tequila shots

Tequila: you either love it or you hate it. In recent years, celebrities, artists, and college students everywhere have contributed to giving tequila the "party drink rep." While many may need the liquid courage from a tequila shot to introduce themselves to someone at the bar or let loose on the dance floor, it’s really not only a party drink.

Today, some of the best tequilas in the world are sipped and enjoyed slowly like a smooth glass of bourbon or a glass of aged fine wine. Many tequila brands will probably not be found in your local pub or dive bar, but rather sold exclusively at retailers or online. The key to finding the perfect tequila is doing your research or a personal taste test to see which one turns your mouth into a sour pout, which brands give you a 36-hour hangover, and which ones leave you feeling like a million bucks after a night out. Thankfully for you, we’re breaking down store-bought tequila brands and ranking them from worst to best to help you find the perfect bottle for your taste preference and budget.

13. Jose Cuervo

Jose Cuervo Tequila

Jose Cuervo may describe itself as "the number one tequila in the world," but it will probably give you the number one hangover in the world, too. Whether you are a tequila drinker or not, you have likely heard of Jose Cuervo.

Jose Cuervo has an extensive product selection, including a recent seltzer addition, Playamar, made with real Cuervo tequila. This brand has a large selection, so we give them kudos in this department; however, the reason they are so far down on the list is due precisely to Jose Cuervo Especial. If you have ever drunk tequila in a frat basement, this bottle was likely on the table. You may be thinking, what separates this tequila from the others? This bottle is a "mixto tequila," so it is not 100% blue agave. According to The Tequila Shop, Jose Cuervo Especial is only 51% blue agave, which is why you could have awful hangovers after consuming it.

12. Sauza

Sauza Tequila with shots

Next on our list is Sauza. This tequila brand has been around since 1873, so it has a reputation amongst tequila drinkers. Sauza is also a mixto tequila like Jose Cuervo, so we suggest adding this to a margarita or mixed drink, not sipping it straight. Since mixto tequilas are not 100% agave, taking shots of Sauza all night is going to leave you with a nasty hangover — trust us on this one. Sauza is not a tequila you should even consider sipping or having on the rocks; It’s a better fit for a late-night mixed drink at your local dive bar.

Sauza has a much smaller product range than Jose Cuervo: only three different tequila offerings and one ready to serve margarita bottle. According to Honest Booze Reviews, there is a bit of an aftertaste, which is not out of the ordinary when it comes to tequila — or cheap ones, for that matter. They also stated the aroma is powerful, so don’t go sniffing your next Sauza shot before taking it. You have been warned.

11. Kirkland Silver Tequila

kirkland tequila

Get out your Costco card because the Kirkland Silver Tequila is next on our list of store-bought tequila brands. With so many superior Kirkland signature products, it is a surprise how low the Silver Tequila landed on our list. Kirkland has three tequila varieties Reposado, Añejo, and Silver. The first two are popular among Costco customers, but the Silver does not even come close in comparison.

When you take a sip of Kirkland Silver, you taste the alcohol and nothing else. It would be nearly impossible if you were at a tequila tasting and asked to name the different flavors in this bottle. This tequila is robust and not in a good way — don’t even think about taking shots or sipping this silver tequila. It is only tolerable mixed in a drink with a significant amount of other liquid to mask the taste of the alcohol. (We suggest whipping up a spicy margarita.) If you are looking for a great-tasting silver tequila, search elsewhere. If Costco is your primary grocery store of choice, check out the Reposado or Añejo for a better tequila experience. Trust is there are way better silver tequilas on the market, do not settle for Kirkland’s.

10. el Jimador

el Jimador

Coming in at number ten on our list is El Jimador. Like the bottles previously mentioned, El Jimador will not break your wallet. This tequila is crafted with hand-harvested Weber blue agave, so it can be more easily sipped and won’t immediately make you feel a head rush.

