Try These Tasty Tequila Cocktails to Shake Up Your Night
Whether you’re a tequila connoisseur or you’re just dabbling in the age-old spirit for the first time, it’s extremely versatile in many types of drinks including tequila cocktails. Check out our roundup of some of the tastiest concoctions out there. And, while you’re at it, brush up on some of your tequila facts to impress your guests at your next get together.
What is Tequila?
Tequila is a Mexican spirit made from the Blue Weber agave plant. It must, according to Mexican law, be produced in one of the following five states: Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit or Tamaulipas. Most tequila distilleries are located in Jalisco’s highland and lowland regions.
As well, tequila must be distilled with a minimum of 51% agave and no more than 49% sugar. It needs to be bottled between 35% and 55% ABV and in the US, it must be sold with at least 40% ABV. Typically, the longer a tequila is aged in production, the higher its quality. The spirit’s wood character and color are affected by how long it ages in oak.
History of Tequila
In the early 1600s, Don Pedro Sánchez de Tagle built the first large-scale distillery in Jalisco. He was known as “the Father of Tequila” and first produced “mezcal de tequila” there – what we know today as tequila. Tequila and mezcal were largely the same until the 1870s, when Don Cenobio Sauza learned that blue agave was the optimal tequila-producing varietal and many other distillers in the region took his cue.
In the US, tequila became widely known during prohibition. Bootleggers snuck bottles of the spirit across the border and American tourists enjoyed the drink in the nearby bars of Tijuana.
Types of Tequila
There are five common tequila types:
- Plata/Silver/White/Blanco. This type takes on blue agave’s sweet flavor right away. It’s either unaged or aged for under two months in neutral oak or stainless steel barrels.
- Joven/Gold/Oro. Joven or gold tequila is blended, unaged Silver tequila with aged or extra-aged tequila (or oak extract, caramel coloring, or sugar syrup). It’s typically less expensive than other types and is often used in cocktails.
- Reposado/Rested/Aged. Reposado tequila is aged for at least two months but less than a year in wooden (mainly oak) barrels or storage tanks. It looks golden and tastes toasty.
- Añejo. This type of tequila ages in oak barrels of up to 600 liters for a minimum of one year but no more than three years. Añejo tequila looks dark, rich and amber and finishes smooth and complex in the mouth.
- Extra/Ultra Añejo. Extra or Ultra Añejo is new on the scene, just since 2006. It ages for at least three years in oak and comes out with a caramel flavor and a peatiness much like scotch.
Tequila can vary widely in taste, but you’ll generally find it smooth, sweet, and maybe fruity. It is quite complex and toasty from the oak aging. For example, tequilas from Jalisco’s highlands are naturally sweet with notes of mineral, fruit, and floral. You’ll find a spicier, herbaceous, and earthier flavor to those that come from the state’s lowlands. These are a little harder on the palate at first, so it’s best to start out with lowland tequila in a cocktail before trying it straight up.
How to Drink Tequila
You might be wondering how to drink tequila as they do south of the border. First, you’ll want a 100% agave (not mixto, which is made with sugar) Reposado, Añejo or Extra/Ultra Añejo tequila. Fill a shot glass with it, sip slowly and enjoy. Yes, this is not the typical way you might see people down shots of tequila at home. In Mexico, it’s meant to be sipped, savored and slowly appreciated.
Now, this might seem a bit intimidating if you’re a newbie to tequila. Of course, in that case, you can always go the more American route with lime and salt. (Opt for the small, brighter limes if possible since they’re sweeter and juicier than the large type). After each sip or two, dip a lime wedge into a bit of salt and suck. Make sure to only take a bit each time so as not to overpower the tequila flavor.
Keep in mind, the more that tequila is aged, the mellower its flavor will be. That means a darker Añejo or Reposado is best for sipping. Still not convinced straight tequila is your jam? Check out some of the best tequila cocktails, below.
Mouth-Watering Recipes for Tequila Cocktails
Spread some coarse salt on a large plate and wipe a lime wedge around your cocktail glass rim. Place the glass rim on the salt. Set aside. Combine 2 ounces of Reposado tequila, 1 ounce of freshly-squeezed lime juice, and 1 ounce of orange liquor (like Cointreau) by stirring in a mixing glass or shaking in a cocktail shaker. Strain into your prepped ice-filled cocktail glass and enjoy.
