No more cheap tequila! If that wasn’t among your 2020 New Year’s resolutions, it’s not too late. Well, it’s too late for your New Year’s Eve celebration, but you’ve got the rest of your life to consider. Life is too short, you’re too old and you work way too hard to settle for crap tequila. In fact, a noble endeavor on your part would be to adhere to the mantra, “friends don’t let friends drink bad tequila.”
I realize that a long night of cheap tequila shots with the lick-of-salt-and-squeeze-of-lime ritual is a sort of right of passage for twenty-somethings. Been there; done that. The fact I can still stomach tequila today after a few of those nights and the epic hangovers that followed, places me securely among the fortunate few. Take an informal survey of friends who can no longer even stand the smell of one type of liquor or another because of a bad experience in their youth, and two out of three will name, tequila.
Granted, the quality of the adult beverages we quaff is usually predicated on what we can afford. Pounding shots of cheap tequila, or even pouring it into margaritas, for that matter, is the most direct route for those short on cash to a satisfying buzz. There is, however, always a bigger cost. The cost in this case is perhaps ruining tequila for ourselves when we reach a point we can afford one that is extraordinarily rich in smoothness and flavor – in other words, a sippin’ tequila.
Yes, unlike unicorns, Sasquatch and a Kardashian Rhodes Scholar, sippin’ tequilas do actually exist. As with an exceptional bourbon or single malt scotch, a terrific tequila carries an above-average price tag; but it’s amazing how much longer a bottle of good tequila lasts because, well, you sip it rather than shoot it. It’s science or math, or maybe science and math.
Far be it from me to scold you about shooting bad anything without providing some sippin’ alternatives. Here then are three sippable tequilas, any of which will elevate your liquor cabinet and dazzle your friends. All are available in any good liquor store. I’ve ranked them according to my taste with my favorite first.
Clase Azul Reposado (750mL $90-$120), easily identifiable by its decorated white ceramic decanter, is my favorite (by a nose over the 1942 below) of these picks. The bottle decoration, incidentally, is hand painted. Aged for at least eight months in oak barrels, it’s distilled with 9-year-old agave plants. This 80-proof tequila is fairly sweet on the tongue. You may taste vanilla and caramel. It coats your tongue at the finish leaving you a lasting caramel flavor.
Don Julio 1942 ($120-$135), to me, is a bit bigger in flavor than the Clase Azul. I don’t mean that in a bad way. The vanilla and caramel notes come quicker and bigger than in the Clase Azul. Most likely this is a result of of 1942 being aged longer (more than a year) and usually in used bourbon barrels. While Clase Azul is classified as a reposado tequila, 1942 is an anejo. 1942 is 80 proof, as well. On the tongue there’s a hint of butterscotch, too. As with the Clase Azul, the finish is creamy and long, leaving you with a hint of chocolate.
Jose Cuervo Reserva De La Familia ($135-$150) was the first extra-aged anejo tequila. Aged at least three years in both American and French oak barrels, it is a giant leap beyond Cuervo Especial Gold, responsible for more college students missing morning classes than the flu. At 80 proof, it’s smooth and big in flavor. As with my first two picks, Reserva is vanilla, as well as pineapple and cinnamon, forward on the tongue. Lingering behind, the finish is more vanilla with a bit of oak.
Now, make that last resolution, go forth and sin no more with cheap tequila.
Russ is a long-time bourbon and craft-beer drinker who also produces the BEER2WHISKEY channel on YouTube.