The reviews for this brand are more conflicted than those for any other tequila on our list. One Influenster review went as far as to say, el Jimador is "better than Patron." While we do not agree with this wholeheartedly, we admit it’s better than many of the other tequilas we reviewed. Compared to the other bottles previously named, we would take a shot of El Jimador, but if you are looking for more premium tequilas to toss back, keep reading for further recommendations. If you want a solid mixed drink at home that won’t cost you a ton of money, pick up El Jimador the next time you hit the grocery store.

9. Hornitos

Hornitos Tequila bottles

Introducing Hornitos, Sauza’s slightly higher-shelved sibling. Hornitos revolutionized the agave cooking process, which is how it got its name, which means "little ovens" in Spanish. the brand stands behind the tagline, "a shot worth taking." While we can’t confidently promote that this is a shot worth taking, we can confirm it’s not awful for the price. Spirits Review says it best; essentially, Hornitos tastes on the cheaper end, but not like it’s the cheapest one on the shelf. It’s your standard mid-shelf bottle that you won’t be embarrassed to show up to a party with, but you won’t be overspending on either.

As you may have learned from our previous rankings, the label "100% agave" is what separates the good from the bad in tequila terms. While we recognize this label identifies the breakdown of ingredients, we want to acknowledge, although this tequila is 100% agave, it is not at the top of our list for a reason. In the end, we would say this brand is just alright.

8. Olmeca Altos

altos agave tequila

"Two world renowned bartenders walk into a distillery," and number eight on our list, Olmeca Altos Tequila, is born. Described by the company website as well known in the bartending industry and frequent winners of cocktail competitions, Henry Besant and Dre Masso visited Los Altos, Mexico, and ultimately partnered with Maestro Tequilero Jesús Hernandez. The trio created a smooth, high-quality tequila that passes our shot test and compliments any cocktail mix.

Tequila Matchmaker gives Altos strong reviews across the board, and we agree that for the price of this bottle, you are getting 100% blue agave, decent-tasting tequila. It was created for bartenders to provide premium tequila for cocktails, and they have delivered on that goal and more. It’s smoother than the tequilas we have ranked so far, so it can be sipped, taken as a shot, or added to a margarita. It’s a high-quality product on its own, and if you are looking for a bottle within budget, but slightly higher quality and taste, choose Omeca Altos.

7. 818

818 tequila

If you keep up with the Kardashians, you have undoubtedly heard of 818 Tequila. Kendall Jenner’s brand 818 was extremely popular due to its association with the celebrity, forcing sell-outs and store re-stocks. The brand got its name from Jenner’s home area code, but the company shares, "The area code 818 is home to me, but the earth is home to all of us." The brand mentions it feels a great sense of responsibility to the community and the environment, sharing sustainability commitments on the website.

Now, let’s get to the critical part, the taste of 818. This bottle is on the more expensive end compared to tequilas we have rated thus far, and it doesn’t have the taste to match the price tag. We believe you can find better-tasting bottles for probably $15 less. 818 is smooth, we’ll give it that; however, it’s sweet and does not have a pleasant aftertaste. If you want to get the best bang for your buck, choose one of the brands coming later in the article.

6. 1800

1800 tequila

1800 has been around for over 200 years and has yet to change the original formula or distillation process. The brand’s tagline is "just refined enough," and we agree — 1800 produces a 100% agave, quality tequila batch after batch. According to BBC Good Food, this tequila is an ultra-smooth option perfect for sipping, but not too expensive to add to your favorite margarita or cocktail. We discovered (via Proximo Spirits) that 1800 sits under the same corporate umbrella as Jose Cuervo. Don’t let this scare you based on our not-so-friendly review of Jose, 1800 is much higher on our list for a good reason.

If you are looking for a consistently good-tasting tequila to keep on the bar cart, 1800 is your bottle. We approve of sipping, taking shots, and mixing 1800 in your cocktails. 1800 is not higher on our list because we have a few top-notch favorites that secured the top five slots in our roundup.

5. Casamigos

Bartender pouring Casamigos tequila

Next on our list is Casamigos, another celebrity-backed tequila brand. Casamigos was founded by longtime friends George Clooney, Rande Gerber, and Mike Meldman. This crew set out to create tequila and mezcal that did not need to be masked by salt and limes. After years of being tequila lovers, followed by years of perfecting the recipe with a master distiller in Jalisco, Mexico, Casamigos was born.

