How To Go Beyond the Margarita
Words by Jane Ryan
Up your tequila game with these complex, fresh and aromatic cocktails which aren’t just another twist on the Margarita.
Margaritas are great. They’re sublime. They’re fresh and zippy and enlivening. But tequila so often gets boxed in to that one cocktail. Rather than reaching for the orange liqueur or agave syrup, we’d suggest broadening your tequila horizons and trying it in long, floral highballs, stirred Martini-like bracers and dry aperitif-style sippers.
Below you’ll find cocktails calling for blanco (unaged), añejo (one year or more aged) and reposado (60 days or more aged) tequila – but with all of them be sure to use 100% agave tequila. No mixto tequilas here.
With: Blanco tequila, mezcal, lime cordial, sugar syrup, lemon juice and lime juice.
We say: This riff on the usually gin-based Gimlet is very different from the original, with the earthiness of the tequila adding an extra dimension. It’s a great place to start expanding away from the Margarita, with enough common territory to make your first leap.
OYE MI CANTO
With:Blanco tequila (infused with tamarind), rosé vermouth, mezcal and orange bitters.
We say: This pale pink cocktail looks delicate and indeed is perfectly balanced with a wisp of mezcal smoke. Even if you forgo the infusion and use unflavoured blanco tequilla, it’s still a great drink.
DRIED MEADOW FLOWER
With:Reposado tequila, elderflower liqueur, gentian liqueur, lemon juice and soda water.
We say: An excellent, refreshing cocktail with an exhilarating floral background balanced our by bittersweet gentian and fresh lemon.
ARTE DE VOLAR
With: Blanco tequila, crème de violette liqueur, lavender sugar syrup and lime juice.
We say: Tequila’s take on an Aviation, we think the agave spirit and lavender are an unusual match made in heaven. It’s subtle violet, but the sharp splash of lime juice adds balance.
MEXICAN IN MANHATTAN
With: Añejo tequila, maraschino liqueur, bianco vermouth and lavender bitters.
We say: An Añejo Manhattan is not half bad, but there’s something about tequila which we think marries so much better to white rather than red vermouth. The result is a cocktail inspired by the Manhattan but which in fact acts like a tequila Martini with a gentle maraschino flavour. It’s sublime!
With: Reposado tequila, manzanilla sherry and William pear liqueur.
We say: Simple, yet complex, this beautifully balanced cocktail has faint saltiness from the manzanilla, delicate pear fruit and well-integrated fortifying tequila.
With: Añejo tequila, maraschino liqueur, Yellow Chartreuse liqueur and grapefruit bitters.
We say: A stunning stirred tequila cocktail, that heroes the añejo spirit whilst mellowing it with the delicate flavours of cherry, herbs and grapefruit.
With: Reposado tequila, white crème de cacao liqueur, Americano Bianco and lemon juice.
We say: This tequila-based riff on the classically gin-based 20th Century has all the subtle yet rich chocolate notes but really shines with a matured reposado at its core. We experimented with blanco tequila too, but it couldn’t quite stand up to the complexity as the aged tequila could.
With: Blanco tequila, Green Chartreuse liqueur, kummel liqueur, sugar syrup and lime juice.
We say: Probably the closest cocktail on this list to a Margarita, this citrusy fresh and herbaceous drink throws out the orange and replaces it with something more refined and spicy.
With: Añejo tequila, oloroso sherry, gentian liqueur, mezcal, agave syrup and chocolate bitters.
We say: Dry and lightly bitter, the tequila-based sipper makes for a great aperitif cocktail.
NEW YORK MINUTE
With: Reposado tequila, Antinca Formula, maraschino liqueur, sugar syrup and whiskey barrel-aged bitters.
We say: Honeyed tequila and aromatic maraschino work oh-so-well with the complex herbal vinous notes from the aged sweet vermouth. This one comes from Melbourne’s own Luke Whearty when he was at Der Raum.