Tequila Sunrise

By Timo Torner / Last updated on March 20, 2023

The Tequila Sunrise is famous for its bright colors mimicking a beautiful sunrise. But as fancy as it looks, the cocktail isn't exactly appreciated by everyone. So how to turn this subpar party drink into something actually enjoyable?
Tequila Sunrise cocktail with orange wedge and cherry

Few drinks look more promising at the first glance than a properly layered Tequila Sunrise. However, looks aren't everything, and most often, the cocktail doesn't live up to its promise.

Unless you're into drinks that are overly sweet and taste like sugary juice, the Tequila Sunrise is not the best choice. Yet, there are a few tips and tricks on how to improve the drink significantly compared to the artificial sugar bombs you usually get served in college bars.

So, if you want to make a pleasant version of the Tequila Sunrise, read on.

Ingredients for the best version of this drink

The Tequila Sunrise is uncomplicated and easy to make. You don't even need a shaker - although I recommend using one for our recipe. But now, how do you bring more complexity to this often one-dimensional, sweet drink?

For one, you should use freshly squeezed orange juice instead of bottled juice made with concentrate. But there are also some things to consider for the other ingredients:


Let's start with Grenadine. Common Grenadine has an artificially bright red color to it as well as an artificial taste. 

Something that almost screams not pleasant to a lover of craft cocktails. It is also very, very sweet, which is why mixologists usually try to avoid it. 

One way to improve the cocktail is to reduce the amount of Grenadine you use. You can mix Creme de Cassis with Grenadine instead to preserve the red-colored layer. Also, making your own Grenadine is an excellent way to make it taste more natural. - I like to combine both: half Creme de Cassis and half homemade Grenadine.

Tequila Sunrise

Triple Sec

To create a more complex orange flavor in the drink, mix it with Cointreau. Cointreau is an orange-flavored liqueur that's also a key ingredient in the Tequila-based Margarita cocktail. This addition will create a way more elaborate drink. Besides its distinct orange taste, Cointreau also brings a subtle bitterness to the Tequila Sunrise that balances the sweet ingredients perfectly.


Using a high-quality Tequila will also improve the result. But which type of Tequila is the best fit? You should make sure you use a 100% agave-based Tequila. I prefer to use an aged Tequila, either an Reposado or an Añejo for the cocktail.


Finally, you want to marry all the flavors together. The perfect way to do this is by using aged lime juice. You have never heard of aging lime juice? Then read about it in this guide to lime juice in cocktails.

History of the original Tequila Sunrise

The Tequila Sunrise as we drink it today is far from the historical original. It was mixed for the first time in the 1930s by a bartender called Gene Sulit. 

Back then, there was neither Grenadine nor orange juice on the list of ingredients. Instead, the drink was a blend of Tequila, Creme de Cassis, lime juice, and soda water.

More than 40 years later, Bobby Lozoff reinvented the Tequila Sunrise and thus is the creator of today's commonly used recipe of Tequila, orange juice, and Grenadine. 

And if it hadn't been for Mick Jagger, we probably would have one controversial party drink less. But from the beginning:

Tequila Sunrise

Mick Jagger and Tequila Sunrise

Lozoff worked at the Trident in Sausalito, CA, when he developed the Tequila Sunrise. And to kick off the Rolling Stones Tour in 1972, Mick Jagger and his colleagues had a private party at this location. 

Of course, Mick Jagger had the chance to try the Tequila Sunrise. He apparently enjoyed it so much that he kept ordering one at every stop in the US - during the whole tour. 

Later on, Mick Jagger even named the tour the cocaine and tequila sunrise tour.

Jose Cuervo jumped in

The Trident was, at this point, the largest outlet for Mexican Tequila in the entire US. As soon as Jose Cuervo, one of the leading Tequila producers, heard about the success of the Tequila Sunrise in early 1973, they boosted the hype by printing the recipe on the back of their Tequila bottles. At this point, the victory march of the Tequila Sunrise was unstoppable.

And the Eagles

In the same year, another rock band, the Eagles, contributed to the success, as well, by releasing a song called "Tequila Sunrise". 

If you look at it in retrospect, it's no wonder why the drink is still known by so many, despite often being somewhat underwhelming. 

The pretty impressive visual presentation and the countrywide hype made everyone believe that this is something you have to try - and like. So people liked it, at least for a while.

Tequila Sunrise cocktail with orange wedge and cherry

Tequila Sunrise

A Tequila drink famous for mimicking the colors of a beautiful sunrise.
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Tequila
Servings: 1
Calories: 268kcal
Cost: $3.40


  • 1.5 oz Patrón Añejo Tequila
  • 1 oz Cointreau
  • 0.75 oz Aged lime juice
  • 2.5 oz Freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1.5 tsp Creme de Cassis
  • 1.5 tsp Grenadine


  • Fill up a glass with ice and let it chill.
  • Mix Grenadine with Creme de Cassis and pour the mixture into the glass.
    1.5 tsp Creme de Cassis, 1.5 tsp Grenadine
  • Add all other ingredients into your cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake until the drink is well-chilled.
    1.5 oz Patrón Añejo Tequila, 1 oz Cointreau, 0.75 oz Aged lime juice, 2.5 oz Freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Slowly and carefully strain the mix into the glass to achieve the characteristic layer effect.


Serving: 6.5oz | Calories: 268kcal | Carbohydrates: 23.75g | Protein: 0.8g | Sodium: 4.1mg | Potassium: 171.65mg | Sugar: 21.78g | Vitamin C: 47.5mg | Calcium: 116.7mg | Iron: 0.4mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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