Day of the Dead: best tequilas for cocktails

If you’re celebrating Día de los Muertos and planning to mix up some classic tequila cocktails, try one of these bottles. Laura Foster recommends a range of blancos, reposadaos and añejos that are ideal for your home bar. 

Mention tequila cocktails and most people immediately think of the Margarita, a zingy and refreshing drink that also boasts incredible depth of flavour. Then there are Margarita twists: drinks aficionados opt for the Tommy’s Margarita, which switches agave syrup for the triple sec. Fruity alternatives are also plentiful; in fact almost every fruit imaginable has been used to create a Margarita. I tried a delectable Watermelon and Yuzu Margarita recently.

Looking beyond the Margarita, however, there are plenty more tequila-based cocktails to enjoy. What about the extremely underrated El Diablo, which combines tequila with crème de cassis, lime juice and ginger ale? Or the overrated Tequila Sunrise, which bombards our hero spirit with grenadine and orange juice?

There are highballs such as the Paloma, which mixes tequila with grapefruit soda and lime juice, or the Batanga, which is the same recipe using Coca-Cola in place of the grapefruit. Not forgetting the simple and refreshing Tequila & Tonic.

While not cocktails per se, the drinking ritual of tequila con sangrita, or tequila con verdita – small shots of spicy juice that sit alongside a neat shot of tequila – where you sip between your two glasses is also fun, memorable and something to play around with.

Buying tips

What you need to look for when buying a blanco tequila for mixing depends on what you’re planning to use it for. If you want a versatile spirit that will stand up in all of the drinks mentioned above, you could opt for a high-quality unaged mixto tequila – mixtos are made with a combination of agave and other sugars – such as El Sueno. Alternatively an affordable yet quality unaged 100% agave spirit such as Ocho or Calle 23 would be a good choice.

Aside from blancos, the other tequila categories can also be suitable for mixing. Reposado tequilas, which are aged between two months and a year, can be used in place of a blanco in most drinks. Examples that have less wood influence, such as El Tequilano, are the ones to choose here.

Añejo tequilas, which are aged between one and three years, often see their agave flavours fade into the background while the spirit naturally takes on more wood characteristics. Because of this they make a good option for stirred-down cocktails: try replacing whiskey with tequila for a Mexican take on an Old Fashioned.

So whatever the occasion – and however you like your cocktails – there’s a tequila out there for you. Why not start with one of the bottles below…

Best tequilas for cocktails


Calle 23 Blanco

Calle 23 Blanco is a strong all-rounder in cocktails, and consequently is found as the house pour in numerous cocktail bars. Created by French-born biochemist Sophie Decobecq, who moved to Mexico in 1999, it has a rich palate of agave, apples, pears and pineapple before a waft of spearmint and some spicy black pepper hits. Alcohol 40%


El Rayo Plata

A relative newcomer on the tequila scene, El Rayo Plata has been designed to specifically pair with tonic water. Citrusy aromas of lemon juice and pulp, chalk and a metallic note give way to a smooth palate of limestone, vanilla, agave, hay and white pepper. Alc 40%


El Sueno Silver

Anyone wanting to turn out an array of tequila cocktails without breaking the bank should look to this high-quality mixto tequila. It was created after one of the founders got fed up with having an allergic reaction to other mixtos. A juicy nose of nectarines, peaches and strawberries leads onto a dry, mineral palate with cooling menthol and fresh lime. Alc 38%


El Tequileno Reposado

Aged for three months, El Tequileno Reposado wears its oak influence lightly. A creamy yet spicy spirit, with flavours of condensed milk and marshmallows alongside cranberry, orange zest, dried chilli flakes, hazelnut and agave. The fruity, sweet yet spicy hit makes this pop in an El Diablo. Alc 38%


Ocho Blanco

Tequilero Carlos Camarena and tequila ambassador Tomas Estes made waves when they launched a single-field, vintage tequila brand called Ocho. Each release is different, but what can be guaranteed with Ocho blanco tequilas is a fabulous agave flavour with distinctive peppery spice that mixes particularly well in fresh, citrus-forward drinks like the Margarita. Alc 40%


Olmeca Altos Añejo

While an Old Fashioned is typically made with whiskey, it can actually be made with any spirit. Since añejo tequilas are aged in oak for between one and three years, they lend themselves particularly well to this cocktail. With its rich notes of cocoa powder and nibs, chocolate mousse and candied orange, Olmeca Altos Añejo makes a mean Old Fashioned. Use chocolate bitters for extra indulgence. Alc 40%


Vivir Café VS

There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth when Patrón announced it was stopping production of its XO Café. But Vivir has stepped into its place with its own tequila coffee liqueur. Made using the brand’s blanco tequila and local coffee beans, it has a gentle coffee sweetness mixed with juicy blackberry and toasted hazelnuts. Perfect for a Tequila Espresso Martini. Alc 30%


Volcan Cristalino

Cristalino is a relatively new category where aged tequila is filtered to remove most of the colour. Volcan’s is a blend of añejo and extra-añejo tequilas that has then been filtered. This boasts aromas of crème brûlée, vanilla, pencil shavings and coconut. All of these characters translate onto the palate, joined by zippy black pepper, popcorn and charred nectarines. Enjoy in stirred down drinks, or in a highball mixed with rhubarb soda. Alc 40%


You may also like:

Best tequilas under £50 / $50 to try

Tequila: a taste of terroir

Tahona tequila

Latest Wine News