If you think Cuervo Gold is good tequila, you may want to check out Bill Bumgarner's tequila guide and educate yourself. The majority of tequila consumed in the U.S. is adulterated tequila, which for the most part is not so good taste-wise, and is also a ticket to a not-so-fun morning should you have too much.
Your best bet would be to look for one that is made from 100 percent blue agave. Cuervo Gold and other cheap brands are composed of at least 51 percent blue agave (as required by Mexican law), and the remaining 49 percent is cheap sugar cane–based liquor. This, combined with the addition of caramel (for flavor and color) and the low-quality agave distillate is responsible for that awesome bulldozer-squashing-your-forehead sensation the next day.
"If all you have had is a Cuervo (or Mezcal with a worm in it), then you really ought to give a true 100 percent blue agave tequila a chance," notes Bumgarner, calling it a "night and day kind of experience."
There are four kinds of 100 percent blue agave tequila:
- Blanco (Silver): Relatively unaged, as it's made from alcohol fermented from sugars found in the blue agave plant, then distilled. Fruitier than the other kinds with "a bit of a bite."
- Reposado: Aged for more than two months but no longer than a year. Most common and cheap brands of tequila in Mexico are reposados. Much smoother than blancos.
- Anejo: Must be aged for one to three years in small oak barrels, and as a result will take on the flavor of whatever was aged in the barrel (e.g. bourbon, whiskey or cognac barrels). More of a wood flavor.
- Extra Anejo: Created in 2006, named for the rare tequilass that are aged for longer than three years. Much more of an intense, smooth flavor
He does point out that Cuervo does make some good tequilas—their "Reserva De L'Familia" line is all 100 percent blue agave—but says it's much easier to find more affordable options, and at a better quality.