As tequila continues to make inroads into U.S. cocktail culture, more and more people are discovering its amazing versatility and complexity. They’re realizing that while the Margarita is a classic cocktail for a reason—it’s delicious and brilliantly simple—it’s by no means the be-all, end-all for tequila. The ancient agave spirit comes in several forms, from blanco to reposado to añejo, and it can be sipped neat or on the rocks—as well as mixed into a much wider variety of cocktails than previously given credit for.
Here are five such drinks, in ascending order of difficulty (though none of them is too difficult). Master these to further stoke your passion for home bartending and progress on your journey of tequila knowledge. Our list starts with two classics, followed by three originals that showcase the underappreciated flexibility of Mexico’s storied national spirit.
Cocktail origin stories are notoriously hazy, perhaps none more so than the Margarita’s. There are at least four different version of the tale, and they involve a Hollywood-worthy cast of characters, from a Tijuana bartender and a beautiful dancer to a Dallas socialite and a wealthy hotelier. There’s even a rendition involving the famous singer Peggy Lee (“Fever”). There are also a number of ways to make this classic. The best, in our opinion, is to keep it simple, use a quality blanco tequila, and elevate it with agave syrup instead of smothering it with orange-flavored liqueur.
Fun fact about this drink: the Paloma—and not its more famous counterpart, the Margarita—is the national cocktail of Mexico. With good reason: the sweet, tart, and crisp accents of the grapefruit soda combine beautifully with the earthy flavor of the reposado tequila, making for a uniquely flavorful concoction. It’s also a snap to make. Check it out (and avoid any grapefruit sodas sweetened with corn syrup).
Think of this as the Paloma’s sophisticated older cousin who’s studied abroad and come back with a little worldly experience and added dimension. It’s an ideal companion for interesting conversation in a shady spot on a scorching hot afternoon.
Show off some bartending chops by using the unexpected combination of Champagne and tequila in this advanced yet still easy-to-make sipper. It’s a vivid creation that tastes as good as it looks, and puts the underappreciated adaptability of tequila front and center.
The Mexican resort town of Puerto Vallarta sits on the Pacific Coast in the state of Jalisco, the heart of tequila country. This adjustable formula makes for a sensational beachside tipple, while also adding an excellent, uncomplicated entry to your repertoire of tequila cocktails.