Tequila is white-hot right now. Booze companies are snapping up premium brands like Casamigos and Patrón, while bartenders keep tinkering with such classic cocktails as the Margarita and Paloma. According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S., in 2017, sales of Mexico’s native spirit soared almost 10 percent to $2.7 billion, making it one of the top-performing spirits in the world.
But which tequila to try? These are seven bottles, from weekday sippers to special-occasion boundary pushers. Salud!
Named for the tahona stone used to crush the agave piñas, this blanco offers perky peppery notes backed by vanilla and roasted jalapeño. The finish is clean and crisp, with a citrusy twang that screams Margarita.
“La Gritona” is Spanish for “The Screamer.” It’s an appropriate name seeing that this tequila is backed by hard-core punk guitarist Andy Coronado. So what’s inside that stripped-down green bottle made from recycled Mexican Coke bottles? A pungent spirit that opens with agave and overripe pineapple notes, drying into grapefruit-pith-like bitterness.
This newcomer to the nascent cristalino subcategory rolled out in the U.S. in fall 2017; it’s añejo tequila with the color stripped out (but no sweetener added, unlike some cristalinos). Those seeking a sweeter sip will enjoy the coconut and vanilla tones warmed with a hint of white pepper piquancy.
Think of this as tequila’s answer to the flavored whiskey boom. This reposado is infused with spiced essential oils and a hint of agave nectar. The result is sprightly jalapeño and fresh-herb flavors that fade into a sweeter finish laced with coconut, cinnamon and white pepper.
Aged for one month in former Napa cabernet barrels, this blanco tequila has a pleasingly rosy hue and mild tropical fruit and floral tones. Note: The reposado expression, aged for six months in ex-wine casks, drinks even better, layering coconutty sweetness with crisp peppery notes but loses the distinctive pink.
The name G4 refers to “four family generations,” distilling since 1937. This is a particularly savory, zesty pour, delivering fresh mint, jalapeño and tomato, finishing with black pepper and just a hint of vanilla.
To celebrate the 80th anniversary of the distillery, El Tesoro released just eight casks of this expression, all available only in the U.S. The tequila is aged for eight years in ex-bourbon casks, yielding a silky sipper with lively pepper notes from the agave and more luscious caramel and chocolate notes from the bourbon barrels.
Mixing your cocktail