Tequila is the type of spirit you don’t have to spend much on to get quality. Thanks to a healthy market and tequila thirst in the U.S., you can find an array of gold-medal winning tequilas for under $25, just in time for Cinco de Mayo. Here are 12 ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo — and maybe dos, tres, and cuatro de Mayo, too!
Price: $13.99 at Crown Wine & Spirits
You can’t put on a proper Cinco de Mayo without at least one Margaritaville reference. Whether you go with the eponymous song, its bohemian spirit or the tequila named after it, Margaritaville makes Cinco de Mayo.
For having a name synonymous with fun, Margaritaville takes its tequila seriously. Made in Jalisco, Mexico, Margaritaville distills 100 percent blue weber agave for its Silver variety, which greets the palate teeming with notes of citrus peel, grapefruit and lemon, and finishes with a brisk, peppery bite.
Use Margaritaville Silver in Key West punch: For four to six servings, mix one-half cup cranberry juice, one-and-a-half cups sweet and sour mix, one-and-a-half cups Margaritaville Silver, one-fourth cup orange liqueur and one tablespoon of simple syrup and pour over ice in a pitcher. Garnish with orange slices.
Jose Cuervo Especial Gold
Price: $15.97 at Walmart
Everyone seems to have a tequila story from college, and more often than not it involved a Señor J. Cuervo. That “one tequila night” speaks to Especial Gold’s proliferation at parties and Cinco de Mayo bashes that last long into the night. And at a price of just under $16 a bottle, it’ll save you money on drinks if you’re hosting a party at home.
Cuervo Gold goes well with sweet and sour elements — think tropical fruit juices, citrus fruits and fruity sodas. As a general guideline when making cocktails with Cuervo Gold, follow a four-to-one ratio of mixer to tequila and use at least two mixers — one sweet and one sour always works.
Price: $17.99 at BevMo!
Lunazul’s Blanco’s wild aroma, packed with salt, fruit and a lot of citrus, comes from the unbridled agave flavor — but not in a bitter, acrid way, like most inexpensive tequilas. Blanco’s citrus taste, pepper finish and herbaceous undertones brought it gold medals twice at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and an “excellent” rating at the 2015 Ultimate Spirits Challenge.
Try a tequila variation of the gin fizz by mixing one shot of blanco with ginger ale to taste or a make a Lunazel mojito by mixing one shot of blanco in a mint-muddled cocktail shaker with one-half shot of simple syrup, then top it off with club soda.
Price: $18.99 at BevMo!
The Camarena family has made tequila in the Jaliscan highlands for six generations, carving out a name for themselves in the agave-dominated region home to 146 registered distilleries. Camarena didn’t go international until the company partnered with wine and spirit conglomerate E.J. Gallo, which rolled out the brand by offering tequila-infused tacos from lunch trucks in the U.S.
Camarena Silver slides over the palate with traces of toasted agave and herb mélange, and has a lightly peppered, warm finish. Silver is a thin tequila, leaving almost no legs after a swirl, and benefits from a brief chill in the refrigerator for a few minutes when served neat.
Silver has a rustic feel to it, and takes to classic cocktails exceptionally well. Try Silver in palomas, el diablos and a highlands-inspired favorite, the Jalisco stroll, courtesy of Eric Gigers and Imbibe: Mix equal parts Campari, Silver and dry vermouth and serve on the rocks with an orange twist.
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Price: $19.99 at BevMo!
Hornitos Anejo provides top-shelf flavor that belies its reasonable price point — delightful notes of toasted oak, ripe fruit and agave with a lingering caramel finish. You’d have a hard time finding a tequila with a more rounded and refined flavor profile for under $20.
You can afford to use Hornitos Anejo in mixed drinks, but don’t have shy away from serving it neat, either. Anejo comprises a blend of 100-percent agave tequilas, each aged one to three years in American oak barrels. When drinking neat, serve Hornios Aneja in a brandy snifter or a stout wide glass and let it warm in your palms before tasting.
Patron XO Café
Price: $19.99 at Crown Wine & Spirits
Patron’s XO Café coffee-infused tequila brings everything you’d expect to find when you cross Patron Silver with espresso — a strong hit of coffee and chocolate overlaying the characteristic agave-forward flavor and aroma of blanco tequila.
