Words by: Simon Difford
With its earthy herbaceous flavours, tequila makes for a both versatile and interesting cocktail base spirit. Traditionally mixed with orange (think triple sec) and lime juice in the many riffs on the Margarita – itself merely a renamed Picador (see below), contemporary pairings include sherry, elderflower, pamplemousse liqueur, gentian liqueur and my favourite, lavender.
Follows my pick of 40 great tequila cocktails from the over 267 on Difford's Guide. Click on the cocktail name for the full recipe and method:
Almond Old Fashioned
With: Reposado tequila, amaretto, agave syrup and orange bitters
We say: One to please fans of both tequila and the Old Fashioned drinks genre with amaretto adding the headline hint of almond.
With: Blanco tequila (100% agave), Gentian liqueur, manzanilla sherry and pamplemousse liqueur
We say: This tequila based cocktail is bitter before turning bittersweet, then finishes with a long bitter finish. It won't be for everybody but those who appreciate the flavour of gentian liqueur will appreciate this drink for its simplicity and originality.
With: Reposado tequila, Antica Formula, maraschino liqueur and lavender syrup
We say: Tequila and lavender are a match made in heaven, made more complex with herbal wine notes from the vermouth, aromatised by delicately fruity maraschino cherry.
The Bird is the Word No.2
With: Reposado tequila, Yellow Chartreuse, apricot brandy and lemon juice
We say: A grappa based 'Last Word' by way of Denmark.
Blood Orange Margarita
With: Blanco tequila, triple sec, Campari, blood orange juice, lime juice and sugar syrup
We say: Notes of tequila, orangey triple sec, bittersweet Campari, blood orange and lime juice all sit in perfect kilter in this tasty riff on the classic Margarita.
Chutes & Ladders
With: Blanco tequila, Swedish punch, Americano bianco, lime juice
We say: Citrusy tequila-led with Swedish punch and Cocchi Americano rounding and adding their distinctive flavours.
With: Reposado tequila, triple sec, elderflower liqueur, blood orange juice, lime juice, orange bitters and rose champagne
We say: Sweet and sour and very fruity - like a good Valentine's date.
With: Blanco tequila, lillet blanc and Gentian liqueur
We say: A trio of big flavours (tequila, Lillet Blanc and gentian liqueur) come together harmoniously.
With: Blanco tequila, amontillado sherry, Grand Marnier, dry vermouth, chile liqueur and cranberry juice
We say: A cornucopia of flavours with which to get picked.
With: Blanco tequila, Jägermeister, Yellow Chartreuse, sugar syrup and whole egg
We say: With a whole egg, a shot of tequila, Jagermeister andChartreuse, this is both a Death Flip and your last meal. Challenging herbal and bitter complexity yet with endearing sweet creaminess.
Dried Meadow Flower
With: Reposado tequila, elderflower liqueur, Gentian liqueur, lemon juice and soda
We say: Floral elderflower and tequila with a hint of bittersweet gentian and refreshing lemon.
East Village Athletic Club
With: Blanco tequila, Yellow Chartreuse, Grand Marnier and lemon juice
We say: Essentially a Last Word with tequila instead of gin.
With: Reposado tequila, coffee liqueur and pineapple juice
We say: The three ingredients combine brilliantly.
The Hee Bee Jee Bees
With: Manuka Honey Vodka, reposado tequila, Agave Sec, lime juice and lavender bitters
We say: A Margarita with a touch of honey vodka and agave enriched orange liqueur.
With: Reposado tequila, espresso coffee and coffee liqueur
We say: A tequila laced wake up call.
With: Reposado tequila, lime juice and lavender syrup
We say: Lavender lime and tequila combine harmoniously.
The Lone Ranger
With: Blanco tequila, lemon juice, sugar syrup and champagne
We say: Very slightly sweet tequila and lemon, lengthened and dried with brut champagne.
With: Islay single malt, blanco tequila, agave syrup, Angostura bitters and Amer Picon
We say: I defy you not to love this herbal bittersweet tequila laced concoction.
