We bring you the 10 best bottles of Mexican firewater to get a party started. Read our review to find the finest agave-based spirits on the market, from traditional tequila to mezcal and sotol.
Find out more about our BBC Good Food reviews.
Tequila: a word that can strike fear into the hearts of anyone three quarters of a way through a night out drinking with friends. But fear ye not, tequila is not what it might seem. In fact, we know through a mixture of mixing it into cocktails, or simply sipping away, that tequila is not for slamming. In fact, ‘tequila’ has some unique and tasty cousins, also produced in Mexico from the agave plant, such as mezcal, sotol and raicilla. Hola mi amigo, ¿cómo estás!
Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
Del Maguey is the brainchild of Californian artist turned mezcal maestro Ron Cooper, who has been importing this agave spirit since 1995. It has since become the darling spirit of the hipster world. This example shows how different it can taste from tequila, with smoky elements and an earthy undertone.
Tapatio Reposado Tequila
One of the most masterful tequilas around, this reposado (meaning ‘rested’ for between 2 and 12 months) is made from 100% blue agave by one of the true godfathers of tequila production, Carlos Camarena. Rich buttery notes, alongside a distinct citrus freshness and a slightly earthy note, come from the ex-bourbon casks in which it is rested for around 4 months.
Patrón Silver Tequila
Patrón is the game-changing tequila brand of the past decade or so, making this spirit category much more approachable and premium through an innovative distillery which allows them to make a consistent and delicious product that works exceptionally well in cocktails.
Hacienda de Chihuahua Sotol Anejo
The spirit ‘sotol’ is exclusively produced by just a handful of distillers not far from the US border and Hacienda de Chihuahua is probably the most well-known. It’s produced from the desert spoon plant, which can take as long as 15 years to fully mature. With a more spicy, herbaceous note than tequila, it works well for sipping.
Gran Centenario Reposado Tequila
This is a reposado tequila, which starts out with around 10 months maturation in French wine casks. It’s then blended with other tequilas which helps to develop a distinct vanilla-tinged floral top note like nothing else.
QuiQuiRiQui Matatlan Mezcal
QuiQuiRiQui, which means ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’ is a mezcal which has as good a flavour as it does name. The taste ranges from smoky to sugary sweet and has a peppery finish. This comes from Matatlan, the home of mezcal in Mexico.
Herradura Añejo Tequila
An añejo is a tequila that is rested in oak for longer than year, but fewer than three years. This example is from a house founded in 1870 and still makes its product in the same way today, as it did back then. Notes of sweet vanilla, toffee popcorn and black pepper mark this out as excellent example of a añejo tequila.
Ocho Blanco Tequila
This spirit places heavy focus on what makes tequila, tequila: the agave flavour. This is Mexico in a bottle. Each batch comes from a different field or rancho contributing distinctive characteristics of that terrain. This has been produced in conjunction with Tomas Estes, an official Tequila Ambassador for the Mexican Government!
Olmeca Altos Silver Tequila
This is a more specific version of the original Olmeca tequila, with the name 'Altos' reflecting the highland region of Tequila, in Mexico from where they source their agave. This is a fresh tequila which works brilliantly in a Margarita.
Gran Patrón Piedra Tequila
This is a tequila for really treating yourself – and it should be at the price. An extra añejo (very old in tequila terms) produced by Patrón. Made from 100% blue weber agave from the highlands of Jalisco and matured in both American and French oak casks, it has notes more akin to a whisky than a tequila.
For all of the products mentioned in this review, various retailers have been suggested by our affiliate partner Monetizer 101 and are not suggested or chosen by BBC Good Food. For more information on how these retailers are selected and the nature of our partnership, please read the Monetizer101 FAQ page.
More on spirits...
This review was last updated in October 2018. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at email@example.com.
Which tequila do you drink? We'd love to hear your product suggestions.