Tequila has long been maligned as the devil’s spirit and treated like a raucous upstart, unwelcome at civilized gatherings. Usually it is ordered in shot form only, and then it is hidden behind the taste of salt and lime. Well, we think that is the worst kind of alcohol abuse and believe that everyone deserves the chance to see that tequila is more than just a painful hangover after an evening you can’t remember. It is every bit as impressive as scotch, just as smooth as vermouth, and deserves love just as much as gin.
Just to show you that there is no circumstances in which tequila can’t be served, from your shotgun wedding to your son’s bar mitzvah (for the adults, mind you) it can be tarted up for a night on the town or dressed down for brunch. We found fruity sipping drinks for watching The Bachelor and some recipes with real cojones that will give you hair on your chest whether you want it or not. Here’s the 30 best tequila cocktails for your drinking pleasure.
1. The Margarita
Literally legendary, the first margarita is said to have been made by a bartender in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, hoping to please a showgirl named Marjorie King. Whether true or not, the story is easily eclipsed by a drink as timeless as neat whiskey, as simple as stirring, and as easy to down as lemonade. It’s the official cocktail of summer.
2. The Federation
The Sazerac is a New Orleans take on a traditional rye cocktail, and The Federation manages to spin it again with tequila and creme de cacao for a distinctly chocolaty flavor. Made in a glass rinsed with absinthe, you need only pour and stir to be rewarded with a smooth, sophisticated quaff miles apart from its roots.
3. Watermelon Mint Smash
Smash cocktails are the most flexible because they don’t require many ingredients and trying to get the mixture right is all subjective. Like the famous and infamous mint julep, the watermelon mint smash throws in sweet watermelon with a little mint flavor and just enough tequila to light up a long, lazy summer day, or just add zest to any evening.
4. Rodriguez Sour
Invented by San Francisco barman and master mixologist Kevin Diedrich, this isn’t a quick mix for an easy drink, but rather a master stroke of jalapeño syrup, pineapple juice, and the unique Green Chartreuse, invented by – we swear to this – French monks. It calls for a full fortnight of settling, so if you can wait, you’ll be well rewarded.
5. Pomegranate Margaritas
A new twist on the old margarita tune, this adds the antioxidant goodness of pomegranates to the boozy wonder of the classic margarita. Sweet and tart in just the right combination, with an alluring red tint that begs to be imbibed, a little Grand Marnier adds a hint of orange to the mix for a citrus bite that tantalizes the tongue.
6. Spicy Rosemary Rhubarb Margarita
Chili powder and mellow rhubarb syrup turn a tired recipe into something that pops. Hardly recognizable as a margarita, this combines rosemary and lime juice that is sure to make your concoction the toast of any Cinco de Mayo or Super Bowl party. Basically just throw everything into a blender and let the good times kick off.
7. The Charming Foxhole
The bitter bastard child of a Negroni, the Charming Foxhole requires a gentle touch to get it just right, but when you do, it’s a bittersweet cascade of flavor. Mixing vermouth, Aperol, Nonino, and Peychaud’s with your tequila produces a tough, sharp taste with plenty of power thanks to the multiple liqueur additions.
8. Hibiscus-Tequila Cooler
Hibiscus is known to lower blood pressure and is stocked up on flavonoids and antioxidants, and when it is mixed with tequila and chilled, it becomes the perfect way to relax on your porch during a heat wave. Little more than the ability to boil water and stir tonic is necessary and you have total control over the concentration whether looking for a light buzz or going full bore.
9. Paloma Sour
Thought to be named after a Mexican folk song from the 1860’s called “The Dove,” the Paloma is the most popular drink in the ancestral home of tequila, Mexico. This recipe mixes things up a bit, aiming to be a Paloma/Pisco Sour mashup, using fresh grapefruit, and finished off with a velvety layer of egg white. It might seem a bit strange at first, but trust us, it’s well worth the experimentation. The final product is tart, silky, flavorful, and still feels like the classic Paloma – but it isn’t.
10. Tequila Slammer
The name alone might conjure up some rough memories of hungover days, wild nights, and maybe even an evening in county lockup, but the booze shouldn’t be blamed. This simple mix of ginger ale, ice, and your favorite tequila is a sure fire way to start a party, even if you’re all alone.
11. The Mars Water
Channeling the taste of a quality mango salsa, this is a spicy tipple made from jalapeño soaked in tequila, mango juice, and muddled raspberries. It doesn’t beat you over the head with heat, but instead supplements the overall sweetness with a slight glow in your mouth that goes nicely with the warm tequila sensation in your belly.
12. Jalapeño Tequila Gimlet
The Gimlet was first popularized in the The Long Goodbye, a tale of famed detective Philip Marlowe. Originally little more than gin and lime juice, this variation would have made Raymond Chandler rethink his recipe. Using roasted tequila, agave, and (of course) lime juice, the Jalapeño Tequila Gimlet can remain mellow or light a fire, and we think Marlowe would gladly approve.
13. Tamarindo Y Tequila
An international masterpiece, this uses the finest of tequila and tasty serrano chile from Mexico with the sticky sweetness of African tamarind. The sweet, sour, and spicy mixture has everything a drinker could want in perfect harmony. Even better, you can refine the ingredients to suit your palette with more or less spice, sweetness, or tart zest so it truly becomes your own.
