Tequila for All

To make a zesty margarita or paloma, or just to sip neat as a smooth after-dinner drink, there's nothing better than really, really good tequila. The great tequilas of Mexico are a world away from the harsh shots you may have done in college, which were likely not even tequila at all, but a hybrid of just 51% agave spirit, aptly called "mixto." But 100 percent Blue Weber agave tequila — blue for the hue and Weber for the botanist who identified it; "true" tequila, if you will — is a spirit worth savoring and appreciating. Depending on what sort of drinker you are, find your true tequila here. — Chantal Martineau

For the Mischievous

CASA DRAGONES
The looks of this crystal clear sipping tequila are deceiving: Despite its translucency, it's actually a blend of silver tequila with a hint of extra añejo, that's then filtered to such a clarity that you could easily mistake it for plain blanco. That is, until you taste it: this spirit is beautifully complex, like an aged spirit, yet still boasts the bright, flirty, floral notes that make a young tequila so appealing. Casa Dragones, $275 for 750 mL at 1-877-Spirits.com

For the Artist

CHAMUCOS REPOSADO ESPECIAL Newcomers to the world of premium tequila not infrequently choose their bottle by the looks of the label. This isn't always such a bad idea, especially in the case of this eye-catching number. The hand-drawn label is of a chamuco, a folkloric demon akin to the Bogeyman. The brand is the vision of Mexican film director Antonio Urrutia, one of the few directors of erotic thrillers to be nominated for an Academy Award. His tequila is silky yet bright, with flavors of vanilla and pepper. Even empty, the bottle is a keeper. Chamucos Reposado Especial, $50 for 750 mL at MissionLiquor.com

For the Crafty Cocktailian

ESPOLÓN BLANCO This simple bottle may be one of the best deals in tequila today. Espolon is a beautifully distilled, clean-tasting spirit that you can find for $25 or less at your local bottle shop. It disappeared from the U.S. market briefly and returned not too long ago sporting a cool new label on its round, medicine bottle-style packaging, depicting scenes of Mexican history and legend using Dio de los Muertos-inspired laughing skulls and skeletons. This spirit inside is fruity and herbaceous with spicy finish: it's ideal for margaritas, palomas, gimlets, or other tequila cocktails. Espolon Blanco, $20 for 750 mL at LiquorMart.com

For the Traditionalist

FORTALEZA BLANCO Made in the town that gave tequila its name, this cult producer is acclaimed for using old-school methods, including tahona stone-milling and copper pot distilling. Only about 4,000 cases of Fortaleza are produced each year, so it's not always easy to get your hands on a bottle, but if you do, you'll be rewarded with an extremely terroir-driven spirit. Thanks to its artisanal methods, each batch is a little different from the last, but a recent tasting found racy minerality balanced with citrus and herbaceous notes. It's bottled in hand-blown glass: a fitting tribute. _ Fortaleza Blanco, $45 for 750 mL at Klwines.com_

For the Deliberate Drinker

HERRADURA REPOSADO Reposado tequila (older than blanco, younger than añejo) was invented in 1974 by Herradura's erstwhile grande dame, Gabriela Romo de la Peña, as a happy medium between vivid blanco and mellow añejo. Legally, a reposado tequila must be aged at least two months, but less than a year. At Herradura, it spends 11 months in the barrel, which imparts a deep caramel color, along with notes of cooked agave, vanilla and a hint of spice. Perfect for sipping on its own, neat or with a single large cube of ice. Herradura Reposado, $85 for 750 mL at 1-877-Spirits.com
For the Classicist PATRÓN SILVER The world's top-selling tequila is more than just a popular bottle-service order at trendy dance clubs: despite its popularity, Patron is made very much like a small-batch product. The short, geometric bottle is handmade from recycled glass. The agave is cooked slowly in masonry ovens, then a portion is mashed using a tahona, an ancient stone mill (the balance is processed with a modern roller mill). Distillation is completed in small copper pot stills for an aromatic elixir with fresh agave and citrus flavors. Patron Silver, $85 for 750mL at The Patron Spirits Companypatron silver tequila

For the Detail-Oriented

SIETE LEGUAS AÑEJO While most tahonas today are pulled around the mashing pit by a motorized tractor, Siete Leguas is known for being the last tequila brand to have a four-legged animal on its payroll. The spirit is a tequila geek's dream: It's made using ripe agaves left in the ground for up to 10 years, fermented naturally and cooked slowly in the traditional clay ovens called hornos, then mashed using the ancient method of tahona. Unlike other añejos, which must be aged in barrels for at least a year, this tequila retains much of the fruity essence of the un-aged spirit. Siete Leguas Añejo, $45 for 750 mL at Klwines.comsiete leguas anejo tequila

For the Cultured Beginner

SIEMBRA AZUL AÑEJO The agave used to make this tequila is farmed organically and then roasted in traditional clay ovens, not what you might expect from the modern, minimalist look of the bottle. But here's an interesting new-agey nugget: the agave nectar undergoes its fermentation to the sounds of Vivaldi and Mozart, a tested technique referred to as "serenading." Light and smooth, Siembra Azul is a great beginner tequila, full of nutty and spiced aromatics, with flavors of cooked fruit and butterscotch. Try serenading yourself as you sip. Siembra Azul Añejo;, $47 at DrinkUpNY.com