Best Triple Sec

Best Triple SecThe best triple sec is one that doesn’t cost a fortune and won’t ruin a good margarita. So, where can you get a great bottle of triple sec that won’t cost you an arm and a leg? Triple sec is basically an orange liqueur which is often a popular compliment to margaritas.   Unfortunately, many of the cheap brands of triple sec I’ve tried do more damage to margaritas than good. Gran Marnier  and Contreau are costlier liqueurs. I’ve never cared for the flavor of Gran Marnier in Margaritas. I think it makes them taste soapy which coincidentally is the same problem with cheaper brands of triple sec. Contreau is a great liqueur which compliments almost any mixed drink, but who can afford it? Surely, there must be a good compromise when it comes to finding a better Triple Sec, right?

Don’t Ruin a Good Marg with a Cheap Triple Sec

I’ve experimented with inexpensive brands of triple sec such as Hiram’s, Finest Call and DeKuyper, but none of them help make a better margarita. In fact they make it worse. I kept wondering why I couldn’t get a good marg even with a good quality, 100% blue agave tequila.  I don’t actually believe in using expensive brands of liquor like tequila for mixed drinks, but there are several good ones that don’t cost an arm and a leg that make infinitely better tasting margaritas. For that reason, I was determined to find the best triple sec at an affordable price.

Stirrings Triple Sec – All Natural

When it comes to getting the most-bang-for-the-buck, Stirrings is the best triple sec I’ve ever tried. Actually what makes Stirrings better is that it has less – less of what makes those cheaper triple sec brands so unappealing. As it’s label implies, Stirrings is all-natural. There is none of that soapy taste that I’ve noticed with cheaper brands. Stirrings is a 100% natural triple sec made from sun-ripened oranges. The moment I opened the bottle,  I could tell Stirrings was far superior to the cheaper brands.

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El Charro Tequila

El Charro TequilaEl Charro Tequila is an extremely affordable Reposado made from 100% agave nectar. I don’t know about you, but when I find a 750 ML bottle of 100% Agava tequila for under $15.00, I buy it right off the shelf with no questions asked. The El Charro Reposado was only $13.98 at my local, Westminster Total Beverage Liquor store, which is a fabulous place, by the way, for discovering affordable brands of tequila. There were a couple of other choices I considered before I spotted the El Charro tequila which was labeled, 100% PURO DE AGAVE.  One of them happened to be my wife’s previous favorite tequila, Epsolon. Epsolon Reposado tequila normally sells for around $20.00, but it was only $17.98 at Westminster Beverage and the shelf was adorned with a very impressive rating of 92 points. I agree with my wife that Epsolon is a decent Tequila for the price, but I’m not sure I agree with the expert rating. Perhaps, it is good marketing and public relations to get these ratings from the so-called tequila snobs.

The shelf holding the El Charro Tequila came with no such rating label, but at $14.00, there is very little risk in trying it. Many times before, I’ve bought inexpensive, 100% Pure Agave tequila and have been very impressed with it. Tres Alegres Blanco and Rancho Alegre (both Silver and Reposado) are a couple of great bargain-priced tequilas that come to mind. These tequilas became a couple of my staple brands for making margaritas. Only two problems: The liquor store stopped carrying the Tres Alegres and I’ve been able to find it elsewhere at an equally low price. And, the Rancho Allegre gave me a headache for some odd reason.  So far, no signs of a headache from El Charro, but is it any good?

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El Zarco Tequila

el zarco tequila reviewI’ll confess that the cool looking bottle at my local liquor store is what conned me into buying and trying a 750ml bottle of El Zarco Tequila (Silver). I went to the liquor store to get a bottle of Taaka Vodka. Being that I already had some Camarena left at the house, I wasn’t really shopping for Tequila. The El Zarco silver tequila comes in a cool-looking, blueish-clear bottle. It is obvious from the print on the bottle that says, “Made with Blue Agave” that El Zarco is not made a 100% Agave tequila. It might also be obvious from the $10.99 price tag if I hadn’t had other good, 100% Agave tequilas in the past like Tres Alegres. Even most persnickety tequila snobs will admit that Tres Alegres is an excellent value. Unfortunately, Tres Alegres is very hard to find.

El Zarco Silver vs Reposado

I bought the Silver bottle of El Zarco thinking it was something different than the unimpressive reposado, Camarena I already had sitting at home. In general, the silver tequilas taste smoky and dry to me where-as the reposados have a sweeter, buttery, more caramel-like flavor. I’m not sure I like mixing a silver tequila with any type of margarita mixes because it might over power the flavor. I prefer the reposado or blancos for making margaritas – but putting a really good tequila into a mixed drink seems like a waste of money to me. There are plenty of partial-agave tequilas that are perfect for making mixed tequila drinks with and any of them that I have ever tried are much better than Jose Cuervo Gold or Silver. Okay, so the silver, El Zarco might be an exception. Since it is not a 100% Agave tequila perhaps, I thought, it might go pretty good in a strong, margarita with real lime juice and only a splash of triple-sec, Cointreau, Gran  Marnier or whatever else any of us might prefer in our margs. I was anxious to taste it by itself to see if I could tell it was not made from 100% agave. The bottle advertisement claims that the El Zarco is double-distilled, making me hopeful that this might be a pretty smooth sipping tequila even if it is a made-for-mixers, partial-agave, silver.

El Zarco Tequila Tasting Notes

From my first sniff of the El Zarco Tequila Silver, I instantly suspected it might have more of an alcohol-burn than the pleasant, smokiness of a good, 100% De Agave, silver tequila. My first taste didn’t prove me wrong. There is some nice smoke and agave flavor once you get past the alcohol burn, but it is clearly inferior to a 100% agave nectar tequila. Though there is a little butteryness to it, the El Zarco tequila just lacks the thickness and cream of the real thing. I decided to put some of the El Zarco into my stainless steel shaker. I squeezed some lime juice and put a couple of lime slices in with the tequila and a few ice cubes; shook and made a martini with it. The result was a decent, not great silver tequila martini. Last, I decided to try El Zarco with a complete, marg using the lime juice and triple sec. The result was a mediocre margarita. El Zarco is an average silver tequila; good, not great – but nothing bad or offensive about it either. I’d certainly try El Zarco reposado for making Margs if I could find a 1.75 liter bottle of it at a sub-$20 price. I’d give El Zarco 3 stars for the price. El Zarco is not so bad that I won’t enjoy drinking it. I would imagine that the bottle of El Zarco will be gone by the time I get around to reviewing my next tequila.