Drinking Tequila on a budget does not mean you need to drink low quality Tequila. Tequila is considered one of the hardest spirits to enjoy on a budget, but that’s mostly a misconception. Due to the labor-intensive process of turning raw agave nectar into a high-proof liquor, the resulting quality is reflected in the price. However, there are plenty of tequila brands that offer quality products at $20 to $50, making it easy to enjoy this spirit even on a budget. Save your money for good tequila experiences with these tips.
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Look for Balanced Tequila Good for Blending
Most cheap tequilas work better in mixed drinks than for sipping. However, a well-balanced and mild variety will work well for both, giving you more versatility from a single bottle in the home bar. Lunazul Blanco is a great example that’s available for around $20 for 750 mL. It’s clear with agave flavor but not overpowering for those times when you want the mixer to stand out. Peppery notes make it worth trying for sipping and shots rather than just hiding with margarita mix. Watch out for overly sweet tequila in the category, especially the silver and Blanco types. Smooth tequilas are a great combination with indica varieties rich in earthy notes, such as White Rhino.
Don’t Avoid Reposado
There’s a common misconception that specialty tequila varieties like barrel-aged Reposado have to cost more to be any good. Actually, there are many small-batch and specialty brands that are surprisingly affordable just because they’re simply not one of the better-known brands. Reposado in particular has a smoky flavor that is subtle and refined enough for sipping. Cazadores Tequila Reposado is made with blue agave and aged for one year and is still available for under $30 a bottle.
Watch Out for Less Than 100% Agave
Much of the reputation that low-quality tequila has earned over the years is due to the content of the liquor. Good tequila is made from only agave nectar, with flavorings and other ingredients added later. If the product is made from anything but 100% agave nectar, it’s much more likely to cause headaches, nausea, and other hangover issues. The flavor will also be compromised and likely harsh or even bitter. Overly sweet tequila indicates that sugar was likely used to stretch the nectar and cut costs. Yet plenty of tequila brands manage to sell bottles at $20 or even less while still using only agave nectar. Check the bottle before you buy and beware of any tricky advertising or wording. Technically, a liquor only needs to be 51% agave to be legally called tequila, so check the bottles regardless of price point.
Give Blended Tequila Liqueurs a Try
Blanco/silver tequilas are practically made for mixing thanks to their mild flavors. But instead of looking for a flavored product, try a blend of tequila and a strongly flavored liqueur. Tarantula Azul is a great example that combines citrus liqueur with blue agave tequila for a unique finished flavor. It’s available for less than $20 in many areas, making it worth experimenting with for its blue color alone.
Search for Aged Tequila Deals
Aside from Reposado varieties, aged tequila like Añejo types deserve a place in every liquor cabinet. Sitting for one to two years in a barrel, these varieties are powerful and spicy with complex flavors like wine. Yet you can still find plenty of bottles for $30 to $50 that deliver the premium experience at a price tag that fits any budget. 1800 Añejo is a great example full of citrus and caramel flavors, while Milagro Añejo is richer with spicy plum notes. Both can easily be found for $30 or a little more. Extra Añejo varieties aged three years or more are available for under $50 too, allowing you to expand your tequila collection without spending a whole paycheck.
Ignore the Worm
There’s a long-running misconception that tequilas containing the larvae of the agave moth are somehow premium or higher quality than other products. This isn’t based on fact and is simply a marketing gimmick. The best-quality agave plants aren’t infested with larvae, which can leave a bitter or sour taste in the finished product. Technically the only type of liquor allowed to contain larvae is mezcal, which is only related to tequila and doesn’t contain all agave nectar. Shopping for mezcal is a whole different experience, but avoid larvae and worms in bottles either way.
It’s not hard to find tequila to pair with your favorite citrus strains like Lemon OG and Pomelo even when shopping on a strict budget. Start with a $20 bottle of a reliable Blanco tequila then invest in a few aged specialties to explore the deeper varieties of flavors this liquor can provide.