Try XO Café in desserts by substituting it for any coffee-flavored liqueur, as a digestif or take the flavor mashup a step further and make an espresso martini.
Reserva Del Señor Almendrado
Price: $21.49 at BevMo!
Almendrado gets a dose of natural almond extract during its second fermentation, tying its candied, buttery aroma to its fruity, agave-rich finish. A silver medal winner at the Agave Spirits Challenge 2008 in Cancún, Reserva Del Señor’s Almendrado pairs well with creamy, sweet mixers.
Mix equal parts Almendrado with coffee liqueur and serve it in a rocks glass over ice to make a brave bull, also known as a Mexican white Russian, or mix it with three parts grapefruit soda for a paloma con almendra. To make two tequila plátano daiquiris, blend one diced banana, one-half cup of coconut milk, two shots of simple syrup, two shots of Reserva Del Señor Almendrado and the juice of half a lime with three cups of ice.
Price: $21.99 at BevMo!
Milagro, also made in the Los Altos region of Jalisco, won gold and silver at the 2014 San Francisco World Spirits Competition and the 2014 The Spirits of Mexico Competition, respectively, for its crisp, agave-forward nose and taste supported by underlying citrus and vegetal aromas.
Like most blancos, Milagro Silver comes to life in mixed drinks. Try it in a blood orange margarita: Mix three-fourth parts each agave nectar and blood orange liqueur with one-and-a-half parts Milagro Silver and one part lime juice and serve over ice.
Price: $22.99 at BevMo!
Espolón’s tequila blanco, also made by Cirilo Oropeza of Destiladora San Nicolas, puts off a rush of agave in the nose, in the mouth and in the finish. This blanco is made using the same distillation method as Espolón’s tequila Reposoda, but instead of aging, it rests for a few months in stainless steel vats.
Blanco comes highly rated and awarded, winning a Double Gold Medal at the 2011 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Drink Espolón blanco by the shot, on the rocks or in classic mixers like a tequila sunrise. You can also try a mescal-spiked drink like the jardin del diablo, made by mixing equal parts blanco, agave nectar, lime juice and mescal in a mint-muddled cocktail shaker filled with ice.
Price: $23.99 at BevMo!
A brief resting period in both American and French oak imbues the 1800’s Silver blanco with touches of vanilla and caramel (in the nose and the “front” of the sip), enough to subdue the harsher tones of the agave. Made from 100 percent blue agave — not common in a blanco at this price — 1800 Silver works well as a mixer or served very cold.
Try 1800 Silver this Cinco de Mayo in 1800’s signature cocktail, Earth & Ice: Mix one shot each Silver and pineapple juice with one-half shot lemon juice and 1 scant teaspoon of herb liqueur and garnish with grated ginger.
Price: $24.99 at BevMo!
Espolón Reposado comes from Destiladora San Nicolas in the Los Altos region of Jalisco, Mexico, and Master Distiller Cirilo Oropeza, who brings over 50 years of experience to the operation. Oropeza crafts two small-batch tequilas for Espolón, Blanco and Reposado.
Oropeza ages Reposado for six months in American bourbon barrels, giving it notes of char and sweet apples. Under the oak contributions, you find hints of pine needles and tropical fruit. Espolón promotes Reposado and its unoaked twin, blanco, as a great mixing tequila, but Reposado’s character comes out strong when enjoyed neat, a few degrees above room temperature.
Libre (Silver, Red Pepper, Cinnamon, Mango, Mint Chocolate)
Price: $24.99 at Total Wine & More
Libre produces a host of flavored tequilas that fit in just about every cocktail flavor profile. With choices like mint chocolate, cinnamon, mango and red pepper, the opportunity to tread new ground in mixology practically presents itself.
Libre infused tequilas make for delicious aperitifs before you lay down your Cinco de Mayo feast and for satisfying digestifs when you finish. Try a splash of Libre Mint Chocolate in a creamy coffee, pair a chilled shot of Red Pepper with tapas and add a shot of Mango to any fruit-smoothie recipe for an impromptu daiquiri.
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