Did someone say tequila? This Mexican favourite has long been enjoyed as a good-time drink around the world, but with the variety of quality tequila-based tipples that have made it to our shores in recent years, gone are the days when all it was good for was a quick shot followed by a sour slice of lemon and a nasty headache the next day.
As summer approaches, we can’t think of anything more appealing than the prospect of sipping a tequila cocktail outside in the garden on a summer’s night, or lounging on the beach as the sun goes down and enjoying the first drink of the evening and the last of the day in one. Tequila is experiencing a rebirth, and these days it’s the spirit of choice when it comes to some of the classiest new cocktails on the block. You only have to head to one of London’s trendiest bars to see it in full flow, slowly but surely beginning to overtake gin in the popularity stakes and enjoying a more sophisticated revamp of its former image.
The best thing about tequila is, there’s something for everyone, and we’re no longer limited to cheap gold tequila filled with various additives. A quality tequila will make all the difference when it comes to those dreamy summer cocktails – but how do you make sure you’ve got the best tequila to work with?
Choosing the best tequila for your cocktails
Fancy yourself as a tequila connoisseur? Quality over quantity is the first step, so ensure you know your good tequilas from your bad.
Look for the words ‘100% Blue Weber Agave’ on the label, as these are the words that promise a smooth and great tasting tequila – without the painful hangover the next day.
All tequilas are categorized into three groups: blanco (also called silver tequila), reposado (aged between two and nine months), and añejo (aged for a year or longer). When buying tequila, you’ll find that there’s a great variation in price; some decent bottles can be found for about $20, while those of higher-quality can cost from $50-$100. As with most things, you get what you pay for – so invest a little extra for a drink that won’t disappoint.
There’s a blanco, reposado, and añejo tequila from almost every brand. Usually, the blanco variety is priced the lowest, while the añejo and reposado are often $5-$10 more expensive.
When it comes to mixing tequila in cocktails, you can go with almost any variety (except for those cheap gold ones we mentioned before). However, as a rule of thumb, when the recipe calls for fewer ingredients (say, no more than three), it’s recommended that you opt for higher-quality tequila. To stay on the safe side, pick tequilas with prices within the range of $20-$50 or more.
6 of the most extravagant cocktails with tequila
Although the origin of this cocktail is still debated, it’s widely thought to have come from Mexico. Fresh and zingy, it has sunny summer days and joyful times written all over it. One sip and you’ll be transported to Cancun listening to mariachi music – summer vibes at their best.
1 part tequila
½ part lime juice
½ part Triple sec liqueur
1 lime wedge
Fill your glass with ice to chill. Place all ingredients, along with a lot of ice, in a shaker. Shake for about half a minute to make sure the mix is well chilled. Run the lime wedge around the outside rim of the glass, then roll the rim in salt. Strain the liquid into the glass. Stir and enjoy.
With its bright colours and summery ingredients (tequila, orange juice, and grenadine), this cocktail justifies the word ‘sunrise’ in its name.
Created in Sausalito, California, this simple classic is notorious for its rock n roll background – The Rolling Stones are said to have got through their 1972 tour on plenty of Tequila Sunrises and The Eagles even wrote a song named after it.
2 oz. tequila
1⁄4 oz. grenadine
4 oz. fresh orange juice
cherry and an orange slice for garnish
Combine the tequila and the orange juice in a pre-chilled glass. Carefully add the grenadine on top to make it float. Serve unmixed to preserve the colour of each layer. Garnish with the cherry and orange slice.
Did you know that the most beloved cocktail in Mexico is actually the Paloma? Mexicans top this simple and refreshing concoction with fizzy grapefruit-flavoured drink, but you can use club soda instead.
¼ cup tequila
¼ cup fresh grapefruit juice
¼ cup fizzy grapefruit drink or club soda
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 grapefruit wedge
1 teaspoon sugar
Rub half of the rim of a glass with the grapefruit wedge. Pour some salt on a plate and dip the rim in it. Combine the sugar, lime juice, and grapefruit juice in the glass, then stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the tequila and ice, then top with club soda. Garnish with the grapefruit wedge, and serve!
Tequila Bloody Mary
Also called Mexican Bloody Maria, this concoction is a super-fun twist on the good old classic. It’s very similar to the original which is based on vodka combined with Worcestershire sauce, tomato sauce, hot sauce, and spices, only here we use tequila for an extra kick and pepperiness. Also, this version is missing the horseradish – but that doesn’t make it any less delicious.
Note: Besides the pickled chilies and lime wedge given in the recipe, you can use different garnishes such as olives, pickle spears, celery stalks, grilled cheese, etc.
5 oz. tequila (preferably blanco)
2 oz. tomato juice
1 lemon wedge
1 lime wedge
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 pinch smoked paprika
1 pinch celery salt
1 pinch black pepper
pickled chilies and a lime wedge for garnish
Rim a tall glass with smoked paprika and celery salt, then fill it with ice. Combine the tequila, tomato Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, juice from the lime wedge, juice from the lemon wedge, smoked paprika, celery salt, and black pepper in a cocktail shaker. Shake well, then pour into the glass. Garnish and enjoy.
The El Niño
There are so many different recipes of the El Niño but this version made with tequila, syrup, and muddled fruit is definitely the best summer refreshment we can think of. This recipe calls for strawberries, but if they aren’t in season, try different fruit combos. However, don’t forget to add a citrus fruit in order to balance out the tequila.
2 oz. tequila blanco
3/4 oz. simple syrup
5 drops rose water
6 wedges of lime
Fill a tall glass with ice. Muddle the strawberry, lime, and syrup in a mixing glass. Add tequila, rose water, and ice, then shake. Strain into the glass and serve.
The Tequila Sour
You thought sours were just for whiskey? Think again. Using tequila will allow you to create a light, tart, and absolutely refreshing cocktail which is perfect for sipping by the pool.
Note: For extra foam, use a teaspoon of egg white when you shake the mixture.
2 oz. tequila (preferably reposado)
1 oz. lemon juice
1 teaspoon simple syrup
splash of Angostura orange bitters
orange wedge for garnish
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add all the ingredients except for the orange wedge. Shake well, then strain into a tall glass filled with ice. Garnish with the orange wedge.