Bring a splash of sunshine into your home with the vibrant, flavorful Tequila Sunrise
When our son was a toddler, he liked to get up early. Like 5 a.m. early. He would watch from the windowsill the sun come up every morning. Then, he would climb into bed and tell us all of the colors of the beautiful sunrise. It probably seems strange to recall that memory when talking about this cocktail, but the drink’s beauty is part of its charm. Designed to mimic a sunrise, the drink begins with a deep orange/red at the bottom and then moves to a bright yellow. It’s lovely to look at. What’s even more fortunate is that it’s also lovely to drink.
The creation of the Tequila Sunrise, as is usually the case with cocktails, is up for dispute. Though some point to Prohibition-era Mexico, during which our friendly neighbors to the south were only too happy to whip up a special cocktail to help us forget our troubles back home, most credit Gene Sulit of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel for making the first in the 1930s. The drink garnered popularity when the Rolling Stones were served them by Bobby Lozoff ahead of their U.S. tour in the early ’70s. Lozoff added grenadine for that “sunrise” effect and made believers of Jagger and co.
The version we know today features a zap of tequila and a zing of orange juice, tempered with a bit of sugary grenadine. It is like holding the horizon in your hand—and then, tasting it. I’m a fan of citrusy, sweet cocktails, so I also like drinks such as a Mimosa or Blood Orange Amaretto, but there’s something special about the Tequila Sunrise—although be forewarned: if you have a few too many, then you won’t want to wake up early enough to see the actual sunrise!
Why Does A Tequila Sunrise Look Like That?
Science! And by that, I mean the grenadine syrup is heavier than the orange juice and sinks to the bottom. As it makes its descent, it diffuses and creates a lovely smoldering look. Bobby Lozoff, clearly remembering his grade-school science classes, chose grenadine for this reason. The only question you have to ask yourself is whether to stir the drink and create a hazy summer’s evening or sip it as it was poured to preserve its visual appeal at the cost of the grenadine, which will await you at cocktail’s end.
- 2 oz tequila
- 4 oz orange juice
- 1/2 oz grenadine syrup
- Orange slice and/or cherry for garnish optional
- Fill a glass with ice cubes.
- Add the Tequila followed by the orange juice into the glass.
- Slowly pour the 1/2 oz of Grenadine into the drink. It will sink to the bottom, creating that beautiful sunrise effect.
- If you like, garnish your drink with an orange slice and/or cherry.
Tips & Tricks for a Perfect Tequila Sunrise
- Freshly squeezed orange juice is a healthier choice, as it forgoes the added sugars of store-bought juice and tastes so much more vibrant.
- The key to the gorgeous sunrise effect is to slowly pour the grenadine syrup down the middle of the glass after adding the tequila and orange juice.
- Treat yourself to a quality 100% agave tequila. Silver or Blanco are recommended.
- For the garnish, a slice of orange and a cherry garnish is ideal and can turn your drink from ordinary to extraordinary.
Add a dash of lime or lemon juice. It will provide balance for the sweet taste.
A highball glass or a Collins glass will give that sun room to rise, as well as the ingredients and ice the drink requires.
Sure. If you like the flavors mixed together more, give it a light stir. But snap a picture first because the sunrise effect will become more like a partly sunny day.
While orange juice provides a signature sunrise view, feel free to try different juices. Pineapple is a common substitute.
For the best Tequila Sunrise experience, treat yourself to a quality 100% agave tequila. Silver or blanco types make a splendid choice with their smooth, crisp taste that effortlessly mingles with the other ingredients.
I sometimes prepare a batch in advance. I just mix together the orange juice and tequila in a pitcher and store in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. Make sure to only add the grenadine when it’s time to toast to create a beautiful sunrise. The mix can chill in the fridge for a few days after preparing, but it tastes best on the first day.
Tequila Sunrise Variations Worth Trying
Tequila Sunset: Add a hint of blackcurrant liqueur instead of grenadine.
Florida Sunrise: Substitute tequila for rum.
Tequila Sunrise Mocktail: Omit the tequila and add a splash of more orange juice and grenadine syrup.
Vodka Sunrise: Swap the tequila for vodka.
Low-Carb Tequila Sunrise: Use low-sugar orange juice and homemade grenadine made from sugar-free pomegranate juice.