As fancy as it looks, the Tequila Sunrise Cocktail isn't exactly appreciated by everyone. By adjusting the measurements, using fresh ingredients, and adding some extra elements, you can get the most out of this 70s classic.
Quick Facts Tequila Sunrise Cocktail
- Method: shaken
- Flavor profile: sweet, fruity
- How to serve it: over ice
- Glassware: high ball glass, sling glass
- Alcohol content: ~ 13.5% ABV, 25 grams of alcohol per serving
If you want to make a pleasant version of the Tequila Sunrise by today's mixology standards, we have the formula that delivers just that.
- 1.5 oz Patrón Añejo Tequila
- 1 oz Cointreau
- 0.75 oz Aged lime juice
- 2.5 oz Freshly squeezed orange juice
- 0.25 oz Creme de Cassis
- 0.25 oz Grenadine
- Fill up a glass with ice and let it chill.
- Mix Grenadine with Creme de Cassis and pour the mixture into the glass.0.25 oz Creme de Cassis, 0.25 oz 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.
Recommendations for the ingredients
The Tequila Sunrise is uncomplicated and easy to make. You don't even really need a shaker - although I recommend using one for our recipe. With our extended list of ingredients, you bring more complexity to this often one-dimensional, sweet drink:
- Tequila: Using high-quality tequila will improve the result. Make sure you use a 100% agave-based product. I prefer an aged type of tequila over a Reposado or a Silver for this cocktail.
- Orange juice: Use freshly squeezed orange juice instead of bottled juice. If you really have to use a store-bought product, go for a 100% natural, unsweetened version. That still won't deliver the fresh, tangy orange taste, but it's as close as it gets.
- Grenadine: The pomegranate-flavored syrup is often artificially sweet. Thus, mixologists usually try to avoid it. You can make your own grenadine for a natural fruity taste or get quality products, e.g., from Monin. And then you can also reduce the amount you're using.
- Crème de Cassis: That's where this sweet liqueur comes in. It has a fruity, sweet taste and a similar color but is better balanced. We substitute half of the measurement of grenadine in the original recipe with this crème liqueur.
- Triple Sec: To create a more complex orange flavor, we incorporate Cointreau. 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.
- Lime: Finally, you want to marry all the flavors together. The perfect way to do this is with fresh lime juice.
Tips and Best Practices
Unless you're into cocktails that are overly sweet and taste like sugary juice, the original Tequila Sunrise is not the best choice. With our tips and tricks, you can improve your drink significantly.
Already by extending the original three-ingredient recipe of grenadine, orange juice, and tequila by lime, triple sec, and creme de cassis, you get a drink that's way more suitable for today's palates.
Another important thing is to use freshly squeezed juices and to cool down all ingredients properly. So if you build your drink in the glass, all components should be ice cold.
If you follow our suggestions and combine orange, lime, tequila, and triple sec in the shaker, use plenty of ice cubes and shake for 15 seconds.
And last but not least, serve your Tequila Sunrise over fresh, large ice cubes. Large quality ice cubes will melt slower, and your drink won't water down so fast.
Origin of the Tequila Sunrise
The Tequila Sunrise recipe 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 at Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, Arizona.
Back then, there was neither grenadine nor orange juice on the list of ingredients. Instead, the drink was a blend of tequila, crème de cassis, lime juice, and soda water.
Over 40 years later, bartender Bobby Lozoff reinvented the Tequila Sunrise Cocktail and invented today's commonly applied three-ingredient recipe with tequila, orange juice, and grenadine.
Yet, if it hadn't been for Mick Jagger, we probably would have one less controversial party drink. But from the beginning:
The Rolling Stones made the Tequila Sunrise famous
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".
At the time, the Trident Bar was the largest outlet for Mexican Tequila in the US. As soon as Jose Cuervo, a leading tequila producer, heard about the success of the Tequila Sunrise Cocktail in 1973, they boosted the hype by printing the recipe on the back of their bottles. That made the victory march of the Tequila Sunrise unstoppable.
In the same year, another rock band, the Eagles, contributed to the success, as well, by releasing a song called "Tequila Sunrise".
In retrospect, it's no wonder 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.