National Margarita Day is upon us and while we’re not huge fans of the fabricated holidays, we do love ourselves a good margarita. In order to enjoy a good margarita, though, you need to start with good ingredients. The main issue? Finding good tequila that won’t cause you to have college frat party flashbacks and a hangover to match. (You also need fresh juice and good liqueur, or a good mix, too, but that’s for another article.)
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It’s time to move beyond those memories. It’s time to forge a new path with agave spirits and to know that not all cheap tequila is bad tequila. Depending on the brand, you may have had what is known as a mixto, a tequila that contains at least 51% blue agave, but the rest is made up of other sugars. The hangover you recall is more likely to be from the sugar than the actual tequila.
All of the tequilas you’ll find on our list of the best tequilas under $20 are made from 100% agave — not a mixto in sight.
You’ll notice, too, that all of the tequilas listed below are blanco tequilas, which, in the simplest sense, means they are unaged. Reposado, añejo, and extra añejo tequilas are all aged for various times and, because of that, tend to be a little more expensive (though in some cases, not much). The good thing about trying multiple blanco tequilas, though, is that you can really taste the difference between the regions (highlands and lowlands) that tequila is made in.
Note: Depending on where you are in the country, the prices may fluctuate slightly.
El Destilador – $15
Produced in Zapopan in the state of Jalisco, El Destilador is, one of the best buys on the list considering it is made from 100% Blue Weber agave. Citrusy and just a little grassy, the agave flavors come through in a way that is great if you’re looking to make tequila-based cocktails. While you wouldn’t necessarily want to drink this tequila neat, it doesn’t burn as much as other tequilas at this price point.
Sauza Blue Silver – $17
Sauza’s entry-level tequila, Blue Silver (a lowland variety), is citrusy, a little bit peppery, and has some nice orange blossom notes to it. The taste of agave is fully present in this tequila, which fades quickly and cleanly after drinking it. It’s a good sipper, but also great in cocktails.
El Jimador Silver – $20
A lowland tequila named after the people who hand-harvest the agave plants used in tequila production, El Jimador is an agave-forward blanco tequila that has notes of fresh citrus to back up the other flavors, making it perfect in any number of cocktails.
Lunazul Blanco – $20
One of our favorites for margaritas, Lunazul’s blanco tequila has a little bit of pepper and some herbal notes to go with the tropical fruit that you’ll get on the nose and palate.
Olmeca Altos Tequila Plata – $21
Okay, this one is usually $21, but we need to tell you about it. Altos tequila has a nice grassy quality that is accented by citrusy notes and really shines when drinking it neat or on the rocks. If you’re looking for a cocktail to mix it into, try the Paloma, a classic in Mexico.
Article originally published May 5, 2017. Last updated November 2019.
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