You can make expensive margaritas or cheap ones, and the taste shouldn’t be all that different, if you use the right ingredients.
1) Premium Margaritas require Cointreau and medium-priced 100% blue agave blanco tequila. (click here for recipe)
2) Cheap “House” Margaritas are best made with strong-tasting low-priced 100% blue agave tequila, and triple sec. (click here for recipe)
Highly recommended Margarita mixing tequilas are Siembra Azul (Blue Harvest) and Pura Vida, which by no coincidence are produced by the same company, Feliciano Vivianco Y Asociados. You also can’t go wrong with Milagro, Avion, Dos Lunas, and Patrón. Other solid recommendations are Cazadores and Herradura.
Izkali makes a reposado tequila that is award-winning in margaritas. And Sauza Hornitos Reposada gives a flavorful burn. Sauza Hornitos is the choice of many many bartenders in Mexico.
If you have premium El Tesoro or Don Julio, by all means, sip it, but don’t expect it to make a significantly better cocktail. Tapatio, a lower-priced blanco by the producer of El Tesoro (in a wonderfully cheap-looking bottle) is a better value.
Better yet, go to Neal McDonald’s website Proof 66 and decide for yourself.
I have not found anything that comes close to Lunazul or Agavales. A lot of Texas restaurants are now using one of these in their house margaritas, for good reason, and it’s ridiculously cheap.
El Jimador is a cheap favorite in Mexico, and Espolon has a mild taste. Milagro on sale isn’t expensive, and gets universal raves. I did not like the Sauza Blue in the picture above, but I’ll highly recommend Sauza Hornitos Reposado. Pueblo Viejo is a superb value.
I realize there are some other excellent tequilas out there, but these choices are just the bottles that are widely available in liquor stores in the U.S.A.