7 Quality Tequilas to Sip, Shoot, and Mix for Cinco de Mayo

What is a celebration if not a mixer?

by Jessica Toscano May 3, 2021

Tequilas with lime and salt
Jessica Toscano/IntrigueMag

Not all tequilas are created equal. From Blanco to Reposado, to Añejo and Extra Añejo, the Mexican stable features a variety of labels, each ideal for mixing, shot-taking, or sipping; although, it’s important to note these tags as more of a flavor profile than anything else. What you’re really considering between these brandings is how long the tequila has been aged and what notes your taste buds are likely to experience. While there is no hard rule when it comes to drinking—or mixing—tequila, and there definitely can be overlap, your goal is to choose a quality label with authenticity, Daniel Barragan, a mixologist at Cantina Rooftop in Manhattan, tells Intrigue. Here, he talks us through what that means.

Let’s start with the basics, shall we?

  • Blanco, often referred to as “Silver” or “Plata,” is purest in agave flavor and often evokes notes of citrus and pepper. Typically, it’s the least expensive and best for crafting cocktails. “Blanco can be the best option for mixing because it is a clear, undated, silver tequila,” according to Barragan. “It allows the mixing to happen flawlessly without a messy clash of flavors.”

  • Reposado, usually slightly gold in hue, is aged a minimum of two months to a year in oak barrels, which often creates a flavor profile of oak and vanilla, although other notes can come into play. It contains “a rich flavor and aroma from the barrel where it was stored that makes it a better option to use in higher quality cocktails and for shots,” says Barragan.

  • Añejo, often dark in color, is aged one to three years (while Extra Añejo is aged more than three years) and often elicits a more complex palette—think warm spices, nuts, and sweets like cinnamon, hazelnut, and vanilla—hence the often higher price point. “[It's] better for sipping because it’s not as aggressive; it’s very smooth,” says Barragan. “This allows you to enjoy the rich flavor of the agave.”

What about labels, like Gold?

These labels are just as important because they denote the quality of the tequila. To be classified as tequila, at least 51 percent must be Agave Azul aka blue agave. The higher the agave percentage, the better quality the tequila. Mixto labels usually contain the bare minimum, with the remaining 49 percent consisting of other alcohols, sugar cane or additives like flavorings and colorings (Note: Mixtos are usually lightly gold in color to evoke higher quality).

Although the price of Mixtos are pretty on-point (as in they’re relatively cheap for tequila, because, well, they’re relatively cheap tequila) and can be great-tasting for shots or low-grade cocktails, Barragan always recommends 100 percent de agave: “Taking a shot of an authentic, good quality tequila is really going to elevate the experience, rather than if you were to have a really cheap tequila.” Think top-shelf sippers versus low-grades you chase.