Jose Cuervo Tequila: Brand Guide

By: Michael Prentice

Jose Cuervo Logo
  • Founded: 1795
  • Owner: Becle (sometimes known as Grupo Cuervo)
  • US Distributor: Proximo Spirits (owned by Becle)
  • Owner headquarters: Mexico City, Mexico
  • Cases sold in 2022: 9.2 million
  • Bottles sold: 110 million
  • Value of retail sales 2022: US$1,760M
  • Norma Oficial Mexican (NOM): NOM-1104, NOM-1122
  • Distillery: La Rojeña, Tequila, Jalisco
  • Region: Lowlands

Jose Cuervo is the number one selling tequila brand worldwide by volume ahead of Patrón. However it is the number three brand by sales value, behind Patrón and Don Julio. It is also the oldest brand of tequila and is still owned by descendants of the founder. Its cheap Jose Cuervo Gold mixto tequila is many people’s first introduction to tequila (and also the reason many swear off it!). However they also produce a much finer range Reserva de la Familia. Read on to discover more about the OG tequila brand.

Jose Cuervo tequila sales have grown strongly over recent years to 9.2 million cases in 2022. A case is made up of 12 bottles. This represents a growth rate of 15.9% over 2021. This is very impressive for such a large, well-established brand. Jose Cuervo has a tequila market share of about 19.7%.

Chart with sales volumes for Jose Cuervo tequila
Sales of Jose Cuervo have accelerated in recent years.

Jose Cuervo Brand History

El Jefe. The Original. Almost one in five bottles of tequila around the world are Jose Cuervo. Jose Cuervo is the oldest brand of tequila in the world. It traces its heritage back to 1758 when Jose Antonio de Cuervo y Valdés, was given a writ of land ownership to plant agave to produce tequila by the King of Spain, King Fernand VI. On 27 May 1795, the second generation Jose Maria Guadalupe Cuervo y Montana was issued the first royal license to produce tequila. The tequila was marketed under the name Vino Mezcal de Tequila de Jose Cuervo.

The distillery where Jose Cuervo is still produced, La Rojeña, was founded in 1812 and is the oldest active distillery in Latin America. Jose Cuervo was the first tequila brand to bottle tequila individually. Jose Cuervo barrels were first exported to the USA in 1852. In 1880 it was the first to bottle tequila in glass bottles. Jose Cuervo as a brand was established in 1900.

In 1945 it was Jose Cuervo that was used in the original recipe for the margarita.

The brand is now owned by the Becle company, which is run by the Beckmann family, the 11th generation of the original Jose Cuervo. Becle is also the largest selling tequila company worldwide.

In 1989 the Beckmann family sold 45% of Jose Cuervo to Grand Metropolitan. In 1997 Grand Metropolitan merged with Guinness to become Diageo. From 2011 Diageo tried to buy Jose Cuervo for over US$3 billion but was not successful.

Jose Cuervo Product Range

Jose Curvo has a large range of varieties under its label, which generally fall into three classes. There is the budget mixto range of tequilas, Jose Cuervo Especial. The middle of the group, Jose Cuervo Tradicional. And the super premium Reserva de La Familia.

Jose Cuervo Especial

Jose Cuervo Especial is the number one selling tequila brand in the world. Jose Cuervo Especial is the entry level, mixto range. A mixto contains less than 100% agave but is still called tequila so long as it is made from at least 51% agave.

Jose Cuervo Especial is made using acid thermal hydrolysis and a diffuser with a column still. This modern, highly efficient, technique producing tequila with minimal agave flavors remaining. Additives are used to make the tequila more palatable.

  • Jose Cuervo Especial Silver
    • Blanco (unaged)
    • Mixto
    • #1 selling tequila in the world
    • 40% ABV in the US
  • Jose Cuervo Especial Gold
    • Joven (blend of aged and unaged tequila)
    • Mixto
    • #2 selling tequila in the world
    • 40% ABV in the US
  • Jose Cuervo Especial Reposado (outside US)
    • Reposado aged at least two months
    • Bottle looks the same as Jose Cuervo Especial Gold
    • Mixto
    • 35% ABV in Mexico, 40% in other markets
Bottles of Jose Cuervo Especial

Jose Cuervo Tradicional

Jose Cuervo Traditional is the more premium line, made from 100% agave. Tradicional Plata and Reposado are made using the same process as Especial (diffuser and column stills). The Añejo is made using more traditional production methods by baking agave in clay ovens.

  • Jose Cuervo Tradicional Plata
    • Blanco (unaged)
    • 100% agave
    • 40% ABV, 38% in Mexico
  • Jose Cuervo Traditional Reposado
    • Reposado, aged in American oak at least two months
    • 100% agave
    • 40% ABV, 38% in Mexico
  • Jose Cuervo Tradicional Añejo
    • Añejo, aged in new American oak at least 12 months, finished in Irish single malt whiskey barrels
    • 100% agave
    • 40% ABV
  • Jose Cuervo Tradicional Cristalino Reposado
    • Combines Tradicional Reposado and Reserva de la Familia Extra Añejo, then charcoal filtered
    • 100% agave
    • 40% ABV, 35% in Mexico
Bottles of Jose Cuervo Tradicional Plata and Especial Silver tequila

Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia

Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia is the top range tequila of Jose Cuervo. It is made from 100% agave using traditional ovens and copper pot distilation. Tequila made in this way carries more agave qualities compared to a difussor. The Reserva line is made with organic agaves.

