Friday Night Cocktail: Tequila Sunrise
If your mental image of tequila evokes frat parties and efforts to remember the proper order to lick-shoot-suck, you should know that there’s a whole world of tequila out there for you to discover! As a spirit category, tequila is as varied as whisky, but not quite as diverse as rum. Fortunately, it’s more strictly defined than rum, too, which makes it somewhat easier to understand.
The first, and most important, thing you need to look for when buying a bottle of tequila are the words “100% agave” (or a variation thereof). Bottles lacking those words contain mixto tequilas, where up to half of the raw materials can come from any source, usually sugar cane. While somewhat cheaper, mixto tequilas don’t really let you experience what tequila is all about.
Next, you have to choose how old you want your tequila to be. Tequila can be blanco, which can be aged up to 2 months; reposado, aged from 2 months to a year; or añejo, aged for 1 to 3 years. Brands differ, but the general rule is that the longer a tequila is aged, the mellower it is. Blanco tends to be brighter and more peppery than reposado. Most classic tequila-based drinks are formulated around either blanco or reposado tequila, so I favour those for mixing, although añejo has its place.
From there, you just have to explore the various brands to find one that you like. When making this drink for myself and my husband, I used a blanco tequila from Casa Noble, which I picked up on a trip to Mexico a couple of years ago. The clerk who sold it to me at the time insisted, with an almost-pained expression on his face, that this was really good tequila, meant for sipping, not mixing into Margaritas. But I believe that better ingredients make for better cocktails, so I don’t mind mixing with this one.
The modern tequila sunrise is usually tequila and orange juice, with a drizzle of grenadine for the “sunrise.” But in his excellent book The Essential Cocktail, Dale DeGroff offers his take on the traditional recipe from the 1920s, which is a lot more interesting and better balanced. The combination of tequila and cassis is classic, and this is a great way to try it.
How to make a Tequila Sunrise
- 1.5 oz. fresh lemon juice
- 1 oz. simple syrup
- 1.5 oz. 100% agave tequila (blanco or reposado)
- 2 oz. club soda
- 1/2 oz. crème de cassis
- 1/4 oz. grenadine
In an ice-filled highball glass, add the tequila, lemon juice and simple syrup, and stir briefly to combine. Add the club soda, then drizzle the cassis and grenadine down the side of the glass to create the “sunrise” effect.