When it comes to tequila, there are two things that Americans basically agree on. First, Margaritas are amazingly delicious. Second, tequila shots will take your night off the rails—for better or for worse.
One thing we may not be so clear on is what else to do with tequila besides body shots and Margs. Even at the spiffiest of cocktail bars, it’s rare to find more than one or two interesting tequila drinks. When you’re mixing at home, it can be even trickier to come up with something new.
As it turns out, there are plenty of delicious drinks you can put together with that little bottle of distilled agave. Some will require procuring a couple specialty ingredients, but many are about as standard as you can get. Once you try a few of these concoctions, you’ll never look at tequila the same way again.
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As classic and simple as a Margarita, here’s one you’ve probably come across at some point. It’s tangy, it’s salty, it’s even kind of pretty with its soft pink hue. For an extra special cocktail, you can mix silver tequila with fresh grapefruit juice, sugar, sparkling water, and a squeeze of lime. Traditionally, it’s a far more basic, down-home dram: tequila, Squirt, and a lime wedge. Either way, salt the rim and enjoy.
Sure, you’ve heard of a Tequila Sunrise, and maybe you’ve had one once or twice. The layers of orange juice and bright red grenadine create a visually striking drink, as well as perfect conditions for a sugar-spiked hangover. But did you know there’s a Tequila Sunset? This one blends lemon and honey in addition to OJ, and nixes the grenadine in favor of crème de cassis. You still get that lovely layered look, but with a darker shade.
There are what appear to be hundreds of versions of the Michelada out there. The things that they all have in common are: Mexican lager, lime, and salt. Usually they’re mixed with Clamato or tomato juice, and a blend of hot sauce, Worcestershire, and other seasonings like chili or even bouillon. That’s all fine and good, but why not make a good thing great by including a shot of tequila? Be sure to serve this beertail in a thick, frozen glass to keep it chilly, and consider trying a darker beer like Dos XX Amber or Negra Modelo.
Vampiros are popular around Guadalajara, and you can grab one from the little beachfront stands along Lake Chapala. Somewhere between a Paloma and Michelada, this refreshing drink combines tequila with Squirt, spices, and a little something called sangrita.
Sangrita is kind of like a juicy Bloody Mary mix—it’s usually made with orange, lime, tomato and pomegranate. There’s limitless variations, which can include anything from jalapeño to mint.
If you really want to be authentic here, don’t make a cocktail at all—sangrita and tequila should be served together, but in separate glasses. Alternate your sips and revel in the glory.
Super classy, totally unexpected, and completely delicious. The Cortez is nothing more than a shot of reposado tequila, topped with a glassfull of chilled Riesling. It takes no prep, makes no mess, and you get to sip from a sexy wine glass. This wine cocktail goes down smooth but packs a punch.
It’s called the Zorro, what more do you want? This outlier is your big chance to make good use of Slivovitz, a plum brandy from Eastern Europe. Mix that with a grassy silver tequila, fresh lime, and simple syrup, and this little number becomes a tart affair you can throw together in no time. That is, if you can find some Slivovitz.
This isn’t so much a known cocktail as just a wonderfully obvious idea. Agua fresca is that delicious fresh fruit water you’ll find at your favorite taquería, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t serve a pitcher of this tasty stuff with a little tequila. Jazz up your favorite flavor for endless possibilities: add mint to watermelon agua fresca, chili to pineapple, or key lime to strawberry, just to name a few.
Like a mule, but with a deep, sexy color and a bit of extra sweetness, El Diablo is a devil you should make a deal with. Reposado tequila meets crème de cassis, fresh lime, and bubbly ginger beer. A match made in…well, not heaven.
A specialty from the good people at The Roger Room in Los Angeles, this cocktail is named in honor of Mexico’s capitol city during a very tumultuous year. It features reposado tequila, fresh-pressed apple juice, lemon, and jalapeño. The sweet-sour-spicy combo is fantastic, and it would be fun to riff on this drink with other fruit juices.
Keep It Simple
Maybe you’re not feeling the tequila cocktails. That’s okay, because the best way of all to enjoy tequila is to drink it on its own. Skip the shot glass, and leave the lime and salt for your tacos. A good quality tequila needs only one thing: a glass to sip it from, and the time to enjoy it.
Still, if that’s a bit intimidating, a well-aged añejo pairs well with a slice of orange, dusted with cinnamon and sugar. Take a sip, take a bite, repeat. Then just relax and look like a boss who’s got tequila all figured out.