A 70s Drink with Far Out Flavor
Remember John-boy? Ever yelled “shazam” or “right on”? Ever shake your booty at the disco?
If so, you probably remember the Tequila Sunrise, that trippy combo of tequila, orange juice, and grenadine that became the rage early in the 1970s. It was the drink that introduced lots of people to tequila.
I’ll bet you haven’t had one in ages — even if you’re old enough to remember it. So with National Tequila Day coming up on July 24th, what better time to get reacquainted with this drink?
Rediscover what you once knew: The Tequila Sunrise is outta sight.
Recipe: The Tequila Sunrise Cocktail
There are actually two versions of the Tequila Sunrise: the version that we’re talking about today (and that any bartender will automatically make for you if you order this cocktail). And the original, which dates back to the 1930s or maybe 40s — a drink that didn’t include orange juice, and may not have included grenadine. More on that in the Notes.
The version we all know today was created by Bobby Lazoff and Billy Rice in the early 1970s at the Trident restaurant in Sausalito, California. The grenadine creates gradients of color that, combined with the OJ, resemble a sunrise (or a sunset, depending on your mood).
This drink is usually served over ice in a tall (Collins) glass — one that holds 10 ounces or so. But you can also serve it in a cocktail glass, which is a different and pleasant way to drink it.
This recipe serves one, and takes about 5 minutes to prepare.
- 1½ ounces silver tequila (something made with 100% Agave is best; I like Jose Cuervo Tradicional, but Jose Cuervo Especial, with only 51% agave, is less expensive and works OK)
- 3 ounces fresh-squeezed OJ (may substitute pre-made, but fresh-squeezed has better color and flavor)
- ½ ounce Homemade Grenadine (may substitute store bought)
- orange wheel or wedge and/or maraschino cherry for garnish (optional)
To serve the drink in a tall glass:
- Fill a tall glass with ice cubes, and add the tequila and OJ, and briefly stir to mix (stirring is optional; the two will combine soon enough).
- Pour in the grenadine. It usually forms the “sunrise” effect immediately, but if necessary gently (and minimally) stir until you achieve a gradient of colors that you like.
- Garnish with optional orange wheel or wedge and/or a maraschino cherry. A little umbrella is also nice.
- Add the tequila and OJ to an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake well.
- Strain into a large cocktail glass.
- Pour in the grenadine, and gently stir until the grenadine forms the “sunrise” effect. (Or pour grenadine into the glass first, then carefully strain the OJ/Tequila mixture over it.)
- I often don’t garnish this drink when serving it in a cocktail glass, but you can garnish with an orange wheel and/or maraschino cherry if you like.
- Store-bought grenadine pales in comparison to that which you make yourself. More info in my post on Homemade Grenadine.
- The earliest version of the Tequila Sunrise didn’t include orange juice. Instead, it was made with tequila, lime juice, crème de cassis (a red liqueur made from black currants), usually grenadine, and often topped off with a bit of seltzer. I’ve also seen references to versions that skipped the grenadine and substituted lemon juice for the lime juice. Sounds like a pretty good drink either way, although I haven’t tried making it (I don’t have crème de cassis, and even though I’m dedicated to researching for the blog, I decided to forgo buying a bottle just to try this obscure version of the drink — a first for me, I admit).
- I’ve seen suggestions that the original drink was invented in Tijuana. I’ve also seen reports saying it was invented at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, Arizona. As is so often the case with cocktails, the true origin of this one is unclear.
- But the current version of the drink (our version) definitely belongs to the 1970s. And it became internationally known because of the 1973 song “Tequila Sunrise” by The Eagles.
- You know, “It’s another tequila sunrise/Starin’ slowly ‘cross the sky . . .”
- This drink was all the rage for much of a decade, then mostly disappeared. Except maybe on cruise ships. Nowadays when people want a drink with tequila, they usually order a Margarita.
- This cocktail contains lots of orange juice, so it might make a good brunch drink. At the very least, you’ll probably get grins from guests who are tired of the usual Bloody Marys and Mimosas.
Next Up? The Mother of All Tiki Drinks
“Hmm,” Mrs. Kitchen Riffs sighed as she sipped her Tequila Sunrise, “this flavor really takes me back. It’s so, so fine, dude.”
“It’s pretty wicked,” I nodded in agreement. “Primo.”
We looked at each other and giggled. Yes, we actually used to talk like that back in the day! Our exposure to slang started in the 60s — and then got sillier in the 70s.
“So,” continued Mrs K R, “what’s up next on the old blog. Don’t tell me about the food — I want that to be a surprise. What’s the next drink in the Summer Sippin’ Series?” She grinned. “Lay it on me!”
“Well, next week’s drink is going to be the one that quite possibly inspired Don the Beachcomber to begin creating Tiki drinks. As you know, Don was the genius who created the Tiki craze after World War II. Anyway, it’s an old Jamaican drink, dating back to the 18th century. So it’s rum-fueled, of course — and it’s called Planter’s Punch. So hang loose!”
“Funky!” Mrs K R exclaimed as she drained her glass. “But that’s next week. This week shall we ‘take another shot of courage?’”
Never one to bogart the tequila bottle, I dutifully made us another round.
You’ll want to mix one up too. Cause this drink rules. Can you dig it?
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