The Tequila Sunrise is one of those classics that feels a bit lost to time. It’s a sugar bomb that’s also very delicious when you drink only one or two. The blanco tequila, grenadine, and concentrated orange juice create a kind of alchemy that’s hard to explain on paper but becomes crystal clear the second your lips hit the rim of the glass.
Before we dive in, let’s get a little context, because this drink has a wild history. Back in 1971, two bartenders in Sausalito, California “invented” this drink at the Trident Bar (though earlier iterations were around in Arizona back in the 1930s). Somehow, Mick Jagger — you know, of the Rolling Stones — fell in love with the drink, introduced it to the band, and they all started ordering it on their ’72 tour. So much so that it came to be nicknamed the “Tequila Sunrise and Cocaine Tour.”
By ’73, Cuervo was putting the recipe on its bottles. The same year, The Eagles had a song called “Tequila Sunrise” on their wildly popular album, Desperado. That, folks, is a meteoritic rise to fame for a cocktail. Hell, by the mid-80s, sexy-crime movies were even being called Tequila Sunrise.
While I won’t be serving this with the tradition pile of 1970s blow (this party is strictly BYOC), I’m otherwise keeping this recipe exactly like the Sausalito original, with only four humble ingredients and a shockingly simple preparation. Let’s get pouring!
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- 1.5 oz. blanco tequila
- 3 oz. concentrated orange juice
- 0.5 oz. grenadine
- 1 cherry
- 1 slice of orange
I’m using Volcan De Mi Tierra Blanco Tequila since I have some on the shelf. I would recommend going a little higher end with this one as the tequila is what makes this drink.
While it would track that freshly squeezed orange juice would be the way to go, as fresh products generally are vs. frozen, it’s kind of not. The drink calls for concentrated orange juice, because that was in fashion at the time, but concentrate also has a slightly different consistency and texture. It’s smoother and denser and works to create the unique textural experience of a Tequila Sunrise. You can try this with freshly squeezed but I guarantee you it won’t taste quite right.
What You’ll Need:
- Rocks glass
- Paring knife
- Fill the rocks glass with ice.
- Add the 1.5 ounces of tequila and three ounces orange juice. Do not stir!
- Slowly pour the 0.5 oz grenadine into the drink on the inside edge of the glass and let it sink to the bottom. Again, do not stir.
- Top with a cherry and orange wheel on a spear. Serve.
First, this is super easy to make. It takes about 15 seconds if you’re in a hurry. That makes this the perfect summer backyard party cocktail for a make-your-own-drinks bar.
Secondly, it’s goddamn delicious. The orange and tequila really accentuate each other, with the sweetness from the grenadine sneaking in as you sip. The top half of the drink is all agave, pepper, and citrus. The bottom half is sweet agave and grasses with a sweet red rock candy underpinning it all.
Overall, this is just really good on a hot day when you need something super cold and sweet with a citrus edge to cut through all that sugar. Just be careful: it’ll create a hell of a hangover the next morning. I guess that was what all the cocaine was for on that Stones tour back in ’72.