previously, in Tequila 101 and Everything you need to know about ordering tequila, some basic facts about tequila; what follows here is more opinion and personal preference. You can read the prior articles for background, or simply go with this summary: always look for and verify that your tequila says “100% agave” on the label. If it does not say that, it’s not a quality tequila.

Specific Tequila Recommendations

I’ve drunk more than 150 different tequilas at this point, and when I go to Tommy’s I have more than 200 options to choose from. While I enjoy tasting new things, more often than not I fall back on my favorites. When I’m not at Tommy’s, and the selection is much more limited, I can still usually find one of my preferred products, at least if the bar has any selection at all. Note that these are not the only tequilas that I love, they are simply the ones that most often come to mind when I am ordering.

I would drink any of these tequilas neat or in a margarita. Don’t let anyone tell you these are “too good to drink in a margarita;” I’ll have more on this in a future article. These are in no specific order:

  • Herradura Silver, Reposado, and Añejo
  • Oro Azul Blanco and Añejo
  • El Tesoro, everything they make
  • Don Julio Reposado and Añejo
  • El Charro Reposado and Añejo
  • Chinaco Reposado and Añejo
  • Regional Reposado and Añejo (you won’t find this outside of Mexico)
  • Centinela Reposado
  • Arette Reposado, especially the Suave

I also have a few “special occasion” tequilas, which I will only order if I am celebrating something, or feeling especially flush with funds. As you might expect, these are more expensive; a 2 oz. pour of the Chinaco Black Label is more expensive than a bottle of any of the above tequilas. I would only ever drink these tequilas neat, in a nice snifter or glass.

  • Chinaco Black Label (very rare, not made anymore)
  • San Matias Rey Sol
  • Herradura Seleccion Suprema
  • Don Julio 1942
  • Arette Gran Clase
  • Jose Cuervo Reserva de Familia

Rochelle’s preferences are similar, but she also has a few that she likes better than I do, primarily Siete Leguas, of which I am not particularly fond.

We also have a few “workhorse” tequilas, which we happily order in a bar if none of the above are available, and some we also buy in bulk when we’re having a party. These are fine tequilas, but we don’t reach for them in the same way.

  • Pura Sangre
  • Pueblo Viejo
  • Gran Centenario
  • Cazadores
  • Cabrito

Finally, one last “special purpose” tequila. We personally love the San Matias Carmessi, but we think it’s especially useful for introducing people to fine tequilas. It’s great for people who have never tried tequila, and even people who think they don’t like tequila usually find they enjoy it.

Just Say No

I don’t really want to recommend against specific products, because everyone’s taste is different, and if you like it, drink it. But these are products which I personally don’t care for, or find over-priced or over-rated. You make your own decision.

  • Cuervo Especial, Gold, 1800 — I’ll order a beer if these are the only selections
  • Sauza — the Tres Generations bottlings are OK, but there is no Sauza product I genuinely like
  • Don Eduardo — we gave this up forever the last time we drank it, 2-3 years ago; it’s just not good, and often expensive
  • Patrón — actually a decent tequila, but over-priced
Dave June 28, 2007 at 4:03 pm

Hey Michael,

Great blog/site!! I love a good margarita just like the next person. But after reading this page(recommendations) and your page on “Everything you need to know about ordering tequila” I’m abit confused. I confess that I’m the proverbial “newbie” (even though I can’t stand the word…so why’d ya use it…I dunno!! Beginning to sound like an Abbott & Costello routine…”no, Lou, Who’s on first!!!”

You say you can’t go wrong with just about anything Herradura, yet I bought that el Jimador, and it gave me a splitting, behind the neck headache like you wouldn’t believe!! Is it because I’m some Yankee gringo who can’t handle a good tequila—I hope you give me a better line than I just served myself…LOL. But seriously, what’s with the el Jimador, it was brutal!!

Dave June 28, 2007 at 4:13 pm


Me again, just to let you know, it gave me a headache every single time I drank it!! My wife as well…

Alderete June 28, 2007 at 10:15 pm

@Dave: As you note, El Jimador is indeed a second label from Herradura. But it is their value-oriented brand, and is not the quality of the products bearing the Herradura name. Indeed, in the U.S. it is usually not a 100% agave product, and so fails Michael’s First Rule of Tequila, namely, if it doesn’t say 100% agave on the label, it’s -shit- not worth drinking.

That’s not just about flavor, but also about the headache and hangover. I lost 10 years of tequila drinking to four shots of a bad tequila, shortly after college graduation. Life is too short, drink only 100% agave tequila!

mhayesdesign June 19, 2008 at 1:57 pm

Nice list, I’m a fan of most of them (I actually am co-captain of a dart team called “The Don Julios” and we’ve EARNED our name)…

You didn’t mention one that is very very special, kind of new so you might not have had it when you wrote the post, but the Partida tequilas (http://www.partidatequila.com/) are brilliant and I truly love the Añejo.


John December 15, 2010 at 10:08 pm

I can’t believe you don’t have anything from Casa Noble on your list. The best I’ve had so far!

theo joyal February 5, 2011 at 5:59 am

hello, i am looking for a good place to buy Arette extra gran clase tequila, please contact me, thanks

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