Tequila is, without a doubt, an essential spirit for any home bar. It doesn’t matter if you’re an agave fiend or your only experience with it is a margarita. Either way, it needs to be there. If nothing else, the agave spirit’s history — which dates back to the 1500s — earns it a spot on your bar. Take a moment to think about it — we in the U.S. didn’t even have a loose collection of colonies when tequila was first made.
History aside, tequila comes in a variety of price points and ages, accommodating even the pickiest of drinkers (as well as the richest). Sure, many people’s first experience with tequila — too many shots of sub-par tequila during college — may have (completely and undeniably) sucked, but there is so much more to the spirit than that.
Debatable health benefits aside (it is an alcohol, after all), tequila is just plain popular. Nationwide retail sales exceeded $7 billion in 2016, and wholesalers and suppliers charted over $3.3 billion, according to Statista. Tequila even has its own day of the week: #TequilaTuesday (did you think that was for tacos?).
The growth of tequila’s popularity has, of course, involved multiple books’ worth of tequila-based cocktails. Don’t worry about all of the books for now. Instead, start with the basics. Below, you’ll find six classic tequila cocktail recipes that you should know how to make.
Need a good starter tequila? Check out our picks for the best bottles under $20.
Ahh, the margarita. Throughout the dozens upon dozens of iterations we’ve tried, we scooped up this classic recipe from Tahona Tequila Bistro in Boulder, Colorado, which continues to top lists of best-ever margaritas.
Balanced just right with the citrusy mix of lime, lemon, and a little orange, the blend of tart and sweet (plus 100% blue agave tequila) can seduce anyone who claims to dislike tequila.
“This drink has all the tastes to light up any palette … and don’t forget the salty rim!” says Tina Troy, Tahona bar manager.
“We love tequila for so many reasons,” she continues. “We love the story behind this beautiful spirit, where generations of families use their ancestral land to slowly grow this succulent plant over years, until finally harvesting it, only to wait again to slow cook it and naturally ferment it, distill it, then wait even longer for some of it to age in oak barrels. It’s a process of love and care you can immediately taste when you take your first sip.”
- 1.5 oz Casa Noble Tequila Reposado (Tahona ages Casa Noble Tequila Blanco in a custom American Oak barrel that sits behind the bar, but the Reposado is a good substitute.)
- 2 oz fresh lime juice
- .5 oz fresh lemon juice
- .5 oz fresh orange juice
- .5 oz organic agave nectar
- Salt for rim
Method: Combine juices. Mix tequila and agave nectar. Shake. Salt rim. Smile.
A paloma is a lighter tequila cocktail that traditionally mixes the agave liquor with grapefruit flavors, one of the easiest yet most refreshing cocktails you can make in about two minutes flat. We looked to the taco king of Denver, Colorado — Taco Tequila Whiskey — for this sparkling recipe. Ready, go!
- 1.5 oz Exotico Tequila Blanco
- 1.5 oz fresh grapefruit juice
- .75 oz fresh lime juice
- .25 oz agave nectar
Method: Mix tequila with grapefruit juice, lime juice, and agave. Shake. Pour into a salted (half-moon style) Collins glass.
- 2 oz Casa Noble Crystal Tequila
- 4 oz tomato juice
- .5 oz lemon juice
- 4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
- 2 dashes Tabasco sauce
- .5 Tbsp prepared horseradish, to taste
- 1 pinch celery salt
- 1 pinch ground black pepper
- Garnishes: Lime wedge, lemon wedge, cucumber spear, sweet pepper slices, jalapeño slices, and queso fresco
Method: Add all ingredients to shaker and fill with ice. Shake briefly and strain into pint glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish.
We’d wager it’s been a hot second since you’ve ordered a Tequila Sunrise. That is if you’ve ever ordered one. Instead of slinging the old OJ/grenadine recipe that some find too sweet, we turned to this updated twist on the sunset from Tequila Avión, which offers greater depth for a refined pallet.
- 2 oz Tequila Avión Silver or Reposado
- 1 oz Lillet Rouge
- 2 oz grapefruit juice
- .5 lime juice
- .25 oz agave nectar
- Lime wedge to garnish
Method: Add ice and Lillet Rouge in highball glass. Add remaining ingredients and ice to cocktail shaker. Shake. Strain into highball slowly so as not to incorporate Lillet (keep it layered). Garnish with lime.
Negronis are typically made with gin, but don’t miss out on this classic cocktail if your preferences lean away from the juniper-flavored spirit. Use tequila! Brendan Weir of Denver’s Que Bueno Suerte — an upscale eatery with brilliant ancient-Mayan meets modern-Mexico design — stirs this Latin-inspired cocktail year-round. Using equal parts, making this drink at home is easy-peasy, lime squeezy.
- .75 oz Suerte Tequila Reposado
- .75 oz Contratto Apertif
- .75 oz sweet vermouth
- .75 oz Carpano Antica
- Grapefruit peel to garnish
Method: Shake all ingredients together in equal parts. Serve over ice. Garnish with grapefruit twist.
Although traditional Micheladas are made with cerveza, assorted spices, peppers, and lime juice, the Mexico-based super-jefe Modelo mixes theirs with a shot of Casa Noble tequila, making for a truly delicious Michelada to replace your old recipe.
- Shot of Casa Noble Tequila (your choice of expression)
- 4 oz Modelo Especial
- 4 oz Negra Modelo
- 3 oz chilled tomato juice
- 1 oz chilled clam juice
- 5 dashes of soy sauce
- 4 dashes of hot sauce
- 2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
- 3 thin mango slices
- 2 cucumber slices
- 2 seasoned shrimp with tails
- 1 tamarind straw
- 1 lime wedge
- Chili powder and coarse salt
Method: Mix chili powder and salt on a small plate. Rub a lime wedge around rim of glass and press into spice mix. Fill glass with ice. Pour Modelo Especial and Negra Modelo. Add chilled clam juice, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and soy sauce. Stir with tamarind straw. Garnish with shrimp, mango, and cucumber slices (rolled in chili powder and salt mixture. Add shot of tequila. Stir, serve, and enjoy!
Article originally published by Jahla Seppanen on September 29, 2018. Last updated by Sam Slaughter.
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