The extra añejo was the world’s first extra añejo.

  • Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia Platino
    • Blanco (unaged)
    • 100% agave
    • 40% ABV
  • Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia Reposado
    • Reposado, made with a blend of American oak with two toasting profiles and French oak for at least two months
    • 100% agave
    • 40% ABV
  • Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia Extra Añejo
    • Añejo, aged in new American oak at least three years
    • 100% agave
    • 40% ABV
  • Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia Cristalino Añejo
    • Aged in American oak, finished in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks, then charcoal filtered
    • 100% agave
    • 40% ABV, 35% in Mexico

Other Jose Cuervo Releases

Jose Cuervo 250 Aniversario

  • Extra añejo, 100% agave
  • A blend of tequilas all aged at least three years
  • Blend of new French and American oak barrels finished in Spanish sherry casks

Jose Cuervo Black Medallion

  • Jose Cuervo Black Medallion is discontinued but can still be found at some liquor stockists
  • Añejo, aged in charred oak barrels (and likely with a healthy dose of caramel coloring)
  • 100% agave

Jose Cuervo Ready to Drink and Mixers

Jose Cuervo also produces a range of ready to drink tequila mixes, pre-made margarita, and margarita mix.

Jose Cuervo 250 tequila bottle

Jose Cuervo Price Guide

How Much is a Shot of Jose Cuervo at a Bar?

The price of a shot of Jose Cuervo varies due the wide range of its line up. A shot of the cheapest Jose Cuervo costs around $7 while the most expensive (Jose Cuervo 250 Aniversario) costs over $200 per shot.

Jose Cuervo Especial
Jose Cuervo Tradicional
Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia
Extra Añejo$34$80$16
Jose Cuervo 250 Aniversario$267.50$345$175
Price of a shot of Jose Cuervo tequilas at bars across America in 2024

This is based on a review I made of tequila menus from 24 bars and restaurants in different states across the US in January 2024.

A standard shot is 1.5 ounces, but bars can serve 1 to 2 ounce shots which can impact the price of shot of Jose Cuervo tequila.

How Much is a Bottle of Jose Cuervo?

Jose Cuervo has some of the cheapest and the most expensive tequilas on the market. Here is a list of the average price per bottle of Jose Cuervo tequila in the US in 2024.

Jose Cuervo Especial
Jose Cuervo Tradicional
Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia
Extra Añejo$186
Jose Cuervo Black Medallion$69
Jose Cuervo 250 Aniversario$2,362
Price of a bottle of Jose Cuervo tequilas in America in 2024

Further Questions About Jose Cuervo Tequila

Who owns Jose Cuervo tequila?

Jose Cuervo is owned by Becle of Mexico. Becle is sometimes referred to as Cuervo Group or Casa Cuervo. The group sells more tequila than any other company.

Does Jose Cuervo tequila have additives?

Yes Jose Cuervo tequila has additives. Aged expressions are likely to have more additives than the blanco. Additives include caramel coloring, glycerine, sweetener and oak extract.

Where is Jose Cuervo tequila made?

Jose Cuervo tequila is made at NOM-1122 at La Rojeña Distillery by Casa Cuervo in the town of Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico.

What Jose Cuervo tequila is the best?

Jose Cuervo 250 Anniversario extra añejo is the best Jose Cuervo tequila, with the highest ratings and the highest price.

What type of tequila is Jose Cuervo?

Jose Cuervo makes both mixtos and 100% agave tequilas. There are several different levels, the most affordable and most common is Jose Cuervo Especial. This is made with a diffuser using acid thermal hydrolysis. The process is very efficient but removes most of the agave flavor. Additives are used to add flavor back. Jose Cuervo makes every kind of tequila there is: blanco, reposado, joven, añejo and extra añejo tequilas, including cristalino. They also make flavored tequila.

Does Jose Cuervo tequila go off?

An unopened bottle of Jose Cuervo tequila will never go off, provided it is stored away from direct sunlight and high temperatures. Once opened Jose Cuervo should be drunk within a couple of years.

Is Jose Cuervo tequila gluten free?

Yes, Jose Cuervo tequila is gluten free. Like all tequilas (including mixtos) Jose Cuervo contains no gluten.

Is Jose Cuervo real tequila?

The bottom of the range mixto, Jose Cuervo Especial, stretches the definition of what tequila is. It’s still officially tequila but is made using such industrial processes that it bears little in common with real tequila. Jose Cuervo’s higher range tequilas, Reserva de Familia, are much higher quality.

Is Jose Cuervo tequila Kosher?

Yes, most Jose Cuervo tequila is approved as Kosher. The 250 Anniversaro is not approved Kosher. Jose Cuervo flavored tequilas and margarita mixes may not be Kosher.

What is Jose Cuervo tequila ABV?

All Jose Cuervo tequilas sold in the US are 40% ABV (80 proof). In Mexico they are 35% to 38%. Almost all tequila sold in the US is 40% ABV.

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