5 Essential Tequilas for a Well-Stocked Bar
Some people, when talking about essential bottles for a well-stocked bar, leave out tequila (unlike, say, bourbon or scotch). Some people think that the only thing tequila is good for is making margaritas. Some people are wrong.
There's plenty more that can be done with a good bottle of tequila. Who hasn't enjoyed a round of tequila shots with friends? It even comes with its own unique process, the whole lick-shoot-suck routine. That's some bonding, people!
Many of us learn early in our drinking lives that with tequila, it's possible to go wrong. Way wrong. Bad tequila is bad. This is why most people say they “don't do tequila” -- a common reason why it gets left off of essential-bottle lists. What a good barkeeper knows, though, is that good tequila can be very, very good, and serving a good tequila shows your guests what finely honed tastes you have.
When picking tequilas, no matter what your tastes are, always look for 100 percent agave (it's always blue agave, by the way, or it's not tequila). Other additives are where the bad tequilas come into play. Your gold tequilas are not 100 percent agave, which means they're less expensive and don't taste as good. They may be fine for mixing, but will probably give you a headache. Silver tequila is better and great in a drink or on its own, especially if it has some age on it. Here are five we like:
Much like other booze we enjoy, tequilas are categorized by how long they've been aged. A blanco tequila is relatively unaged. Blancos may stew in some sort of container for a couple of months, but that's it. A blanco is pure agave without any barrel flavors seeping through. A great and affordable blanco to keep on hand is Cimarron. It gives you that clean, unfettered agave flavor that will make you start to appreciate what real tequila is.
El Tesoro Platinum
Double distilled, the El Tesoro Platinum is an intense tequila with a sharp flavor. The El Tesoro Platinum is bottled within 24 hours of distilling, so you're getting the freshest agave flavors and a smooth, clean taste. The price can vary, but it's not a luxury bottle by any means. Finding it could be a challenge, though. And as a bonus, it'll sound like you really know what you're talking about when you ask for it in a restaurant.
As you get to know the finer tequilas, you may find your favorites are the reposados. These tequilas have been aged in barrels, so they've had a chance to mellow. But a reposado hasn't aged so long that the agave flavors are completely overwhelmed by the cask notes. The Fortaleza brand is where the Sauza family now makes their tequila, and their practices have been perfected over centuries, so you know you're getting a good reposado with the Fortaleza Reposado. It's balanced and unique and the kind of sipping tequila you'll want to share so you can show off your good taste.
Another reposado that won't break the bank (you can pick up a bottle for under $30) is the El Jimador Reposado. The aging adds a toasted flavor to the agave and gives it a sweet touch of vanilla and caramel. But it's only been aged for two months, so it's close to blanco with a richer finish. We're just going assume that El Jimador means “Mr. Smooth.” It's the kind of tequila you could take to a party and not mind leaving behind as a gift.
In the tequila world, there are añejo tequilas and the relatively new extra añejo. The Arette añejo has been aged for 18 months, while their extra añejo sits in barrels for twice that long. The aging process really mellows out the tequila, but can cut the agave flavors by quite a bit. Still, the American White Oak barrels smooth out the Arette's taste and fill out its body in a unique way. This tequila could turn everyone you know into a tequila drinker. You'll spend a bit more on a bottle, but it's definitely not the priciest tequila out there.
Bonus Pick: Cuervo Tradicional
Because we assume you'll be tempted to stock something by Jose Cuervo, knowing we've all had that brand jammed down our tequila guzzling throats, we will recommend the only Cuervo you should stock. This is the Cuervo Tradicional. This resposado has mostly likely been aged for at least a year, maybe three, in old oak bourbon barrel. It's rich, chocolaty and delicious. And it's under $30, so you'll still feel like you're getting your Cuervo discount.