Lucky Lily Margarita
With: Honey, reposado tequila, pineapple juice, lime juice and black pepper
We say: Spicy tequila and pineapple tingle with balance and flavour.
Margarita 0n-the-rocks (Difford's recipe)
With: Reposado tequila, triple sec, lime juice, agave syrup, salt and lavender bitters
We say: This is how we prefer our margaritas to be served. Tangy citrus and tequila with a hint of balancing sweetness and a faint salty undertone. We also prefer the subtlety of half a pinch of salt in the drink to a salt laden glass rim.
With: Reposado tequila, Drambuie liqueur and Islay single malt
We say: Very complex with obvious Islay whisky and tequila notes made more interesting with subtle spice and chocolatey notes.
With: Reposado tequila, cranberry juice, lime juice and sugar syrup
We say: Basically a Margarita lengthened with cranberry juice.
New York Minute
With: Reposado tequila, Antica Formula, maraschino liqueur, sugar syrup and Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters
We say: Honeyed tequila and aromatic maraschino with complex herbal vinous notes.
Oaxaca Old Fashioned
With: Reposado tequila, mezcal, agave syrup and Angostura Aromatic Bitters
We say: An agave based Old-Fashioned with a wonderful hit of smokiness from the mezcal.
With: Reposado tequila, pink grapefruit juice, lime juice, agave syrup and grapefruit soda
We say: Long, fruity and refreshing.
Pastry War Margarita
With: Reposado tequila, mezcal, amaro, elderflower liqueur, lime juice and salt
We say: Mezcal, amaro, elderflower liqueur and salt add attitude and complexity to this Margarita-styled cocktail.
With: Reposado tequila, manzanilla sherry and 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: Reposado tequila, triple sec and lime juice
We say: The name might be more masculine but it still tastes just like a classic Margarita.
With: Reposado tequila, Aperol, triple sec and orange bitters
We say: Orange liqueurs and bitters flavour this tequila-based, salmon-pink, dry and hard cocktail.
With: Reposado tequila, elderflower liqueur and lime juice
We say: The floral notes of elderflower combine wonderfully with the herbaceous tequila and citrusy lime.
With: Reposado tequila, Islay single malt, agave syrup and lime juice
We say: Margarita-like with a wisp of Islay smoke.
With: Reposado tequila, lime juice and agave syrup
We say: The flavour of agave is king in this simple Margarita, made without the traditional orange liqueur.
With: Reposado tequila, dry vermouth and apple juice
We say: Dry, sophisticated and fruity, with tequila body.
Tres Amigos Daiquiri
With: Blanco tequila, añejo tequila, navy rum, lime juice and sugar syrup
We say: Actually this is a navy rum influenced Margarita made to Daiquiri proportions, but whatever it's called, it's damn good.
Sandy The Showgirl
With: Añejo tequila, mezcal, maraschino liqueur, agave syrup and lavender bitters
We say: Tequila based with complex mezcal smokiness, rich maraschino cherry and floral lavender bitters. It's a drink that likes dilution so consider serving on the rocks. Sandy's that kind a girl.
With: Blanco tequila, white crème de cacao, pomegranate syrup and cream.
We say: So smooth but still retains a tequila bite and a hint of chocolate and fruit.
With: Reposado tequila, Byrrh, pacharan, mezcal, orange juice and chocolate bitters
We say: Reminiscent of a Mexican Blood & Sand, refreshing and complex.
With: Blanco tequila, Gentian liqueur, apricot brandy, lemon juice, sugar syrup and Boker's Bitters
We say: Slightly on the bitter side of bittersweet with gentian, jammy apricot and lemon juice over a tequila base.
With: Reposado tequila, Swedish punch, lime juice and lemon juice
We say: A Swedish punch influenced Margarita. Tangy and oily.
With: Reposado tequila, agave syrup, lime juice and cucumber foam.
We say: Pronounced "Tea-You-One-Na" this is basically a Tommy's Margarita topped with cucumber foam.