14. The Barfly Cocktail
While most tequila recipes aim for blends of sweet, spicy, and bitter, this is unapologetically made to add sugar to your life. Managing to mitigate the harsh tequila flavors without just smashing them down, anyone who likes a drink that requires a cute little paper umbrella will find this spin on the tequila sunrise a welcome bit of syrupy fun.
15. Jim Meehan’s Fresa Verde
Fruit mixtures tend to be overly rudimentary; add fruit, booze, ice, and sugar, then blend and drink. Well, Jim Meehan wanted more, and so he added in a little muddled bell pepper to offset the simple sweetness. What he made is something more than just sweet and sour, but truly complex and layered, allowing you to ride multiple waves of taste.
16. Green Iced Tea
There’s only one thing better on a scorching day than a tall, cool glass of iced tea: A tall, cool glass of iced tea complete with tequila. While mixing this rowdy liquor with green tea and cucumber juice might seem counter-intuitive, once you try it, you’ll never look at tea the same way again.
17. Spicy Tequila Sunrise
Despite claims from central America, the tequila sunrise originated in the U.S. during the 1930’s when a man named Gene Sulit began mixing them at the Biltmore hotel. This is a brand new spicy spin on them that puts some pepper into the otherwise fruity drink for a surprising boost that makes the orange and pomegranate juice that much sweeter.
18. Thai Basil Watermelon Margaritas
One of the more complex margarita recipes we’ve ever come across, this reaches all the way to Thailand for their special take on basil. As decorative and festive as they are flavorful, your guests are certain to appreciate the extra effort you took to make these stand out…or they’ll just love the tequila.
This unusual herb mixture is a challenge to your taste buds in that it uses ginger beer along with lime and mint, topped off with Velvet Falernum that somehow brings everything together. For the background, the dark horse of Cynar is what will keep you going back to the well time and again.
20. Watermelon Tequila Mojito
Between the margarita and the tequila mojito is this blend that brings the best of both worlds into one glass. Using the decidedly Cubano mojito flavoring with the Tequila Daisy Cocktail – known to most as the margarita – there’s a delicious culture melding happening here that bobs and weaves on your tongue, hopping between smooth and sharp.
21. Spiced Pineapple Cocktail
Probably the most uninspired name we’ve ever seen, you can make up whatever moniker you choose as you find yourself serving this again and again. The pineapple flavor makes it feel truly tropical, while the salt and chili clearly mark the tequila’s roots to create a flavor worth shooting your pistolas about.
22. Strawberry Sriracha Margarita
Sriracha seems to be everywhere these days, and with good reason. The spicy flavor is an ideal accessory for any food, and it proves that it can run with sweet strawberries as easily as the manful pungency of tequila. There’s little tartness to be found, opting instead for sugar and spice dynamic that will set your tongue to tapping, if it doesn’t set it on fire.
23. El Diablo
Coming from the 1946 Trader Vic’s recipe book, the El Diablo is an aptly named classic in the mixology world. This is a slight variation on the original El Diablo in that it uses Pimm’s in place of creme de cassis and triple sec instead of ginger ale. The result is brighter and friendlier, but the buzz is still devilishly sneaky.
24. Rosemary Bloody Maria
Tangentially tied to author Ernest Hemingway, the Bloody Mary was supposedly made in France during the 20’s where the writer and other expatriates drank. Whether true or not, this rosemary-infused variation on it with a blanco tequila backer is the ideal hair of the dog to knock your eyes open faster than a cup of Colombian dark roast.
25. Tequila-Thyme Lemonade
You’re not going to want to skimp on the good tequila with this recipe, since it’s little more than muddled thyme with ice, water, and a nice white tequila. A touch of sugar helps this medicine go down, but it’s delightful all on its own whether you choose to sip it, swig it, or slam it.
26. Michelada Primaverde
The second on our list from James Beard winner Jim Meehan, the Primaverde uses specialized Casa Dragones Blanco tequila along with tomatillo juice and dry vermouth. Throw in a splash of victorian beer and there’s nothing sweet about this tasty mixture, opting instead to taste exactly like courage in a glass.
27. Tequila Matador
Remarkably similar to a Jackhammer, this has just three ingredients: Pineapple juice, blanco tequila, and lime, all served in a champagne flute. While it might seem unrefined due to its lack of complex mixing, the flavor is wonderful and can easily be repeated over and over, even after you’ve gone through a pitcher or two.
28. Blackberry Lime Margaritas
We promise, this is the last of the margarita variations we’ll give you. While most others try to ramp up the sweetness with watermelon or strawberries, this actually goes tart with blackberries, which give a fuller body to the taste experience and a lip-smacking sourness that is anything but unpleasurable. Probably the best when mixed with a little Tex Mex cuisine. Ole!
29. Spiced Old Fashioned
Dating back to the very early 1800’s, the original Old Fashioned is the litmus test for any serious bartender as well as serious drinker. While there’s as many variations as there are watering holes, for one that uses tequila, we’re partial to this recipe. Using maple syrup to round out the flavor, it’s an honorable addition to the Old Fashioned world.
30. Spiced Chocolate
Coffee and chocolate mixed with red pepper and whipped cream make this a confusing, but ultimately delightful amalgamation of flavors that shouldn’t work together, but do. Sweet, spicy, decadent, and yet stiff as a board, the sweet, dark exterior hides more kick than you would expect. Good for early morning, late night, and everything in between.