Drink Responsibly (ie 0-2 drinks/day). Prices are formatted 750ML/1.75L (otherwise known as a Fifth vs a Handle).
Check out a great list of cocktail recipes, most recommended are official IBA (International Bartenders Association) recipes. Be sure to try to margarita in addition to the Tommy’s margarita!
Types of Tequila: You want to always get 100% Agave for the best quality! Clear/Silver/Blanco is generally used for mixed drinks (usually has less flavor but is harsher), while Gold/Reposado is best for sipping since it has been aged in barrels and thus, tends to be smoother and demonstrates more great flavors and complexity. Of course, this is tequila, so either type works for shots!
Best Mixing Tequila [Silver]
El Jimador Silver $16 is the most sold in Mexico, produced by the large Herradura, but is also distributed widely! If it is unavailable, try Lunazul Silver $16 or Sauza Blue (100% agave). After that, Sauza Blanco or Extra Gold $15/$25 are solid backups that are used in many bars as a house tequila.
For mixed drinks – Try both a regular Margarita for an amazing citrus taste, and Tommy’s Margarita that moreso highlights the agave flavor
Best Value Sipping Tequila [Reposado and Anejo]
This level is the most recommended for the value-point.
El Ultimo is the most delicious tequila for the money! This goes for both Best Reposado under $20 – El Ultimo Agave Reposado $19, and Best Anejo – El Ultimo Agave Anejo $23/$40.
If you can’t find El Ultimo, go for another solid value: Camarena Reposado $18/$30, or Anejo: Lunazul Anejo $21
Best Premium Tequila
While there is less consensus upon what expensive tequilas are truly worth the premium, below are some thoughts –
Silver – Casa Noble Silver $30, Espolon Silver $25 (great value), Herradura Silver $30 easy-to-drink good quality backup
Reposado – Casa Noble Reposado $45 (Espolon Reposado is too smooth/bland)
Anejo – Casa Noble Anejo $55, Tequila Avion Anejo $55 (some complain it’s too smooth), Secondary: Herradura Anejo $35, Hornitos Anejo $23
Hard to find – El Tequileno is superb for the US but hard to find ~$40
DO NOT GET: Again the well known liquor brands tend to not be great values, from the Overpriced (Patron, Don Julio $40), Decent but not outstanding (1800 $25, Sauza Hornitos Plata – silver $25, Sauza Hornitos Repo, Corazon, Corralejo), Bad and overpriced (Jose Cuervo)=
Best Smokey Mezcal
Mezcal is a super smokey version of tequila but can be very smooth also. Note: Tequila is made from one type of agave plant, whereas mezcal can be made from different strains. Perfect for a smokey margarita, or even a spicy margarita if you add jalapeno.
Del Maguey Crema San Luis $38 Solid for mixing, very smooth, includes agave so it’s already sweetened if needed in the cocktail. Only 40% ABV so it’s diluted compared to other mezcals.
Del Maguey Vida Mezcal $42 Another solid entry for mixing. A popular bang-for-buck recommendation by others.
Bozal Espadin Barril Mexicano Ensamble $52 WE MOST HIGHLY RECOMMEND. A better value than the Del Maguey Chichicapa Single Village ($75), with similar quality.
Note: There are more expensive mezcals but haven’t found many available ones in the USA that rival Del Maguey and Bozal in value. May taste different but more expensive and not necessarily better.