Recipes: A Tequila Sunrise Everyone Should Wake Up To | Wine Enthusiast
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A Tequila Sunrise Everyone Should Wake Up To

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  


2 ounces blanco tequila
4 ounces orange juice
¼ ounce grenadine* (or crème de cassis) (ingredients and recipe below)
Orange slice, cherry to garnish

Fill a highball glass with ice, then add tequila and orange juice.

Orange Juice and Tequila Pouring into a glass of ice
Highball glass with orange juice, tequila and ice / Photo by Caitlin Bensel

 Stir briefly to combine.

Orange Juice and tequila being stirred
Stirred drink in Highball glass / Photo by Caitlin Bensel

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.

Grenadine being added orange juice and tequila
Grenadine poured into drink / Photo by Caitlin Bensel

Garnish with orange slice and cherry.

Final Tequila Sunrise
Tequila Sunrise with bowls of orange and cherry garnishes / Photo by Caitlin Bensel

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. 

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