The classic margarita may be the quintessential tequila drink, but for a cocktail that’s as beautiful as it is delicious, the tequila sunrise can’t be beat. And it’s hard to think of the tequila sunrise without hearing those unforgettable Eagles’ lyrics playing through one’s mind. Layered with red, orange and yellow hues that mimic the appearance of a sunrise, this drink is picture-perfect. And it only requires three ingredients: orange juice, grenadine and, of course, tequila. Keep scrolling to learn the fun history of this cocktail, how to how make a Tequila Sunrise and ideas for kicking it up a notch.
Who invented the Tequila Sunrise?
The origins of the Tequila Sunrise are a little fuzzy. Back in the 1930s, Gene Sulit, a bartender at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, crafted a drink with tequila, soda water, lime juice and liqueur and called it a Tequila Sunrise. Word of the drink spread west to Sausalito, California, where Bobby Lozoff and Billy Rice, two bartenders at a seafood restaurant called The Trident came up with what we now know as the three-ingredient Tequila Sunrise using tequila, orange juice and grenadine.
How the Tequila Sunrise became popular
Believe it or not, the Tequila Sunrise owes much of its rise in popularity to rock legends the Rolling Stones. The band was attending a private party at The Trident as they were kicking off their US tour in 1972. Mick Jagger was the first to try the Tequila Sunrise, and after loving it, decided to buy a whole round for his crew. Ever since that night, the Tequila Sunrise was the drink of choice for the remainder of their tour. As they traveled the country, ordering it at several different establishments, word began to spread.
Just a year later, another legendary rock band, The Eagles, named one of their songs on their Desperado album “Tequila Sunrise.” You can probably imagine how quickly the drink gained recognition from that point on.
How to make a Tequila Sunrise
You don’t need to be a professional mixologist to create this stunning sip — just three ingredients are all it takes:
- 2 oz. tequila
- 4 oz. orange juice
- ½ oz. grenadine syrup
Add tequila and orange to an ice-filled cocktail glass. Using spoon, slowly pour grenadine down center of the drink, letting it sink to the bottom to create the sunrise appearance. Do not stir. Garnish with orange slices and maraschino cherries, if desired.
What’s the best type of tequila to use?
When deciding which type of tequila to use for your Tequila Sunrise, it really depends on your taste preference. For a pure, clean flavor, opt for silver tequila, which may also be labeled white, blanco or plata (which means “silver” in Spanish). For a more complex flavor for your Tequila Sunrise, try reposado — meaning “rested” — which is aged in oak barrels, giving it its golden color. Añejo tequila is aged for an extended period and is usually more expensive than other varieties. When it comes to a Tequila Sunrise, the complex flavor that makes añejo special tends to get lost in the fruity flavor. (Want more sweet cocktail ideas? Click through for these delicious chocolate martini recipes.)
What’s the difference between a Tequila Sunrise and a Tequila Sunset?
A Tequila Sunrise and a Tequila Sunset are very similar, with the difference being just one ingredient. For a Tequila Sunset, simply use blackcurrant liqueur, also called creme de cassis, in place of the grenadine. Some recipes also call for substituting grapefruit juice for the orange. This is a good option for those who prefer their drinks to be less sweet.
Try these delicious variations
A traditional tequila sunrise is delicious as is, but it’s so easy to customize to your own taste preferences. Woman’s World food editor Charles Grayauskie, who develops many of our cocktail recipes, likes to swap in homemade raspberry syrup in place of the grenadine. Here’s his recipe:
Homemade Raspberry Syrup
- 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
In pot, combine all ingredients. Over medium heat, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then cook until berries soften and sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Strain in a heatproof bowl, using spoon to press berries. Let cool.
Prefer something tropical? Mighty Mrs. simply pours in some pineapple juice along with the orange in her Tequila Sunrise. A Caribbean Sunrise swaps in rum in place of the tequila, while a Southern Sunrise uses Southern Comfort. (Click through for some moonshine cocktails as well.)
And for even more delicious fun, turn it into a Slushie Tequila Sunrise — just check out this how-to from The Tipsy Bartender: