Buyer Picks

The 11 Best Additive-Free Tequilas According to Experts

Informed consumers are demanding additive-free tequilas, and these bartenders and retail buyers have recommendations at every price point

Consumer interest has been directed toward additive-free tequila options.

Such has been the passion for tequila amongst U.S. consumers in recent years that it has surpassed American whiskey in overall popularity. Gone are the days when cheap mixtos dominated shelves and backbars; 100 percent agave tequilas now lead the market. Yet, not all of these tequilas are made equal. The Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT) allows producers to add up to one percent of additives without disclosure, like caramel, oak extract, and glycerin for coloring, extra sweetness, and a thicker consistency.

“Once [consumers] learn that, they’re definitely keen on only drinking additive-free tequilas,” says David Tyda, the co-owner of Barcoa Agaveria in Phoenix, Arizona. “We’re on the upswing when it comes to interest.”

In 2020, Scarlet and Grover Sanschagrin, the founders of Tequila Matchmaker, a tequila database with the goal of advocating for greater transparency in the tequila industry, launched their Additive-Free Program to identify brands that forgo anything but pure agave spirits. To be included, distilleries must open their doors to thorough in-person inspections, and repeat the process for the certification to be renewed every year. To date, more than 100 tequilas have been examined and approved to carry the Additive-Free Alliance logo. The organization, however, has been caught in an escalating conflict with the CRT, which has denounced the initiative, in turn, launching its own additive-free certification program in 2023 in partnership with Patrón.

“Frankly, additive-free is being thrown around a lot right now and it can be tricky to see who’s actually playing ball and who’s doing smoke and mirrors,” says Ivy Mix, the author of Spirits of Latin America and co-owner of the Brooklyn cocktail bars Leyenda and soon-to-open Whoopsie Daisy

Tequila connoisseurs seek out additive-free options for a number of reasons; some are trying to avoid additives altogether, while others appreciate the more full taste compared to tequilas that are standardized and mass-produced. 

“One thing people often forget is that just because something is additive-free doesn’t mean it’s good quality,” says Shad Kvetko, the co-owner of Las Almas Rotas in Dallas, Texas. Stocking the best additive-free tequilas that truly highlight the agave is a matter of knowing the category and the tequila-making families and producers behind it. SevenFifty Daily spoke with specialists around the country about the additive-free tequilas they are excited to recommend right now. (All spirits are listed with the price at the noted establishment.)

From left to right: Shad Kvetko, the co-owner of Las Almas Rotas; Wild Common Still Strength Blanco. Photo credit: Shad Kvetko (left), Wild Common (right).
From left to right: Shad Kvetko, the co-owner of Las Almas Rotas (photo courtesy of Shad Kvetko), and Wild Common Still Strength Blanco (photo courtesy of Wild Common).

Wild Common Still Strength Blanco, El Arenal, Mexico; $23 per serve

Selected by Shad Kvetko, co-owner, Las Almas Rotas, Dallas, Texas

Las Almas Rotas has been open for about seven years and today has more than 350 different expressions of agave spirits. From day one, the bar’s tequila selection has been focused on additive- and diffuser-free options.

Wild Common is a favorite of Las Almas Rotas co-owner Shad Kvetko and the bar staff, particularly the still-strength blanco. Started by National Geographic photographer Andy Bardon, Wild Common is made at the storied Cascahuin distillery in El Arenal, Mexico, by the Rosales family, which has been making tequila since 1904. Coming from a mezcal background, Kvetko calls out the higher proof that Wild Common bottles its spirits, while maintaining a balanced flavor. It’s enjoyable neat or in a premium margarita (“a margarita in Technicolor,” as Kvetko describes it), which Las Almas serves in a coupe with a sidecar of the tequila neat.

From left to right: Ivy Mix, the co-owner of Whoopsie Daisy; Siete Leguas Blanco, Atotonilco. Photo credit; Erick Medsker.
From left to right: Ivy Mix, the co-owner of Whoopsie Daisy (photo by Erick Medsker), and Siete Leguas Blanco.

Siete Leguas Blanco, Atotonilco, Mexico; $9 per serve

Selected by Ivy Mix, co-owner, Whoopsie Daisy, Brooklyn, New York

Whoopsie Daisy, which will open in Brooklyn in May, focuses on highlighting wine, spirits, and food producers who follow biodynamic or ethical land use practices. “All the things we eat and drink there are in their essence agricultural products,” says Mix. When it comes to tequila, that means “choosing spirits that highlight the agricultural process of the plant and how people are farming, then roasting and milling in ways to create products that do not need additives.”

When it comes to additive-free tequila, Siete Leguas leads her list, which also includes Tequila Ocho, Cascahuin, and Lalo. The bar team looks for everything served at Whoopsie Daisy to be true representations of the “terroir that the product comes from.” Siete Leguas has long been a favorite of tequila aficionados, and has been making artisanal tequila since 1952. The flagship blanco drinks clean neat or mixed into a tequila-forward cocktail, with rich roasted agave notes from Los Altos agaves that are open-air fermented in stainless steel tanks.

From left to right: Michael Moreno Jr., the owner of Moreno’s Liquors and Osito’s; Amatiteña Añejo, Amatitán. Photo credit: Morenos Liquors.
From left to right: Michael Moreno Jr., the owner of Moreno’s Liquors and Osito’s (photo courtesy of Moreno’s Liquors), and Amatiteña Añejo.

Amatiteña Añejo, Amatitán, Mexico; $90.99 per 750-ml bottle

Selected by Michael Moreno Jr., owner Moreno’s Liquors and Osito’s, Chicago, Illinois 

Michael Moreno Jr., the owner of Moreno’s Liquors, has seen “a noticeable increase in consumer awareness and interest in additive-free tequilas,” he says. “[It’s] almost doubling in sales for us compared to other categories in the market.” Every tequila at Moreno’s Liquors goes through a tasting process by Moreno, the second-generation owner of the 47-year-old business, and his father, Michael Moreno Sr. “Knowing that the brands are additive free is a huge part of our decision-making process these days,” he says. Monthly seminars at Osito’s Tap, Moreno’s speakeasy behind the store, gives consumers an inside-look at additive-free tequilas from Moreno, a certified Tequila Aficionado by the CRT, and other visiting industry leaders, like the Sanschagrins.

“Currently I’m most excited about Amatiteña tequila,” says Moreno. Amatiteña is made in Amatitán, the UNESCO-certified birthplace of tequila, using traditional methods like slow cooking the single-estate agave with mesquite wood and open vat fermentation. The añejo is then aged in American oak barrels, resulting in notes of vanilla, oak, and a light smokiness. “I truly can say this is one of the most unique tequilas on the market,” says Moreno.

From left to right: David Tyda, the co-owner of Barcoa Agaveria; Tequila Corrido Añejo. Photo credit: David Tyda.
From left to right: David Tyda, the co-owner of Barcoa Agaveria (photo courtesy of David Tyda), and Tequila Corrido Añejo.

Tequila Corrido Añejo, Arandas, Mexico; $20 per serve

Selected by David Tyda, co-owner, Barcoa Agaveria, Phoenix, Arizona

Barcoa has two bars—the upper level cantina and a moody downstairs cocktail bar—and a bottle shop selling hard-to-find agave spirits, and nearly everything, from the tiles to the glassware, comes directly from Mexico. The staff decamps to Mexico for educational tours and bar visits every summer. About half of the tequilas are verified additive-free. “We’re a pretty small bar, so every tequila has to check a certain number of boxes, and it being additive-free is an important one,” says Tyda. Barcoa sometimes pours a blind tasting of tequila they know uses additives during private tastings, and the attendees can always spot it after comparing it with a few additive-free tequilas. 

“Classics like Cascahuín, Don Fulano, Tequila Ocho are hard to beat,” says Tyda. “I’m truly a fan of newer additive-free tequilas like Primo and Lalo, but I’m most excited about what’s going on with Tequila Corrido. Their añejo right now is drinking like it should cost twice what it does—they recently switched distilleries and it’s tasting like the right move. Their reposado is complex and agave-forward. Their high-proof blanco clocks in at 50% ABV, but you’d never know—until your third margarita.”

From left to right: Ben Oakes, the general manager of Ghost Donkey; Tequila Ocho Añejo ‘Widow Jane Barrel Select’ 2024. Photo credit: Tequila Ocho.
From left to right: Ben Oakes, the general manager of Ghost Donkey (photo courtesy of Ben Oakes), and Tequila Ocho Añejo Barrel Select Widow Jane 2024 (photo courtesy of Tequila Ocho).

Tequila Ocho Añejo Barrel Select Widow Jane 2024, Arandas, Mexico; $15 per serve

Selected by Ben Oakes, general manager, Ghost Donkey, Denver, Colorado

The original Ghost Donkey bar opened in New York City in 2016 and it quickly racked up awards. It has since shuttered, but Ghost Donkey and its well-curated selection of tequilas, mezcals, and other spirits lives on in Denver and four other locations. “Most of the staff favorites and higher-end products are additive-free, simply because they offer a more interesting drinking experience,” says Ben Oakes, the general manager of Ghost Donkey Denver. “I am much more likely to suggest adding an additive-free tequila to our menu, because they are typically more unique and expressive. Additives typically remove any sense of terroir or production method from the final product.”

This year, Oakes is particularly excited about Tequila Ocho Añejo Barrel Select Widow Jane. It’s the second collaboration, and the first añejo, between Tequila Ocho and the Brooklyn-based Widow Jane Distillery. The limited release uses a base of single-estate, single-field tequila distilled in 2022 that was then aged for 12 months at the Tequila Ocho distillery in Arandas, Jalisco, in ex-bourbon barrels from Widow Jane. The 48% ABV tequila has more barrel notes than the flagship añejos from Tequila Ocho, but retains the agave-first flavor profile the brand is known for.

Kip Moffitt and Amatiteña
From left to right: Kip Moffitt, the head bartender of Superbueno (photo by Justin Sission), and Amatiteña Blanco ‘Origen’ (photo courtesy of Amatiteña)

Amatiteña Blanco ‘Origen’, Amatitán, Mexico; $22 per serve

Selected by Kip Moffitt, head bartender, Superbueno, New York City

Led by Ignacio “Nacho” Jimenez, who previously opened New York City’s Ghost Donkey and Saxon & Parole, Superbueno is guided by Mexican ingredients in everything from the cocktails to the food. “We’re focused on quality and taste and at the same time on producers we know that are respecting the traditions of tequila, and often highlighting ones that give back to their own communities,” says Superbueno head bartender Kip Moffitt. “Currently half of our selection is smaller and family-owned brands with no additives, and we’re able to educate guests on this when asked.”

Amatiteña is a particular favorite of Moffitt’s at the moment. “I really love how full and diverse the flavor profiles are across their line, especially their Blanco Origen,” he says. At 49% ABV, the blanco drinks well neat or over ice. “The agave being cooked with mesquite wood instead of steam adds so much depth and character, highlighting herbal and cooked fruit notes followed by impressive minerality.”

From left to right: TJ Pingitore, the senior vice president of growth and development of Meximodo; G4 Madera Reposado ‘Dia de los Muertos’ Edition. Photo credit: Le Malt.
From left to right: TJ Pingitore, the senior vice president of growth and development of Meximodo (photo courtesy of LeMalt), and G4 Madera Reposado ‘Dia de los Muertos’ Edition (photo courtesy of G4).

G4 Madera Reposado ‘Dia de los Muertos’ Edition, Jesús María, Mexico; $99 per serve

Selected by TJ Pingitore, senior vice president of growth and development, Meximodo, Metuchen, New Jersey

Meximodo is a new bar and restaurant with more than 1,000 bottles of tequila, mezcal, and other agave spirits from large producers to hard-to-find artisanal brands. It also has exclusive access to certain bottlings. There’s no shortage to choose from, with what Meximodo claims to be the largest agave spirits in a single location in the world. When deciding which bottles to add to its library, whether a tequila is additive free factors highly. The additive-free options are often promoted by the staff when tequila enthusiasts are sampling various picks in a flight.

Fortaleza Blanco, Tequila Ocho Añejo, and G4 de Madera Reposado are a few that won our hearts at the start,” says TJ Pingitore, the senior vice president of growth and development at Meximodo, though seemingly every day “another one pops in [that] we love, so we just keep adding.” The G4 de Madera Reposado is particularly special. The limited 6,000-bottle release is aged for seven months in old Dickel whiskey barrels for sweet barrel notes that compliment the natural roasted agave, white pepper, and spice.

From left to right: Victoria Garcia, the spirits specialist of Pogo’s Wine & Spirits; Volans Still Strength Blanco. Photo credit: Victoria Garcia.
From left to right: Victoria Garcia, the spirits specialist of Pogo’s Wine & Spirits (photo courtesy of Victoria Garcia), and Volans Still Strength Blanco.

Volans Still Strength Blanco, Jesús María, Mexico; $89.99 per 750-ml bottle

Selected by Victoria Garcia, spirits specialist, Pogo’s Wine & Spirits, Dallas 

Victoria Garcia, the spirits specialist at Pogo’s Wine & Spirits, and her colleague, spirits buyer Simon Taylor, have worked in the craft spirits space for seven years with a heavy focus on agave and Mexican spirits, and, when it comes to tequila, it’s always about the additive-free expressions. Her great-grandfather smuggled sotol and mezcal from Chihuahua to Texas during U.S. Prohibition, and Garcia credits her passion for traditionally made spirits to him. 

“Unless there’s a huge demand for it, we will not bring in any tequilas with additives or that don’t come from a reputable distillery,” Garcia says. She has seen interest rise from about one in 10 customers asking for additive-free options to one in four in recent years. 

Volans Still Strength Blanco is a 53% ABV tequila that uses only the sweetest parts of the agave, cooked in a stone oven. Production is guided by famed master distiller Felipe Camarena, with a custom crusher and tahona developed by Camarena, as well as a proprietary yeast strain, which has been in his family for generations.

Justin Beam and Fortaleza
Justin Beam, the director of operations at Mexican Sugar (photo courtesy of Justin Beam), and Fortaleza Barrel Select Añejo (photo courtesy of Fortaleza).

Fortaleza Barrel Select Añejo, Tequila Valley, Mexico; $30 per serve

Selected by Justin Beam, director of operations, Mexican Sugar, Dallas 

The Dallas bar Mexican Sugar has an extensive tequila selection that prioritizes sustainable, inclusive, women-led, bat-friendly, and additive-free spirits. Guests can search through its “Agave Library” using Mexican Sugar’s spin on the Dewey Decimal System, to catalog all of the tequilas, mezcals, and sotols. Each bottle they “check out” comes with insights from the distiller and tasting notes from past guests. This opens the door for what director of operations Justin Beam describes as “lively discussions and discovery sessions” about each tequila.

“Fortaleza is an additive-free tequila that we just can’t keep in stock,” Beam says. “Like the run on collector bourbons, the same is happening with hard-to-find tequilas.” Mexican Sugar recently started working with Fortaleza on a barrel-select program that will keep the brand on hand at the bar and provide a unique expression for tequila fans.

From left to right: JJ ZIemke, the general manager of Pancho & Jane; Lalo Tequila Blanco, Arandas. Photo credit: JJ Ziemke.
From left to right: JJ ZIemke, the general manager of Pancho & Jane (photo courtesy of JJ Ziemke), and Lalo Tequila Blanco.

Lalo Tequila Blanco, Arandas, Mexico; $10 per serve

Selected by J.J. Ziemke, general manager, Pancho & Jane, Golden, Colorado 

Pancho & Jane, a bar and taqueria in Golden, Colorado, opening in May, will offer 30 to 40 tequilas with an emphasis on additive-free options alongside more familiar brands. “Tequila is still the top growing spirit in Colorado, and with that growth I think people are wanting to explore more traditional and natural tasting styles,” says general manager J.J. Ziemke.

Lalo is the additive-free tequila Ziemke is most excited about right now. The brand uses only ripe agave from the Highlands, Champagne yeast, and deep well water. It’s led by Eduardo González, a third-generation tequila maker, and named after his father Eduardo “Lalo” González, the son of Don Julio González. The brand focuses solely on its blanco tequila. “Their story is great and comes from a long tradition of tequila making in Mexico,” Ziemke says. “To me it is a blanco tequila at its purest form and is very approachable and clean tasting.”

From left to right: Terrence Tompkins, the COO of Downtown Spirits; Tequila Ocho Plata. Photo credit: Terrence Tompkins.
From left to right: Terrence Tompkins, the COO of Downtown Spirits (photo courtesy of Terrence Tompkins), and Tequila Ocho Plata.

Tequila Ocho Plata, Arandas, Mexico; $49.99 per 750-ml bottle

Selected by Terrence Tompkins, COO, Downtown Spirits, Seattle

Tequila is the second largest spirits category, after whiskey, at Downtown Spirits. It carries at least 120 tequila options, and typically at least 20 of those are additive-free depending on what is available on the market. While Terrance Tompkins, the COO, has noticed a growing number of quality additive-free brands rise since he started in the industry, “the recent popularity in mezcal has made selling additive-free tequila much more straightforward,” he says. “Even though both are distinctly different spirits, they strive for the greatest expressions of an agave plant, and that appeals to the same type of customer.”

The bottle that Tompkins finds himself returning to time and time again, both for himself and as a recommendation, is Tequila Ocho Plata. Led by fifth-generation agave farmer and third-generation tequilero Carlos Camarena, Tequila Ocho was cofounded by the late tequila ambassador Tomas Estes. The brand focuses on single-farm tequilas that highlight specific growing areas and vintages, making each release a time capsule. “As a rule throughout my career in alcohol, people who know the land and the plants growing on it always make a much better product than anyone else,” Tompkins says. “It’s as good and pure of an expression of tequila as it gets.”


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Nickolaus Hines is a journalist who writes about beer, spirits, food, and travel. He’s the food and drinks editor at Matador Network and has written about drinks for, Men’s Health, October, Hop Culture, Supercall, and VinePair.

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