Cinco de Mayo is right around the corner, and for a lot of Americans that means one thing: tequila. Restaurants around the country are going to put sour-mix margaritas and shots of Cuervo on special, but the agave-based spirit has so much more to offer. We've rounded up 16 tequila cocktails to help you celebrate the holiday right, from a proper margarita and upgraded Paloma to a rich, chocolate-scented twist on the Sazerac.
Prefer to sip your tequila straight? Try chasing it with our fruity, spicy sangritas.
You can't talk about tequila cocktails without mentioning the margarita. Our version treats the drink right—there's no sour mix to be found here, just a mix of good tequila, Cointreau, and freshly squeezed lime juice. We like to serve our margaritas on the rocks in salted glasses.
Fresh Watermelon Margaritas
These fruity, vibrantly colored margaritas have seedless watermelon blended right in, plus a pinch of salt to bring out the fruit's flavor. This recipe calls for the standard tequila and lime juice, but instead of Cointreau we sweeten the drink with floral St. Germain elderflower liqueur.
Peach and Tequila Frozen Blended Cocktail
There's nothing quite as refreshing as a blended cocktail on a hot day. This tequila drink is made with peaches, pineapple, and French aperitif called Suze. The floral, citrusy, and slightly bitter Suze is a perfect complement to the earthy tequila. To keep the drink cold, pre-mix the ingredients and let them chill overnight before blending.
The Upgraded Paloma
There's nothing wrong with a classic Paloma—grapefruit soda spiked with tequila—but this recipe makes the drink even better by replacing the soda with a homemade grapefruit cordial. The cordial is made by letting grapefruit peel sit in sugar overnight, then mixing the sugar with grapefruit juice, lime juice, salt, and water.
Inspired by the Negroni, this cocktail pairs reposado tequila with Carpano Antica sweet vermouth and an aperitif called Gran Classico that has some of the bitterness of Campari. Feel free to play around with the ratios—equal parts of each spirit is traditional, but I prefer to up the tequila slightly to make the drink less sweet.
The Charming Foxhole
Another Negroni-inspired drink, this one is takes Aperol, Amaro Nonino, and Cocchi Vermouth di Torino and adds them to a base of reposado tequila. A couple of dashes of Peychaud's bitters and a grapefruit twist give the cocktail just a touch of anise and citrus.
El Diablo con Limón (Tequila Punch With Cassis and Lemon)
Coming from Jeffrey Morgenthaler of Portland, Oregon's Clyde Common, this punch is made with crisp blanco tequila, earthy crème de cassis, black tea, and lemon juice. Morgenthaler uses a lemon-lime oleo-saccharum as a sweetener, but we use a lemon syrup instead so that we don't have to bother with two kinds of citrus.
It's getting to be cookout season, and we like using the grill for drinks as well as food. Here that means grilling up rambutans and steeping them into a mix of tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and simple syrup. You might be able to find fresh rambutans at an Asian market, but canned ones work fine.
This tequila cocktail gets a tart, floral flavor and beautiful color from a homemade hibiscus-lime syrup. The hibiscus only needs to steep for about 15 minutes—let it go too much longer and its flavor will morph from pleasantly tangy to bitter and astringent.
Mango-Ginger Cocktail With Cilantro
This well-balanced cocktail pairs sweet mango with spicy ginger, tart lemon, and grassy cilantro. To extract the most flavor out of the ginger we muddle it in a mixing glass, then press it through a fine-mesh strainer to get out as much juice as possible. While you can make this cocktail with whatever tequila you have on hand, an oaky reposado is my favorite.
The agave-based cousin of the Sazerac, this drink mixes tequila, Creme de Cacao, and Angostura bitters in an absinthe-rinsed glass. The Creme de Cacao stands in for sugar, sweetening the drink while also giving it a deep richness. Chocolate and tequila might seem like an odd combo, but if you like savory, complex cocktails then it totally works.
Strawberry-Balsamic Tequila Sour
This twist on the tequila sour calls for an ingredient you might not normally associate with cocktails: balsamic vinegar. Reduced down to a syrup, the vinegar provides a tangy complement to sweet fresh strawberries. Fresh lime juice and mint finish this refreshing summer drink.
This green cooler uses two more unusual cocktail ingredients: cucumber and celery. We muddle both vegetables and mix in tequila, lime juice, agave nectar, and salt to make a tart, vegetal cocktail. We serve the drink in highball glasses, top with seltzer, and garnish with slices of cucumber.
Quick and Easy Margarita Shandy
Normally we're staunch supporters of using fresh juice in cocktails, but when you're making a pitcher drink it can be a little too much work. For this easy shandy we take a shortcut and use frozen limeade concentrate. As for the beer, go for a light, refreshing pilsner or Mexican lager (like Modelo Especial).
Bitter Salty Perro
The Salty Dog is typically made with gin or vodka, but this variation uses blanco tequila instead. We pair the tequila with freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice, add a couple cups of seltzer, then serve in salted glasses with Angostura bitters.
Tequila and Campari With Tangerine
This citrusy, salmon-colored pitcher cocktail pairs earthy tequila with bitter Campari. We also add in freshly squeezed tangerine or tangelo juice, which sweetens the drink and adds just the right amount of acidity.