Ah tequila, the spirit of choice for many a night out. From margaritas to shots, tequila has become a staple in bars across the world.
But what is tequila? What are the different types? How do you make the perfect tequila cocktail? And what are the most popular tequila cocktails?
We’re here to help answer all your questions and teach you everything you need about this classic spirit.
Buckle up bartenders and bar owners, it’s time to get schooled on tequila. It’s making its way throughout the craft cocktail and bar scene, so you don’t want to be out of the loop on this one.
What is Tequila?
Tequila has been around for centuries and can now be found in almost any bar around the world.
This agave spirit is made from an iconic blue agave plant that is native to Mexico, making it a great addition to new, or any, bartender’s repertoires.
Ranging usually between 52% and 55% alcohol by volume, tequila certainly packs a punch! That’s why you hear so much about it and why it has its own t-shirt slogan.
However, those new to tequila cocktails should not be afraid. These drinks can range from sweet and citrusy to peppery in flavor when made right. With some practice, new bartenders are sure to become tequila masters in no time.
Feeling like traveling around the world, but using your mouth?
Read our recent post where you can uncover cocktail recipes from across the globe. Click here!
What Are The Types Of Tequila?
There are four main types of tequila including blanco (unaged), reposado (aged between two and twelve months), añejo (aged between one and three years), and extra añejo (aged three years or more).
Blanco has a strong agave flavor while reposado often has notes of vanilla, spice, or oak due to its aging process.
Añejo has mellow flavors of caramel, nuts, burnt sugar, and chocolate while extra añejo has strong flavors like coffee or tobacco due to its lengthy aging process.
How is Tequila Different from Mezcal?
A common confusion new bartenders will face is how tequila differs from mezcal.
On the surface, they seem interchangeable – both are made with blue agave and have a smoky flavor. However, there are some key distinctions, including which type of agave is used for each brand and, most importantly, that tequila is exclusively produced in the Mexican state of Jalisco while mezcal’s territory covers nine states. In terms of taste, tequila has more grassy, herbal flavors with a cleaner finish than what you’d find in your traditional mezcal cocktails; so newbies just getting into their mixing game should consider the subtle differences before pouring out the margaritas.
Here’s a quick video run-down of the difference.
Have you ever been confused? You’re not alone! Here’s a story from a friend of mine in the bar industry. You might resonate!
I was nervous, really nervous. I had just started working at one of the most popular bars in Chicago as a new bartender and I had no idea what I was doing.
On my first night, I accidentally served someone mezcal instead of tequila – oops! The customer gave me an odd look and asked if I knew the difference between the two drinks; to which my face flushed with embarrassment as I shook my head no.
One of my coworkers noticed this exchange and came over to help explain the differences between mezcal and tequila to me and the customer. They were patient with me but still, it didn’t take away from how embarrassed I felt – especially when other customers started chiming in about their own experiences with these drinks!
My bosses were kind enough not to fire me on account of this mishap (thankfully!) but they did strongly suggest that if I wanted to stay employed at their bar for any length of time, then it would be wise for me to attend a bartending school so that situations like this wouldn’t happen again in the future. So that’s exactly what I did!
It took some hours after work each day but eventually, through lots of practice and dedication, by attending classes at bartending school, plus lots of taste testing. Which is also known as “market research” in my lay of the land.
Soon enough, not only could I tell tequila from Mezcal blindfolded, but actually enjoyed teaching others too about all things alcohol-related (in fact now many people come back specifically because they know that I have expertise on hand!).
It was definitely worth feeling slightly embarrassed for a few minutes. Who knows where else learning more about cocktails could take me?
How To Make Tequila Cocktails
For new bartenders or mixologists looking to get creative with tequila, it’s all about having the right tools in your arsenal: a good quality shaker, some strainers, and of course, some top-notch ingredients!
Learning new techniques for crafting unique tequila cocktails can up your game and your cash-inflow.
Whether you prefer classic margaritas or something more creative (more on that below!), the key is to be creative and have fun with the flavors. Once you have those basics mastered, show off your new talents and make some memorable drinks for your memorable (or not-so-memorable) guests.
