My advice is always to look for the local bargains wherever you go in the world. In Mexico that includes good tequila for a good price.
I’ve got Mexico as an “honorable mention” in The World’s Cheapest Destinations book because it’s really better for mid-range travelers than shoestring backpackers. Despite what you may hear on Fox News, most of the people in the country are living a pretty good life and have no intention of trying to cross the border to live in the USA. There’s a huge middle class in Mexico. So prices are good, but not nearly as cheap as in poorer countries like Guatemala, Nicaragua, or Bolivia, for instance.
For about $10 though, you’ve got plenty to choose from the tequila section at your local Mega, Soriana, Aurrera, or Walmart. And believe me, it’s a big section, with a lot more brands than you’ll see in most U.S. liquor stores. The expensive tequila brands that most Mexicans drink on special occasions or give as a gift are often locked up in a cabinet and you have to ask for help from a store clerk. There are no fears though here that you’ll have to drink crap if you’re on a budget. For $10 or so in Mexico, you can turn up your nose at the horrid Jose Cuervo Gold (one of the greatest marketing campaigns of all time to win over the gullible) and drink 100% pure blue agave tequila that’s good enough for sipping.
That “100% blue agave” designation is key. Even the worst brand with that on the label will be better than any more expensive “mixto” tequila that has who knows what mixed in with it. So just use the follow list as a starting point. If you see a bargain of your own, snag it!
Orendain Anniversario Reposado
I’m not sure why this tequila is so cheap or if it will remain that way, but it’s a bargain for sure. This is the same distillery that makes the expensive Don Eduardo tequila that retails for $40 a bottle in the U.S. If you read Spanish, see more on their website here.
You can consistently find the both the blanco and reposado versions of this “100 years” tequila for around 100 pesos, which is well under the $10 mark. It’s a great one for mixing in cocktails and is readily available almost everywhere, including at convenience stores. Just be sure to get the 100% agave one as the labels aren’t much different.
This is my go-to tequila much of the time in Mexico. It’s consistently for sale at a good price and even has a nice agave plant relief built into the bottle. Classy!
It adds the right kind of character to cocktails, with strong agave notes but no off flavors that shouldn’t be there. This is a well-rounded tequila that’s good enough to sip neat.
Occasionally you’ll find a bottle of Jimador repodado tequila on sale for 120 pesos or less. If so, grab it. This is the most popular tequila in Mexico, so if you grab something to bring as a gift, you can’t go wrong with this brand. (If you’re spending lots of money for a really good friend, go with Don Julio.)
You can pretty much always find the blanco version for 100 pesos or less though, even in a convenience store, so it’s a good default buy if you’re looking for something to make margaritas or palomas with. It’s a bit harsh to drink straight, like most blanco brands, but it’s good for mixing. If you want to sound smart as your pouring drinks, a Jimador is the guy who cuts the spiky leaves off the agave plant and loads the big fruit into the truck. See more at the El Jimador site.
This is another brand that’s easy to find and is a dependable choice for under 10 bucks. It has a nice wooden cap that gives it a little extra cachet and what’s inside is not bad at all for the price. This brand may not win any points from your Mexican friends if there are ten other bottles on the table, but if yours is the only one, don’t worry. They’ll be quite happy to see you once they take their first sip.
How about you? Have you found any happy surprises on the shelf in Mexico?