Tequila, distilled from the nectar of the blue agave plant, is a complex spirit, and different brands can be varying degrees of spicy, sweet, and vegetal. As a tequila ages, it also picks up notes of baking spice, vanilla, and caramel. As a result, there is a broad range of mixers that can complement and enhance its multifaceted personality.
We polled the opinionated VinePair staff to assemble this list, with mixers that range from traditional to unconventional. Any are worth trying next time you’re in the mood to mix up a tequila cocktail — or, for those of you who prefer your tequila served neat or as a shot, feel free to use this list as a possible inspiration for accompaniments or chasers, rather than mixers.
A word on value: Since agave plants take years to reach a harvestable state, even entry-level tequilas can often be pricier than comparable spirits, and reposado or añejo expressions even more so. For value brands offering the best bang for your buck, check out our guide to the best affordable tequilas. Below are seven of the best tequila mixers.
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Whether juiced in a Margarita or eaten after taking a shot, lime is a classic companion for tequila. Lime offers a burst of sour citrus that can offset even the youngest tequila’s fiery booziness, and provides a lingering sweetness that plays off the more subtle flavors of older tequilas. A good añejo needs nothing more than a squeeze of lime and a large ice cube to become the perfect slow sipper.
By turns tart, bitter, and sweet, grapefruit is the perfect foil to a drier silver tequila like Bribon Blanco. The classic Paloma cocktail is traditionally made with grapefruit soda, but some freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and seltzer will make for an equally refreshing long drink. (Be sure to include that pinch of salt — it tricks our brain into ignoring grapefruit’s pithy bitterness, while amping up its sweetness.)
In addition to all those refreshing bubbles, club soda’s mineral content helps balance out tequila’s natural sweetness, and allows its more vegetal flavors to shine. Jarritos Mineragua is a good entry point, as it’s very fizzy, with a slight hint of salt, while Topo Chico ups the mineral content noticeably, creating a salty-sweet essence that’s similar to a salted Margarita rim. All you need is a spritz of lime for some additional acidity, and you’ve got a simple, satisfying Highball.
A bit of jalapeño adds an undeniable kick to any tequila drink, but it also offers pleasant vegetal flavor and sweetness that plays well with similar notes in tequila. For a spicy tequila riff on the classic Old Fashioned, muddle a few slices of jalapeño with some sugar and lime before adding an aged tequila. Or, for an easy home bar project, steep one to two halved or sliced jalapeños with a bottle of blanco tequila for 12 hours, and strain. Your jalapeõ infusion is ready to add spicy complexity to your next Margarita, and will keep at room temperature for up to 6 months.
Tomato juice is the ultimate savory pairing to tequila. Salty and rich, it eases a young tequila’s bite, while the spirit’s underlying sweetness balances tomato’s natural acidity. Mix up a Bloody Maria for your next brunch, choosing a tequila like Arrette Blanco, which has notes of green pepper, a nightshade cousin of the tomato.
Or for something much simpler, follow a shot of tequila with a tomato juice chaser. We can’t guarantee that tomato juice’s numerous antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals will stave off a hangover, but it certainly can’t hurt.
It’s not just for sunburns. Aloe vera, like blue agave, is a succulent that thrives in arid conditions and whose nectar has long been used culinarily. Bottled aloe juice (also labeled “aloe water”), once found only in specialty or health food stores, has become more mainstream in the United States — with sweetened or even flavored versions available in most supermarkets — and would be the perfect mixer to temper to a peppery blanco tequila like Cuervo Tradicional, which already exhibits aloe notes of its own. For an extra dose of aloe, mix in some Chareau, an award-winning aloe liqueur made in California.
Get maximum tropical flavor with minimum heaviness. Coconut water’s subtle toastiness can pair particularly well with Espolòn Resposado’s baking spice and salted caramel notes, while its fresh sweetness is the perfect counterpart to a peppery blanco tequila.
As one VinePair staffer put it, a mixture of coconut water, lime, and silver tequila is a simple drink but packs all the flavor of a cocktail — “that someone would charge you $17 [for] at a rooftop bar.”
Bonus: Crème de Violette
Admittedly not a particularly common or versatile ingredient, anyone who’s ever bought an entire bottle of crème de violette to make the classic Aviation cocktail can understand the desire to find something — anything! — to mix with this fragrant purple liqueur. Luckily, a tequila like Milagro Silver offers the right level of floral character to pair remarkably well with crème de violette, while an older tequila’s typical vanilla and baking spice notes can ease the liqueur’s otherwise cloying sweetness. Just remember: A little bit goes a long way, unless you want your drink to taste like the perfume counter at Bloomingdale’s.