Our biggest tip is to start off easy. Make and sample some simple recipes like margaritas or palomas. Then, you can move on to more “complex” drinks like Bloody Marias or Tequilas Sunrise for your regulars that want something new!
The Most Popular Tequila Cocktails
Margaritas are undoubtedly one of the most popular cocktails made with tequila but there are plenty more worth trying out!
Actually, did you know that there are over 20 different types of margarita-themed cocktails like the classic margarita, electric margarita, shaken margarita, and frozen classic margaritas? How can you keep up with it all?
But, if you’re a new bartender or just opened a new bar, knowing how to make a killer margarita is essential! The staple ingredient in this beloved cocktail is, of course, tequila. The next secret ingredient is Local Bartending School, but we’ll get to that here in just a bit.
Margaritas have been around for over a century and are most likely the world’s most popular tequila-based drink.
Not only are they flavorful and fun to make, but they can also be quite profitable for bartenders & bar owners! With over 20 different variations, you could probably run a special every day for an entire month.
So make sure you know the basics of making an unforgettable marg: start by adding equal parts tequila, lime juice, simple syrup, and your favorite triple sec in an ice-filled shaker. Shake it up, strain over ice into a glass, and garnish with a lime wheel – boom (or should we say ¡Olé!)!
Here’s a breakdown of a classic margarita recipe.
Once you have your ingredients ready:
- Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and
- Add 2 oz. of tequila, 1 oz. of freshly squeezed lime juice, and 1 oz. of triple sec.
- Shake well until the mixture is well chilled and strain into a salt-rimmed glass filled with ice.
- Garnish with a slice of lime.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also experiment with different variations of the margarita recipe. For example, a spicy margarita can be made by muddling a few slices of jalapeño pepper in the shaker before adding the other ingredients. You can also try adding fresh fruit purees, such as strawberry or mango, for a sweeter twist on the classic recipe.
No matter how you choose to make it, the margarita is a timeless and versatile cocktail that’s perfect for any occasion. So the next time you’re looking to cool off and unwind, give this delicious and refreshing drink a try!
Now you’re ready to start selling delicious margaritas like nobody’s biz. Except for your biz, because we’re here to make money and margaritas!
Other Classic Tequila Cocktails
Long Island Iced Tea
The combination of gin, vodka, rum, tequila, and triple sec is what gives this drink its punch. The addition of fresh lemon juice and simple syrup balances out the drink’s sweetness with a sharp tang. The cola adds a little bit of fizz and enhances the drink’s complex flavors.
- 1 oz gin
- 1 oz vodka
- 1 oz rum
- 1 oz tequila
- 1 oz triple sec
- 1 oz fresh lemon juice
- 1 oz simple syrup
- 2 oz cola
- Lemon wedges, garnish
- Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice.
- Add the gin, vodka, rum, tequila, triple sec, lemon juice, and simple syrup to the shaker and shake well for about 10-15 seconds, until the shaker becomes chilled.
- Strain the mixture into a tall glass filled with ice.
- Top with the cola and stir gently to combine.
- Garnish with a lemon wedge and serve immediately.
This delicious cocktail is a true classic that combines the bold flavors of tequila with the tangy sweetness of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Here are the ingredients you need and the steps to follow:
- 2 oz. tequila (either blanco or reposado)
- 3/4 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 oz. simple syrup
- 1 egg white
- Begin by filling a cocktail shaker with ice.
- Next, add the tequila, lemon juice, and simple syrup to the shaker.
- Crack a fresh egg and separate the white from the yolk. Discard the yolk and add the egg white to the shaker.
- Securely fasten the lid on the shaker and shake vigorously for at least 15-20 seconds to ensure the egg white is properly mixed.
- Open the shaker and add ice to the mixing glass. Shake again until the ice is fully incorporated.
- Strain the mixture into a chilled glass (preferably a rocks glass or coupe) and let it settle for a few seconds.
- Garnish with a slice of lemon or lime, and serve immediately.
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice is a must for this recipe. Avoid using bottled juice as it can be too sweet or tart. use.
- To ensure the egg white is properly mixed, use a “dry” shake (without ice) first, then add ice and shake again to chill.
