Nothing says summer quite the way tequila cocktails do. The agave-based spirit has re-established itself in recent years, resulting in bold and creative new concoctions. These refreshing cocktails have taken tequila from the shot glass to the craft bartender’s bar. Its ability to mix well with a spectrum of flavors, from citrus to smokey and savory to spicy, quickly made it a favorite among bartenders. Tequila cocktails are now a mainstay on most bar menus beyond the classic Margarita. For the home bartender, cocktails with tequila are ideal for summer, and many don’t require intricate techniques or unusual ingredients.
What is Tequila?
Tequila is an exclusive product of Mexico, and much like Bourbon and Scotch, it has laws dictating how it’s produced and where. There are four types of tequila, each determined by the aging process.
Blanco (“white”) or plata (“silver”) – Is clear and the least aged, most often bottled immediately after distillation. Reposado (“rested”) – Is light gold in color and is aged for a minimum of two months, but no more than a year in oak barrels of any size. Añejo (“aged”) – Is golden in color and is aged for at least one year but no more than three in small oak barrels. Extra Añejo (“extra aged”) – Is golden in color and is aged for a minimum of three years in oak barrels. This category was established in 2006.
With 100% agave tequilas, blanco expresses the most intense flavors of the agave plant, while reposado and añejo are smoother and less complex. Like other spirits aged in casks, they take on flavors of the wood, mellowing over time.
Flavor is also affected based on where the plant is grown. Agaves harvested in valley regions having more floral and herbaceous notes; whereas agaves harvested in the highlands are larger and have a sweeter profile.
The agave spirit’s recent impact on the industry has resulted in bold and creative new concoctions. These innovative cocktails have challenged the common misconception that tequila was no better than shot glass worthy. Tequila’s ability to mix well with a spectrum of flavors from citrus to smokey and savory to spicy quickly made it a favorite among bartenders. Its versatility is shown in this selection of cocktails; explore our whole spectrum of tequila cocktails here.
1. Tequila Corpse Reviver
The original Corpse Reviver was named for its seeming ability to cure a hangover. Now it has many variations. The Tequila Corpse Reviver is made with tequila, blanco vermouth, orange liqueur, absinthe, lime juice, and orange juice for a refreshing cocktail that might not cure a hangover but tastes delicious.
This Prohibition-era cocktail was discovered in Mexico City in 1939. It’s refreshing and balanced with tequila, lime juice, grenadine, bitters, and soda water, similar to a Paloma. Don’t expect something overly sweet – the grenadine adds more color than sweetness.
Unlike many martini variations, the tequila martini is definitely inspired by the classic. The shaken combination of tequila, bianco vermouth, lemon juice, and orange bitters is a refreshing tequila cocktail you can drink all summer.
A favorite of Mick Jagger, the Tequila Sunrise has been a summer cocktail since the 1970s. The combination of tequila, orange juice, and grenadine creates a layered sunrise effect that is as pretty as refreshing.
One of the most low-maintenance tequila cocktails, Ranch Water, combines the agave spirit with lime juice and soda water over ice. Perfect for pouring to personal taste, it is known for its thirst-quenching qualities, ideal for combating bone-dry Texas heat.
The Paloma is a tall glass of perfectly balanced citrus, sour, and sweet flavors. It combines grapefruit juice, lime juice, tequila, topped with soda water over ice. It’s a low-proof cocktail that’s great for staying refreshed in the heat of a summer afternoon.
This widely popular variation on the classic adds the perfect kick for those looking to add a little spiciness in their Margarita. It has all the same great sweet-sour flavors of the original with the added heat of jalapeño, creating the ultimate trifecta of flavors in one glass.
The keys to making a great Tommy’s Margarita are freshly squeezed lime juice, agave syrup instead of simple syrup, and a quality tequila. Tommy’s version changed the world’s view of what a Margarita could be, which was a less sugary non-frozen mixed drink that showcased the tequila instead of covering it up.
The Oaxaca Old Fashioned, a riff on the classic Old Fashioned, combines three agave elements. It mixes smooth reposado tequila with smokey mezcal and softens the smokiness from the mezcal with the addition of agave syrup. This agave-based cocktail helped launch the mezcal craze in the United States and fueled the tequila renaissance.
The Mexican Boulevardier offers an exciting and spirit forward alternative to the other typically citrus heavy tequila cocktails. It’s a variation on the classic Boulevardier, swapping out the original’s bourbon-base for the agave spirit. It can also be considered a tequila-based Negroni.
Aperol makes a splash in this brilliantly hued riff on the classic Margarita. Its flavor is slightly bitter and more herbaceous compared to the average citrus-forward tequila cocktails. The decision to salt or not to salt the rim is entirely up to you.
Contrary to first impressions of the White Dragon, it is not a riff on the Margarita but rather a tequila variation on the classic White Lady. The White Dragon swaps out gin for the agave spirit and mixes it with orange liqueur, lemon juice, and egg white. Its flavor is silky smooth and refreshingly zesty.
The Latin Trifecta creates the perfect marriage of ingredients from Spain, Italy, and Mexico. Combining tequila, Cynar, and dry sherry. This trio creates a flavor profile unlike the average tequila cocktail: intensely bittersweet and savory flavor.