Tequila and margaritas are virtually synonymous, and for good reason—a properly crafted margarita is one of history's greatest cocktails. At the same time, tequila can be used for so much more. With a variety of expressions—bright and grassy blanco tequila, mellower reposado, and añejo varieties as dark as bourbon—tequila is at home in all sorts of cocktails. Our favorite tequila cocktails showcase all sides of this versatile spirit, from a peachy blended drink to a bittersweet Negroni variation to a boozy Sazerac-inspired sipper. Keep reading for these recipes and more, plus a few of our favorite margaritas for good measure.
Forget sour mix and slushie machines—to make a perfect margarita all you need is tequila, Cointreau, lime juice, salt, and a cocktail shaker. Because the drink is so simple you should reach for a nice bottle of tequila. If you are going to make a margarita with lower-quality liquor, you will probably want to mix in a little simple syrup.
The Best Frozen Lime Margarita
Even a frozen margarita should be made using fresh ingredients. For the slushiest texture, chill the tequila, lime juice, Cointreau, and simple syrup in the fridge overnight. The alcohol will keep the mixture from freezing, but it will all get cold enough to keep the ice from melting too much as you blend up the drink.
Quick and Easy Margarita Shandy
I'll admit that if you are trying to make margaritas for a party, juicing all the limes by hand is a bit of a chore. Our favorite shortcut is this margarita shandy, which combines reposado tequila with frozen limeade concentrate (trust us, it works). Mixing in beer (go with a pilsner or lager) gives the drink a refreshing effervescence.
Fresh Pineapple Margaritas
Purists might scoff, but we love mixing fresh fruit into our margaritas to give them a little extra flavor. Here that means blending in super-ripe pineapple (plus a little lemon juice) in with the margarita base. If you cut up your pineapple and find that it's not quite as ripe as you would like, microwaving the chunks of fruit for just 12 seconds will help bring out its sweetness.
Fresh Watermelon Margaritas
This vibrantly colored watermelon margarita substitutes St. Germain elderflower liqueur for Cointreau—the floral notes of the liqueur complement the sweet fruit nicely. Adding a pinch of salt to the mixture helps bring out the flavor of the watermelon and straining before serving ensures that the drink isn't full of pulp.
The Upgraded Paloma
I'll never say no to a classic Paloma—made by spiking grapefruit soda with tequila—but this upgraded version is even tastier. To make it we replace the soda with a homemade grapefruit cordial, which we mix with blanco tequila, lime juice, and Campari and top with seltzer. The bitter Campari keeps the drink from being too sweet and highlights the grapefruit's more astringent qualities.
This drink starts with a simple syrup made with dried hibiscus flowers and lime juice and zest. I'd recommend keeping this syrup on hand all summer—mix it with seltzer during the day for a refreshing nonalcoholic drink and add a splash of blanco tequila once it's time to unwind.
Swiss Cartel (Tequila Negroni Cocktail)
For something a little more brooding, try this Negroni variation that pairs reposado tequila with aromatic Gran Classico and sweet Carpano Antica. A traditional Negroni uses the sweet spirits in equal parts, but I like adding a little extra tequila to this drink to balance out the sweetness.
The Charming Foxhole
Another twist on the Negroni, this cocktail sticks with the reposado tequila and uses bittersweet Aperol in place of the Campari. For the vermouth we go with Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, and pour in a splash of Amaro Nonino for extra depth. A couple dashes of Peychaud's bitters give the drink a subtle anise aroma.
Tequila and Campari With Tangerine
A party-friendly option for Negroni fans, this pitcher drink combines añejo tequila, Campari, fresh-squeezed tangerine juice, and seltzer. Tangelo juice works just as well as tangerine juice, so use whichever fruit you can find.
Peach and Tequila Frozen Blended Cocktail
This fruity blender drink is a great way to use up peaches that are just a little too ripe to eat raw—we blend them up with pineapple (both fresh fruit and juice). To balance out the sweet fruit we turn to grassy blanco tequila, bitter Suze, and fresh mint. As with a frozen margarita, be sure to chill the base overnight before blending.
This cocktail is made with rambutans that we grill quickly to intensify their sweet-tart flavor before muddling and mixing with tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and simple syrup. If you live near an Asian market you might be able to find spiky red fresh rambutans, but already-peeled canned ones are perfectly fine.
Mango-Ginger Cocktail With Cilantro
This refreshing cocktail pairs tequila (preferably an oaky aged variety) with sweet mango, bright cilantro, and spicy ginger juice. Store-bought ginger juice is universally terrible, so make your own by muddling fresh ginger and pushing it though a fine-mesh strainer.
Moving from fruits to vegetables, this unusual but super refreshing drink is made with muddled celery and English cucumber. We mix the muddled veggies with blanco tequila, lime juice, and agave nectar and top with seltzer. A pinch of salt helps bring out the flavors of the celery and cucumber.
El Diablo con Limón (Tequila Punch With Cassis and Lemon)
Sometimes converting a cocktail from a bar recipe into something approachable for a home bartender means taking shortcuts. Portland's Clyde Common makes the Diablo—a well-balanced tequila and crème de cassis punch—with a lemon peel syrup and lime juice, but to keep you from ending up with a bunch of extra lemon juice and lime peels we go all-lemon for our version of the drink.
Drawing inspiration from the Dark and Stormy, Moscow Mule, and Mojito, this cocktail starts with a base of Crabbie's alcoholic ginger beer and a shot of blanco tequila. Mint livens the drink up, Velvet Falernum adds an almond sweetness, and bittersweet Cynar lurks in the background with an herbal depth. It's worth double-straining the drink to remove any little pieces of muddled mint.
Warm and oaky, añejo tequila bears more than a passing resemblance to whiskey and can be used similarly. Here we use the spirit in a Sazerac-like cocktail, mixing it with crème de cacao and Angostura bitters and serving in an absinthe-rinsed glass. The absinthe seems like a minor part of the recipe, but the cocktail won't be the same if you leave it out.