The Mexican Mule is a delicious twist on the classic Moscow Mule. It’s a perfect cocktail for summer or any time you want a refreshing drink with a little bit of a kick.
A good-quality ginger beer can truly make or break this drink! So bar owners don’t think you can cut some cost-corners by ordering the cheap stuff.
Make sure you serve in a copper mug if possible. The copper allows the drink to stay cold for longer and adds a unique rustic touch. Plus, guests will get sad if their mules don’t come in the copper mugs.
- 2 oz tequila
- 1 oz lime juice
- 4 oz ginger beer
- 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters
- Lime wedge for garnish
- In a copper mug or a glass of your choice, add ice up to about ¾ of the way.
- Pour in 2 oz of tequila over the ice.
- Squeeze in 1 oz of freshly squeezed lime juice, making sure to remove any seeds.
- Add 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters to the drink to give it a subtle but distinct flavor.
- Finally, top the drink with 4 oz of ginger beer, which gives it a refreshing, spicy kick.
- Garnish with a lime wedge for an extra burst of citrus flavor and a pop of color.
A Bloody Maria is a classic cocktail that is essentially a spicier version of a Bloody Mary, with tequila as the main spirit. This zesty and fiery drink is perfect for anyone looking for a little bit of a kick to their classic brunch favorite.
- 2 ounces of tequila
- 3 ounces of tomato juice
- 1 ounce of fresh lime juice
- 2-3 dashes of hot sauce (depending on the spice preference)
- 2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
- Pinch of salt and black pepper
- Celery stalk, lime wedge, and pickled jalapeño for garnish
- To get started, fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add in the tequila, tomato juice, and lime juice. Shake well to combine the ingredients and then add in the hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and black pepper. Shake the mixture again and strain it into a tall glass filled with ice.
- To garnish your Bloody Maria, skewer a pickled jalapeño and a lime wedge and place it in the glass along with a celery stalk. Not only do these garnishes add some visual appeal, but they also enhance the flavor of the cocktail.
- If you want to take your Bloody Maria to the next level, you can also rim the edge of the glass with salt or Tajin seasoning. This will add an additional burst of flavor and complement the spicy notes in the cocktail.
Bonus! Surprising, Unique Tequila Takes on Cocktails
The Mystic Marvel
- 1.5 oz Casamigos Tequila
- 1 oz prickly pear purée
- .75 oz agave
- .75 oz lime juice
- Combine all ingredients in a shaker over ice and shake. Strain over fresh ice and garnish with a salt rim and lime.
- 2 oz Tres Agaves Reposado
- .5 oz grapefruit juice
- .75 oz lime juice
- .75 oz simple syrup
- 1 dash Angostura Bitters
- Grapefruit soda
- Add all ingredients except soda to the shaker; add ice, shake, and strain over ice. Top off with Mexican soda and garnish with a lime wheel.
Oaxacan Old Fashioned
- 1.5 oz Corralejo Reposado Tequila
- .5 Mezcal
- 1 bar spoon agave nectar
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
- 2 dashes Bittermens Xocaloctl Bitters
- Stir all ingredients with ice and strain over a large format ice cube in a rocks glass. Garnish with a long peel of an orange and its oils.
Manhattan Goes Hollywood
- 3 oz anejo tequila
- .75 tsp maple syrup
- 4 dashes orange bitters
- Add all ingredients to the mixing glass, add large ice, and stir thoroughly. Taste for balance and single strain into a rocks glass. Garnish and serve.
Find even more unique and zesty tequila and margarita recipes at Town and Country Mag!
Tequila isn’t just reserved for rowdy nights out at bars; it can be used in sophisticated cocktails too!
Whether you’re looking for something quick and easy like margaritas or something exotic like Bloody Marias, there’s something for everyone when it comes to making drinks with this classic Mexican spirit!
Bartenders and bar owners alike can take advantage of these amazing recipes that will certainly impress their customers every time they come back through those doors!
So now that we have armed you with all this knowledge go forth into your next shift ready to make some delicious concoctions using one of our favorite spirits! Cheers!