Nothing says summer to me like a refreshing tequila cocktail—preferably consumed beside a beautiful body of water. But one cannot live by margaritas, palomas, and Bloody Marias alone. (Much as I try.)
So to shake up my drinks game this year, I asked a number of spirits professionals about what they’re doing with the tequilas in their liquor cabinet. And I wasn’t disappointed by their thoroughly creative concoctions.
Here are some new (and stellar) ways to mix things up for when you’re in a cocktail rut—from a spicy peach-forward smash to a strawberry-and-cilantro combo that bursts of flavor.
TANTEO PUERTO VALLARTA SMASH
“I love the play of sweet and spicy with peaches and habanero. The basil and jalapeño add a freshness that screams ‘drink me on a long summer day while overlooking the beach!’” —Daniel Kurtzman, general manager at Tall Boy Taco (Chicago, Illinois)
2 oz. Tanteo Habanero
0.75 oz. peach puree
0.75 oz. agave nectar
0.25 oz. lime juice
6–8 small basil leaves
½ jalapeño (seeded)
Method: Muddle basil, jalapeños, and agave nectar in shaker. Add ice and the rest of the ingredients. Shake vigorously and strain into rocks glass with crushed ice. Garnish with Tajín rim.
THE TRES AGAVES EL DIABLO
“This great classic cocktail is too often overlooked. A bit of island vibes, a bit of summer—it’s the perfect drink from spring all throughout summer. It works anytime and is less labor intensive and less boozy than a margarita. Good quality ginger beer is good for your stomach as well. If you don’t have cassis, you can substitute in another liqueur. Elderflower, orange, coffee, peach, and lots of other flavors work here as well.” —E. Carter Wilsford, head bartender at Joyface (New York City, New York)
1.25 oz. Tres Agaves blanco tequila
0.75 oz. crème de cassis
Ginger beer (do not substitute with ginger ale)
Method: This cocktail is super simple, essentially an elevated highball. No need to shake or muddle anything. Add your tequila and cassis to a tall glass. Fill with ice and top with ginger beer.
MILAGRO PALOMA SELECT
“Our Milagro Select Paloma is the perfect cocktail for the summer because it’s light and refreshing. The tart grapefruit paired with the agave-forward Milagro Select Silver creates a harmonious blend of flavors that are sure to impress. If you are entertaining, I recommend you batch out your cocktails in pitchers or punch bowls so that your guests can serve themselves.” —Jaime Salas, national ambassador at Milagro Tequila
1 ½ parts Milagro Select Silver
1 part pink grapefruit juice
½ part fresh lime juice
½ part agave nectar
3 parts sparkling water
1 pink grapefruit wedge
Method: Pour all ingredients, except sparkling water, into a Boston shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a highball glass with fresh ice. Top with sparkling water. Garnish with speared grapefruit wedge.
THE 25/8 (A.K.A. THE VENTICINCO-OCHO)
“I call this cocktail the 25/8 (venticinco-ocho), because drinking it 24/7 still wouldn’t be enough!” —Rensel Cabrera, bar manager at The Sylvester (Miami, Florida)
1.5 parts El Tesoro blanco tequila
1 part lime juice
0.75 part agave syrup
1 bunch cilantro
2 cracks of fresh black pepper
Splash of Topo Chico
Method: Start by muddling 1 whole strawberry and 1 bunch of cilantro in mixing glass. Add agave, lime, and tequila into mixing glass. Give it a quick stir for 5–8 seconds. Add a splash of Topo Chico and strain into highball class with fresh ice. Garnish with cilantro, lime wheel, and fresh cracked black pepper on top. Tip: You can substitute the strawberry for any other berry or even some yellow or orange bell peppers.
“Corralejo tequila plays well with citrus and ginger. And this will certainly be one of my favorite go-tos this summer. Sipping on one of these will help you forget about last year—preferably as you enjoy an amazing ocean view while on vacation.” —Mike Callan, bar manager at Tamarindo Del Mar (Del Mar, California)
2 oz. Corralejo reposado tequila
½ oz. Magdala liqueur
¾ oz. lemon juice
½ oz. simple syrup
¾ oz. Aquafaba
2 small pieces of ginger
Orange zest, garnish
Method: Muddle ginger with simple syrup in a mixing glass. Add ingredients and ice, then shake vigorously. Serve in a coupe and Microplane orange zest on top for garnish.
SUMMER IN ARANDAS
“The Summer in Arandas cocktail allows for Mijenta blanco’s flavor profile to expand even further with the earthiness and sweetness of watermelon, delicate notes of flowers, and hint of salt. Mijenta’s agave is harvested and produced in Arandas, so this cocktail also pays homage to the hometown of Mijenta.” —Juan Coronado, cofounder at Mijenta Tequila
1.5 parts Mijenta blanco tequila
4 watermelon cubes (approximately 1.5 inches by 1.5 inches)
1 part fresh lime juice
0.5 part elderflower liqueur
0.25 part simple syrup
Method: Muddle the watermelon cubes. Add the rest of the ingredients. Shake vigorously with plenty of ice. Double strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a salted watermelon cube.
THE COCO AÑEJO
“Summer is right around the corner and this is a perfectly refreshing and delicious drink—with a hint of spiciness that you can enjoy on a hot summer day in Del Mar.” —Matty Auer, lead bartender at Monarch Ocean Pub (Del Mar, California)
2 oz. Los Arango añejo
1 oz. pineapple juice
¾ oz. coconut milk
¾ oz. pandan simple syrup**
Splash of lime juice
2–3 slices of serrano pepper
Method: Muddle serrano pepper and simple syrup in a mixing glass. Add the rest of the ingredients with ice. Shake vigorously and serve over crushed ice.
**Pandan Simple Syrup Ingredients:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
4 Pandan leaves, cut into strips
**Method for Pandan Simple Syrup: Wash the pandan leaves to remove any dirt. Using scissors, cut the pandan leaves into thin strips. In a small pan, bring 1 cup of water, 1 cup of sugar, and pandan strips to the boil and leave to simmer for two minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to steep for 6 hours. Using a fine strainer, strain the syrup into a swing top glass bottle and store in the fridge. It keeps for approximately 2 weeks.
“The Ojo Azul looks and tastes like a day at the beach! It’s a bright and delicious cocktail that screams ‘summer’s here!’ The PaQuí Silvera is a great tequila for this drink, with its gush of tropical agave flavor.” —Ruffo Bazan, bartender at Maz Mezcal (New York City, New York)
2 oz. PaQuí Silvera tequila
2 oz. fresh lime juice
½ oz. agave syrup
½ oz. blue curaçao
Method: Combine PaQuí Silvera, fresh lime juice, and agave syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into chilled glass. Add blue curaçao and garnish with a lime wheel.
THE GRILLED WATERMELON MARGARITA
“The Grilled Watermelon Margarita is one of my go-to spring and summer cocktails from Cointreau because it adds a playful amount of fruit with hints of smokiness to The Original Margarita. During the spring and summer, anything grilled (especially watermelon) really embodies the warmer weather.” —Dominic Alling, national brand ambassador at Rémy Cointreau
1 oz. Cointreau
2 oz. tequila
1 oz. fresh lime juice
0.5 oz. grilled watermelon syrup
0.5 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
Method: To make grilled watermelon syrup: Cut watermelon into slices and grill until both sides of the watermelon have grill marks. After letting cool, blend with simple syrup (1:1) and then fine strain. Add all ingredients to shaker with ice. Shake and fine strain over ice into Tajin-salted rocks glass. (3:1 Tajin to kosher salt) Garnish with lime wheel.