The Tequila Sunrise is a classic cocktail famous the world over.
Boasting only three ingredients – orange juice and grenadine to complement the tequila – this beverage has colorful bands that evoke a summer sunrise.
This cocktail couldn’t be much easier to make, and you serve this drink unmixed so leave those colored striations undisturbed.
So, where did this iconic cocktail spring from?
I. Tequila Sunrise 101
The Tequila Sunrise was created in Sausalito’s legendary Trident Bar back in the 1970s by bartenders Bobby Lozoff and Billy Rice.
The Rolling Stones hosted a party at the bar to kick off their 1972 tour of the United States. Lozoff and Rice improvised with a bottle of Cuervo and the rest, as they say, is history. The Stones went on to order the drink throughout the tour, along with plenty of other extracurriculars. Ultimately dubbed the cocaine and Tequila Sunrise tour, this fanned the flames of the drink’s popularity.
By the following year, Jose Cuervo printed the recipe for this cocktail on the back of its world-beating tequila bottles.
Also in 1973, the Eagles launched their classic Desperado song featuring a superb song called Tequila Sunrise.
With Tequila Sunrise penetrating pop culture, the cocktail started enjoying more mainstream success all over the world.
Now for the best part: making a Tequila Sunrise really couldn’t be simpler.
II. How Do You Achieve the Sunrise Effect?
The most crucial part of the process is mixing in the right order. Ice goes in first, then tequila and then orange juice. You add the grenadine last, but this is much denser than the other liquids and it sinks to the bottom, giving the base of the glass a striking red layer.
Grenadine is non-alcoholic, and it’s a syrup with a taste much like pomegranate. This serves to balance out the tartness in the OJ.
You won’t need any special mixing skills to generate this sunrise effect since it occurs naturally. Just make sure you resist the urge to stir your drink after adding the grenadine. If you do this, you’ll disturb those eye-catching layers, ending up with a pinkish drink instead of the classic layered effect you’re looking for with Tequila Sunrise.
The most important thing is not to stir the drink after adding the grenadine. This stops it from mixing with the juice. Doing this would give you a blush pink beverage rather than commanding orange and red layers.
So far, so good, but how much alcohol is in this stuff?
III. How Much Alcohol Does a Tequila Sunrise Contain?
We will assume you use 80-proof tequila, and that you’ll be making a 7oz cocktail.
Using this framework, your beverage will end up around 11% ABV. This is the equivalent of 22 proof.
Obviously, you can use as much or as little tequila as you want, and you can also dilute it more with juice or soda if you’re looking for a weaker cocktail. In most cases, though, a Tequila Sunrise is a pretty weak cocktail, despite tequila’s reputation as a hard drink favored during binge drinking sessions.
IV. The Traditional Tequila Sunrise Recipe
Before we show you how to make a modern Tequila Sunrise, a few words on the original recipe where everything started.
Featuring crème de cassis (a blackcurrant liqueur) to impart a deep red hue, all you need to do is pour 1.5oz of tequila and the juice of a halved lime into an ice-filled glass. Add some club soda then slowly pour in 0.75oz of the crème de cassis. Garnish using some lime and a maraschino cherry.
Here’s a more modern Tequila Sunrise recipe for you next.
V. How to Make a Tequila Sunrise the Easy Way
The ingredients for this cocktail are pretty simple.
What You Need
- Tequila (2oz)
- Orange juice (4oz)
- Grenadine (0.5oz)
- Orange (slice for garnish)
- Maraschino cherry (for garnish)
What To Do
- Gather up the above ingredients
- Fill a highball glass with some ice cubes. Pour the orange juice and tequila into the glass
- Stir vigorously
- Pour the grenadine slowly all around the inner edge of the glass. You should see if first sink and then gradually rise so it mixes fully with the other ingredients
- Garnish with the cherry and slice of orange
- Serve and enjoy your tequila sunrise!
VI. Tequila Sunrise Tips
- You don’t need to go crazy buying the most expensive tequila you can find, but make sure it’s a brand you enjoy drinking as this will form the core of the cocktail
- If you find this cocktail is slightly sweet for your liking, try adding some lemon or lime juice
- Make a pitcher of the cocktail by increasing the quantities, but retaining the same proportions of ingredients. You can add the grenadine in the pitcher, or in each glass. The same applies to the ice when you’re making Tequila Sunrise by the pitcher
VII. Variations on the Tequila Sunrise Recipe
As you would expect, the striking visual effect of this cocktail has served as the inspiration for countless imitators over the years.
Here are some of the most common alternatives that provide the same touch of sweetness, and make a comparable statement in the glass.
- A Virgin Sunrise is a great way to enjoy a super-sweet OJ, but without any alcohol. Go virgin by skipping the tequila
- Another mocktail, a Peach Sunrise makes use of some peach juice in the recipe
- If you’re partial to margaritas, you’ll already know there is one for all occasions. A blended Tequila Sunrise Margarita is sure to get the party started
- If you use vodka and grapefruit juice along with grenadine, this is known as a firefly
- Have you ever been tempted by a Ruby Rum Sunrise? If so, this is grapefruit juice along with sweet/sour rum
- A Sour Sunrise uses bourbon to generate a spectacular martini-inspired beverage. You can also make this drink using just some tequila and OJ. If you are making any drinks like this that are not served over ice, shake the juice and liquor then strain it into a glass if you want to lighten your beverage
- A Peach Candy Corn used some whipped cream and vodka, giving you a cocktail that’s ideal for Halloween
- Waterloo Sunset, another famous song, is also a cocktail consisting of champagne, gin, elderflower and raspberry for a taste sensation
- Sometimes, Tequila Sunset is made just like Tequila Sunrise. Sometimes, though, the recipe differs substantially, using grapefruit in place of orange, or a blend of orange and pineapple. In all cases, though, the grenadine sits at the bottom, mirroring the sunrise it’s named for
If you turned up at Madiba today with no idea of the cocktail the classic Eagles song was named for, that should have changed.
Making a Tequila Sunrise is not tough and you won’t need too many ingredients either. Start experimenting and you’ll have a great party trick up your sleeve without needing to learn all about mixology.
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