An early version of the Tequila Sunrise made an appearance at the Agua Caliente racetrack, hotel, and casino complex of Tijuana in the 1930s, where it was marketed as an alleged hangover cure — hence the “hair of the dog” implication of calling a drink a “sunrise.” This iteration, though, was actually a riff on the Daisy, and contained tequila, lime juice, crème de cassis, grenadine, and soda.
The modern version we know today was created by Bobby Lozoff in the 1970s at The Trident in Sausalito, Calif., and shares only two ingredients with the original spec. After Lozoff famously served his Tequila Sunrise to Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones in 1972, the band helped to popularize the cocktail, making it the semi-official drink of their North American tour that year.
Lozoff’s Tequila Sunrise employs tequila and grenadine, along with a splash of gin and a generous pour of orange juice. Thanks to either an eye for art or someone’s forgetfulness, combining the ingredients without mixing creates a color gradient, resembling a beautiful sunrise.
No, you should not stir a Tequila Sunrise. Grenadine is heavier than tequila and orange juice, meaning it sinks to the bottom of the glass, causing the cocktail to resemble the gradient color of a sunrise. If the drink is stirred, the flavor will still be the same, but you’ll lose the beautiful colors that give the Tequila Sunrise its name.
Is a Tequila Sunrise sweet?
With grenadine and orange juice key to the mix, the Tequila Sunrise is a sweet cocktail.
What’s in a Tequila Sunrise?
A Tequila Sunrise is made of tequila, orange juice, and grenadine.
Referencing alcohol in songs is a practice almost as old as music itself. From Snoop Dogg’s “Gin N Juice” to the classic “Piña Colada Song,” boozy lyrics and titles have long been tied to myriad famous brands and drinks. But few beverages have inspired the music world as much as the rock ‘n’ roll favorite Tequila Sunrise.
The Tequila Sunrise cocktail — which combines orange juice, Grenadine, and tequila — influenced pop culture so much in the early ‘70s that it is often credited with the popularization of tequila in the U.S.
Before the Rolling Stones and the Eagles discovered the drink, tequila was already becoming a hit in California, as Mexican influences shook up the West Coast bar scene. But in 1972, the former band’s discovery of the citrus-forward beverage would lead to tequila’s nationwide popularity.
After a tough day on tour in June of 1972, when the Rolling Stones needed a place to unwind, promoter Bill Graham took the band to the Trident in Sausalito, Calif. There, the band tried their first Tequila Sunrises, and everything changed.
“Mick and Keith walked up to the bar and said, ‘Can we have a Margarita?’” Bobby Lozoff, who worked as a bartender at the Trident at the time, said in an interview with KTVU. “I said, ‘Have you ever tried this drink, Tequila Sunrise?’” Lozoff had been experimenting with new tequila recipes after the bar installed a juicer, and so he mixed up a beverage for the band members made with Cuervo, OJ, and Grenadine — a combination that the Stones would recreate countless times on their “Cocaine and Tequila Sunrise Tour.” “Not only did they love the taste, it was easy to make,” Lozoff added.
The drink soon became a worldwide phenomenon — no doubt in part due to the tour’s name — bringing tequila to the forefront of popular culture. In fact, according to a 1976 Time Magazine article, the spirit’s annual sales grew 400 percent between 1971 and 1976 in the U.S.
Of course, the Stones were not the only band inspired by the drink. On their 1973 album “Desperado,” the Eagles released the hit “Tequila Sunrise,” which climbed onto the Billboard Hot 100 that same year. Though named after the drink, the song actually describes a night of heavy tequila consumption to numb the pain of a breakup, which lasts until the sun rises. The play on words was not lost on drinks lovers, as the Tequila Sunrise cocktail is built without being mixed, creating a gradient effect that resembles an actual sunrise.
From there, references to tequila popped up all over the music scene. Jimmy Buffets’s 1977 “Margaritaville” describes a tropical tequila-fueled paradise, while Steely Dan’s “Hey Nineteen,” recorded in 1978, implores Cuervo Colombian Gold to “make tonight a wonderful thing.”