Most people are likely familiar with a mimosa—the bright breakfast-ready beverage that combines orange juice and sparkling wine. They’ve also probably tried a margarita—the tequila-based cocktail that mixes citrus juice and orange-flavored liqueur. Combine the two, and you get a Tequila Sunrise. The drink gained popularity in the 70s and 80s, becoming so iconic that even rockstars couldn’t get enough of it. Here’s everything you need to know.
What Is a Tequila Sunrise?
The Tequila Sunrise typically includes orange juice, tequila and grenadine layered to resemble the appearance of a sunrise. Depending on the ingredients used and the exact quantities, the cocktail tends to be sweet, but not overly so, and oozes with juicy citrus notes.
The beverage has an equally dramatic (and layered) history. To start with: There’s more than one Tequila Sunrise cocktail. The earliest one dates back to around 1930, when it was created at the Agua Caliente racetrack and hotel complex in Tijuana, Mexico. Made with tequila, lime juice, crème de cassis, grenadine and soda water, the drink was promoted as a hangover remedy.
Yet, the best-known version was created in 1970 by Bobby Lozoff, a bartender at the Trident restaurant in Sausalito, California. His version included both tequila and a splash of gin (the latter is usually omitted from modern-day versions) and orange juice. Grenadine, sunk to the bottom, created an ombre effect. In 1972, he served the drink to Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones at the kickoff party for their American tour. From there, it became the band’s semi-official drink, skyrocketing it to popularity and cementing its place in the cocktail canon. The drink was even printed on the back of Jose Cuervo bottles and inspired the Eagles’ song Tequila Sunrise in 1973.
Tequila Sunrise Ingredients
The two main components of the drink are tequila and orange juice. While lightly aged reposado tequila wouldn’t do any harm, crisp blanco is best for preserving the bright hue of the orange juice (preferably, fresh-squeezed).
The third key component is grenadine, although some versions use crème de cassis, a blackcurrant liqueur, instead. Either way, the point is to use something that’s heavier and denser than the tequila-and-O.J. mix, so the syrupy ingredient will sink to the bottom to create the desired sunrise effect. There are plenty of them on the market, but it’s surprisingly easy to make your own grenadine.
How to Make a Tequila Sunrise
To make a Tequila Sunrise, combine orange juice and tequila in a glass with ice. Then, you have to add the grenadine in a way to create a sunrise appearance. There are a few ways to accomplish this: The grenadine (or liqueur) can be poured over the rounded side of a spoon or the flat top of a large ice cube, so it cascades down into the drink, or it can be carefully poured along the side of the glass so the viscous liquid settles at the bottom, for a more crisply layered appearance. But frankly, the Tequila Sunrise doesn’t require a fussy technique: Simply dump the grenadine (or cassis) into the drink, and you’ll still get a satisfying sunset effect.
Tequila Sunrise Recipe
Fill a highball glass with ice, then add tequila and orange juice.
Stir briefly to combine.
Pour grenadine (or crème de cassis), as close to the side of the glass as possible, so it will sink to the bottom of the drink.
Garnish with orange slice and cherry.
How to Make Homemade Grenadine
In saucepan over medium heat, combine 4 cups unsweetened pomegranate juice with 4 cups sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool. Optionally, add juice of 1 lime and 1 teaspoon orange flower water. Stir well, and store in an airtight container. Keeps, refrigerated, for one month.
Last Updated: June 6, 2023