Tequila has re-established itself in recent years with many regarding it as highly as Scotch and whiskeys, worthy of sipping. Tequila cocktails are now a mainstay on most bar menus beyond the classic Margarita. High-quality tequilas, with the help of celebrity backing and endorsements, have shed the agave spirit’s rapscallion reputation of yore.
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. Ranch Water
Let’s begin with perhaps the most low maintenance tequila cocktail, Ranch Water. This no frills cocktail simply combines the agave spirit with lime juice and soda water over ice. This uncomplicated formula makes it perfect for pouring to personal taste. It is known for its thirst quenching qualities that are ideal for combating bone-dry Texas heat and has since become synonymous with the Lone Star State.
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 Romance-language speaking countries. It mixes elements from Spain, Italy, and Mexico; combining tequila, Cynar, and dry sherry. This trio creates a mixed drink whose flavors are not in most tequila cocktails, with intensely bittersweet and savory combined.