Pour 2.5 ounces of blanco tequila, a ½-ounce of dry vermouth, and a dash of aromatic bitters into an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Stir well and staring into a chilled cocktail glass. Add a twist of lemon or olive as garnish.
In an ice-filled cocktail shaker, combine 1.5 ounces Reposado tequila, a ½-ounce of crème de cassis, and a ½-ounce of freshly-squeezed lime juice. Shake well and strain into an ice-filled Collins glass. Fill with about 4 ounces of ginger beer and add a slice of lime as garnish.
Lime simple syrup: In a saucepan over medium heat, combine 2 cups of water, 1.5 cups of sugar, and one lime’s zest until the sugar dissolves. Cool until ready to use.
Cocktail: Muddle 3-4 slices of cucumber with 1.5 ounces of Silver tequila. Add ¾-ounces of Cointreau, and 1.5 ounces each of lime juice and lime simple syrup. Shake over ice and strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with a slice of cucumber.
REPOSADO OLD FASHIONED
To an old-fashioned glass, add 2 nectarine slices, 2 Bing cherries, and 1 tablespoon of agave nectar. Muddle well and fill the glass with ice (large ice is best as it dilutes the slowest). Add 3 ounces of Reposado tequila and a couple of dashes of aromatic bitters. Stir well and garnish with a nectarine slice and Bing cherry.
To a highball glass, add 2 ounces of tequila, a teaspoon of horseradish, 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard (optional), a dash of lime juice, and a few dashes each of:
- Tabasco or hot sauce
- Worcestershire sauce
- Celery salt
- Black pepper.
Stir well, add 4-6 ounces (to taste) of tomato juice, and stir again. Fill glass with ice and garnish with a celery stalk and lime and/or lemon wedge.
While not officially a cocktail, this is the true Mexican tequila “chaser” (forget that lime and salt!) In bars, it’s served alongside tequila. Sangrita is meant to be sipped in between tequila sips to cleanse the palate and bring out the spirit’s pepper and citrus notes.
Fill a shot glass with 1.5-2 ounces of your favorite tequila. To a cocktail shaker, add 1 ounce of freshly-squeezed orange juice, ¾-ounces of freshly-squeezed lime juice, a ½-ounce of grenadine, and a few dashes of hot sauce, and ice. Shake well. Strain into a second shot glass and add a jalapeno slice (optional).
To drink, start with the straight tequila and chase it quickly with the citrus juice shot.
DULCE DE TEQUILA
Rim a cocktail glass with granulated or superfine sugar. Take a wedge of lime or lemon and wipe it around the rim, then roll it in a dish of granulated or superfine sugar. To a cocktail shaker, add 2 ounces of Reposado tequila, 1 ounce each of cognac and triple sec, a ½-ounce of lime juice, and 1 tablespoon of agave nectar. Fill with ice and shake well. Strain into your cocktail glass and garnish with lemon or lime.
Rosemary-infused simple syrup: Over medium heat, boil 1 cup of granulated sugar, 1 cup of water, and 6 rosemary sprigs. Simmer and stir regularly until sugar dissolves.
Cocktail: To a cocktail shaker, add 2 ounces of Blanco tequila, 1 ounce rosemary-infused simple syrup, ¾-ounces freshly-squeezed lemon juice, and a ½-ounce of pear puree. Shake and pour over ice into a Collins glass. Fill with a splash of club soda and garnish with a sprig of rosemary.
Muddle 8-10 mint leaves. In a cocktail shaker, add 2 ounces of Reposado tequila, 1.5 ounces of grapefruit juice, 1 ounce of lime juice, a ½-ounce of simple syrup, and ice. Shake for 10 seconds or so and strain into a highball glass with ice. Add a sprig of mint and grapefruit slice to garnish.
SPIKED HIBISCUS TEA
Brew 1 ounce of hibiscus tea and set aside to cool. To an ice-filled cocktail shaker, add 2 ounces of Reposado tequila, the cooled hibiscus tea, a ½-ounce of agave, ¾-ounces of lime juice, and a ¼-cup of fresh cilantro. Shake for about 30 seconds, then double-strain into a an ice-filled cocktail glass.