This brand is perfect for feeling a little classier with minimal effort — and without a hefty price tag. Liquor.com raves about Casamigos, saying the flavors will please a younger audience with their sweeter taste. Thankfully for you, if you like sweeter tequila, this is nothing like the sweetness from 818, in the best way. It is on the sweeter side, but with Casamigos, we can guarantee a smooth tequila every single time.

4. Clase Azul Reposado Tequila

clase azul tequila

Number four on our list is known for outstanding tequila, but even more so for its stunning bottles. Clase Azul Reposado Tequila is contained in an eye-catching and beautiful ceramic decanter that Mexican artists hand-paint. If you are looking for a bottle to give as a gift or to have as decor on your bar cart, Clase Azul is the brand for you.

This bottle is breathtaking, but the important thing is really how the tequila tastes. Clase Azul is made with 100% Blue Weber Agave, which guarantees superb quality. Liquor.com speaks highly of the flavors, saying it’s "vibrant and incredibly silky," but the bottle is large and challenging to store compared to other brands. While we agree this tall tequila may need more strategic placing on your shelves or bar cart, the aesthetic makes it all worth it. This luxury tequila is on the expensive side, but we think you get what you pay for in taste and beauty.

3. Espolòn

espolon tequila

Sliding into the number three slot, we have Espolòn Tequila. Everything from the name to the packaging is an ode to Mexican culture. Each Espolòn bottles’ artwork tells a story showcasing tidbits of the past with a modern twist. The name Espolòn means "spur," referring to a rooster’s spur, a "powerful symbol of national pride" in Mexico, shares the brand. As a parallel, Espolòn takes incredible pride in every step of its supply chain journey.

We love Espolòn for its taste and affordable price tag. It snagged the number two spot because, unlike some of the other inexpensive tequilas on this list, Espolòn is sippable and great for shots without leaving you with a crippling hangover the next day. This tequila is more subtle and does not have an awful after-taste like many cheap tequilas. You can find Espolòn for around $20, half the price of other less desirable tequila options. We think Espolòn is one of the best-tasting affordable tequilas, which is why we feel strongly about its top-tier ranking.

2. Patrón

Patron tequila on bar

You have likely heard "Patrón on the rocks, and I’m ready for some shots" from the song "Shots" if you’re of a certain age. Like LMFAO, many others have been inspired by Patrón and taken to the studio to shoutout the brand in their lyrics. What we’re saying is, Patrón is a high-quality tequila that has also become a social phenomenon. Unlike other liquors, this tequila is worth the hype and it deserves all the recognition it gets from celebrities, musicians, and tequila drinkers alike.

Patrón like to say they did not invent tequila,a but "perfected it." And we agree, this tequila is exceptionally high quality and delicious. Patrón has no additives and is made in small batches to ensure the most authentic and best-tasting tequila goes in every bottle. This tequila can be sipped, taken as a shot, or used to create a delicious cocktail. Like Clase Azul, it is more expensive, but you get what you pay for. With this tequila, you’ll notice a sweet citrus smell and a light peppery finish guaranteed to make Patrón a taste you’ll remember.

1. Don Julio

don julio tequila and cocktail on bar

Rounding out our store-bought tequila brands list is number one and crowd favorite, Don Julio. Don Julio is one of the smoothest tequilas out there. It is super easy to drink and can be enjoyed on the rocks, in a shot, or a mixed drink. No matter how you fancy tequila, this brand is a great choice. There’s an age-old debate over which tequila is the best: Patrón or Don Julio. We can confidently say we feel Don Julio has more depth to its flavor. Cost is not a factor in the debate either, because both bottles are similar in price.

Don Julio’s eponymous founder’s mission made the brand a trailblazer in the tequila industry. For generations, tequila bottles were large and hidden under the table during gatherings. Don Julio knew his tequila did not belong on the floor and designed a smaller bottle that could easily be passed from person to person. Today, many brands have mimicked this design, and passing the tequila bottle is now part of the experience.