The Best Tequila To Use When Making A Margarita, According To An Expert

When the craving for a margarita strikes, nothing else will do. It's the perfect balance of refreshingly tart, gently salty, and encouragingly sweet — a blend that's ideal for a hot, sunny day. Rather than worrying about reading the room before ordering margs, try making them at home to ensure you're getting a quality drink tailored to your taste.

To craft the most delicious cocktail possible, it's essential to use the best tequila available. Food Republic consulted an expert to find the ideal choice. David Ortiz, corporate beverage director at Rocco's Tacos & Tequila Bar, shared his top pick for making a traditional rendition of the drink.

"100% Blue Weber agave blanco tequila from the Highlands is best for making a classic margarita," Ortiz said. Blanco tequila is less aged than reposado or añejo, which gives it a zing, and helps it cut through heavy cocktails. Plus, it contains aromatic tasting notes that heighten the nuances of a margarita's other ingredients. " ... Blanco tequila has more notes of cooked agave[,] and peppery notes that give the blend [hints] of citrus," Ortiz explained, "and [it's] sweeter in its classic flavor profile."

Understanding tequila's terroir

Tequila and taco expert David Ortiz names the Highlands of Jalisco — a state in west-central Mexico — as his tequila region of choice for good reason. The higher altitude area is known for producing sweeter and fruitier spirits, a result of the intense climate and the soil. These environmental factors that shape the flavor of the agave plant are all part of the terroir, a term frequently used to describe wine. Just as the taste of grapes changes based on rainfall or a soil's minerals, so too does the flavor profile of agave plants.

To further understand Ortiz's choice, it helps to contrast it with tequila produced in the comparatively low altitude of Jalisco's lowlands, or El Valle, nearby. The flavor shifts from bright and sweet to herbal or earthy. Of course, this might be just the taste your palate is searching for — especially if you opt for a vegetable-infused margarita — so don't count the valley out; just keep this in mind as you taste brands from different parts of the Mexican state.

For those interested in sampling aromatic highland spirits, Ortiz offers shopping suggestions. Though he's quick to clarify there's no "best" brand, only personal preference, the seasoned mixologist leans toward a handful of labels. His go-tos include a 100% blanco made from Hacienda El Olvido, SA de C.V. from Jesús Maria, Jalisco, as well as Herencia Mexicana and ArteNOM Selección de 1580 blanco tequila.

Buying tequila on a budget

Although it's tempting to use lower-quality booze in mixed drinks, expert David Ortiz recommends opting for a mid-tier brand made of 100% Blue Weber agave. This means the tequila is produced almost entirely from the slow-growing agave plant. Two brands he prefers are Herradura Blanco (roughly $40 to $46) and Santo Blanco Fino Tequila (roughly $45 to $55). Savvy margarita makers should also keep in mind that the production process can greatly impact flavor, so continue tasting different brands to find your ideal bottle.

Newcomers to the tequila scene may wonder about the alternative to 100% agave after spotting lower-priced options. Look out for labels that advertise "mixto" tequila, which is made with 51% agave, and up to 49% other sugars and additives. These ingredients can include flavorings, spirits, and alternative sweeteners like cane sugar to supplement the spiky plant.

The different components can change the taste of the spirit, which ultimately impacts the drink in your hand. "Again, it is personal preference, but ... the bad margaritas are made with mixto[,] not 100% Blue Weber tequilas," Ortiz said. To up your game, whether you're shaking up a spicy margarita or a salt-rimmed classic, treat your liquor as another ingredient deserving of attention and careful shopping. And once you crack open a bottle, make sure to drink the tequila while its flavor is at its peak to maintain your delicious margarita streak.