Why does good tequila have to be so damn expensive? It doesn’t! Even though there are a variety of tequilas at wide-ranging price points, buying a cheap tequila can feel like a risky proposition for many people.
When it comes to affordable 100% agave tequila that’s good enough to drink straight (no lime, no salt, no ice) there are a few standouts worthy of your consideration.
These are the tequilas that we recommend most often to people when budget is an issue (which means often.)
This is, by far, the biggest bang for the tequila buck that you can get. It doesn’t get as much attention as some other brands, but maybe not having to spend tons of cash on marketing is one of the ways they are able to keep the cost down.
Adam Stemmler of the East Bay Spice Company introduced us to it one night while we were visiting his bar in Berkeley, California. Just as we were sitting down he slides a glass across the bar to us.
“Try this. I’ll tell you what it is afterward,” he said.
So we did. It was bright, crisp, clean and full of baked agave. It’s wasn’t overly peppery or astringent like most cheap tequilas tend to be. I expected him to say that it was a rare or expensive tequila that he was saving for special occasions — but it wasn’t.
Cimarron Blanco is priced low enough that bars (such as the East Bay Spice Company) can use it in their well, but it’s also perfectly good all by itself, or “neat.” You can find 1-liter bottles of Cimarron Blanco for about $20. Cimarron Reposado will set you back just $24 for a 1-liter bottle. (Did you catch that? A full liter!)
“Dollar for dollar, it is as good as any spirit in any category on the market today,” said Stemmler.
Coming from a guy like him, that is some high praise.
Cimarron is a tequila made by Enrique Fonseca, who is best known as a maker of some very expensive products including Fuenteseca, Artenom 1146, Don Fulano, and Tres, Cuatro y Cinco. The single-estate agave used in all of these products, including Cimarron, is sourced from his own farm, which is another reason why it remains affordable during the current agave shortage, where the price of agave is near an all-time high.
I recommend this tequila because of its versatility, price, and quality. Use it in cocktails or sip it straight – you can’t go wrong with this choice.
Pueblo Viejo Reposado
This is another tequila that surprises me each time I drink it, and it appears that I’m not the only one who feels this way. Pueblo Viejo Reposado gets high marks from members of the Tequila Matchmaker community as well, often scoring higher than tequilas double and triple the price.
It has light, subtle aromas of agave, vanilla and cinnamon and is easy to drink. We discovered it on one of our first visits to Jalisco, at a restaurant in Tlaquepaque. It was one of the cheapest tequilas on the menu, so we decided to give it a try, expecting a you-get-what-you-pay-for moment.
We were surprised with how good it was, and ordered several more rounds. When we came back home to San Francisco we found it in a local retail liquor store, and it has been a staple in our home bar ever since.
You can get a 750ml bottle of Pueblo Viejo Reposado in California for around $20.
If you’re a fan of añejo tequilas, you’re in luck because Pueblo Viejo Añejo is also a great choice. A 750ml bottle is about $27. That is a bargain.
Olmeca Altos Plata and Reposado
This brand started in the UK, and eventually made its way to the USA. Created by a pair of well-known bartenders, it was designed for use in cocktails, and it also tastes great straight, all while not breaking the bank. (Tequila is more expensive in Europe than it is in the USA.) It was a tall order, but they managed to create exactly that.
Many tequila aficionados love the complexity and depth that comes with tahona-crushed products (such as Fortaleza, Suerte, and Roca Patron), but these products are usually priced higher because the production method is slow and costly. Olmeca Altos is made up of 50% tahona-crushed agave, and 50% roller mill.
During the 2014 Tequila Challenge blind tasting events, Olmeca Altos Plata received the overall highest scores in San Francisco. In Seattle, Olmeca Altos Reposado was the second highest scoring tequila out of six, and every other tequila in consideration was at least double the price.
You can find Olmeca Altos Plata and Reposado for around $25 for a 750ml bottle.
I’ve spent a good amount of time drinking this. Here are my score and tasting notes from the Tequila Matchmaker app:
Olmeca Altos Plata: 89/100
- “Faint aroma of tobacco and slight musty leaves, with a very delicious sweet finish. For the price, you can’t beat this blanco. Feels fantastic in the mouth, oily and substantial. How the hell did they make such a good tequila at this low price?”
Olmeca Altos Reposado: 88/100
- “This tequila is definitely delivering a bang for the buck. It is priced low enough that it could be used by bars in cocktails, but I can drink this straight with no problem. The aroma isn’t bad, but it’s not my favorite part of the experience. The flavor is just loaded with sweet delicious caramelized baked agave, and the finish delivers a long and pleasant creamy vanilla treat. I am shocked that they can create this level of tequila at this price.”
There are many 100% agave tequilas available under $30 per bottle. Which would you recommend, and why? Tell us below!