National Margarita Day is an occasion to celebrate the festive flavors of lime, salt, and, most of all, tequila. For fans of the spicy Mexican spirit, the market for tequila is more interesting and diverse than ever. Prices of agave spirits have shot up in the past few years as tequila has gained recognition for its unique flavor and complexity. Bottles of top-tier tequila can easily cost hundreds of dollars, but frugal shoppers can find delicious 100 percent agave tequila for less than $30. To come up with the best affordable tequilas, Cheapism.com reviewed the results of the 2015 Ultimate Beverage Challenge, which is respected for its tasting methodology and well-known judges. The UBC results were cross-checked with consumer reviews on sites such as Tequila.net and UnderTheLabel and scores on Proof66, which aggregates ratings from Wine Enthusiast, the Beverage Testing Institute, and the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The winners represent three categories: blanco, reposado, and añejo.
10 Best Tequilas Under $30 a Bottle
Called blanco (white) or plata (silver), unaged tequila is clear in appearance. By law, these tequilas are bottled within two months of production. Blanco tequilas feature fresh agave flavors such as fresh grass, tropical fruit, pepper, and minerals.
With a score of 94 and an award for value from UBC, this modestly priced blanco tequila offers a lot of bang for the buck. A Tequila.net reviewer agrees, awarding it 92 points for exceptional, layered flavor. Spicy elements and herbs are interwoven with a refined roasted pineapple core, creating considerable complexity for about $28.
Rated 93 by UBC, this $20 bottle easily beats some well-known competitors going for two or three times the price. Its silken texture offers flavors of ripe tropical fruit, with clean minerality that finishes dry. At such an affordable price, this bottle serves as an all-purpose blanco tequila for mixing or drinking straight.
With a UBC score of 92 and a consumer rating of 89 on Tequila.net, this traditionally produced blanco is a strong contender for about $25. A lower alcohol content means smooth sipping for this highland tequila. Flavors are sweet and salty, combining mango, lime, and a peppery piquancy that makes it excellent on its own or in cocktails.
A favorite among consumers and professionals, UBC rated this lowland blanco tequila at 91 points. A particularly aromatic spirit, it is full of figs, green grass, and peppery spice, with layers that continue to unfold as you drink. Definitely a sipper and a good deal at about $29.
Tequila that is matured in wood casks for between two and 11 months is referred to as reposado (rested). These lightly aged spirits take on a natural golden hue and enhanced flavor from the wood, which is most commonly oak. Known for their light caramel and vanilla notes, these soft and rounded tequilas are good on their own and in cocktails.
Another gem from the Lunazul label is its lightly aged reposado. Professionals are hot on this bottle, awarding it 94 points at UBC. It's on the sweeter side, with cinnamon, vanilla, and baked custard flavors giving way to some darker burnt sugar characteristics that make it appealing as an after dinner sipper. And the price is right, at about $22.
A strong brand throughout the categories, this reposado gets a 91 from the experts at UBC. It is silky and refined with notes of deeply roasted coffee and a playful green grassy flavor that adds brightness. A favorite among bartenders for cocktails thanks to its earthy tone, it can be found for about $25.
This is a strong contender in the reposado category with a respectable 87 points from the experts at UBC. Bright tropical fruits, slight charred pineapple, and a touch of jalapeño spice on the finish make this lighter option particularly refreshing. For about $20, this is a good choice for mixing into cocktails.
Añejo (aged) tequila spends 12 to 35 months in wood casks. These spirits take on more color and flavor from the wood, resulting in a deep amber color. Soft flavors and aromas of tobacco and baking spices contribute significantly to the overall flavor profile. Añejos are often enjoyed as sipping spirits but can also be used in premium cocktails.
The most popular aged tequila in Mexico scores 92 on Tequila.net and 94 from UBC. Its rich flavor profile offers ripe fruit, dark earthy moss, and sweet baking spices, with a touch of vanilla on the finish. It stands up against some of the most expensive alternatives, with a price of about $28.
Professionals love this smoky aged tequila, awarding it a whopping 93 points and a "great value" accolade from UBC. The flavor can be polarizing, with lots of leathery and spicy elements, leaning toward rustic and woodsy rather than cinnamon and caramel. It offers a lot of flavor for about $25.
This añejo gets special treatment, spending its last 12 months in charred barrels. This gives it a flavor that bourbon lovers will appreciate. With 87 points from UBC, it stands up nicely in the añejo category. The flavors are intense, with elements of cigar tobacco, bourbon-like charred grain, and orangy citrus. The price is about $30 a bottle.