20 Cocktails That Are Even Better With Tequila

Celebrate #NationalTequilaDay with killer tequila twists on every drink imaginable.

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National Tequila Day is July 24, so it’s only natural that we mark this somewhat dubious “holiday” by celebrating the world’s most popular agave-based spirit. 

We all know about classic tequila-spiked cocktails like margaritas and palomas. But how about tequila in drinks that traditionally aren’t comprised of tequila, from sturdy favorites like the martini and Old Fashioned to fanciful craft cocktails being whipped up at bars across America.

How does tequila play in drinks that aren’t typically made with it? According to Johnny Swet, head mixologist at Skylark in Manhattan, it’s a match made in cocktail heaven. 

“Tequilas are wonderfully complex with some amazing notes and flavors,” he says. “I often substitute tequila in cocktails that call for rye or bourbon. I tend to use silver tequilas in juice and fruit-forward cocktails, but prefer the aging of reposado and anejo for stirred and boozy cocktails.”

Jonathan Shock, bartender at Detroit’s Prime + Proper, says tequila’s complex vegetal notes make it a solid substitute for gin in a drink like a Negroni. “It provides a rich and complex flavor profile while also having the grace to play well with other ingredients without bullying them.”

“It’s no surprise that tequila has had the most dramatic sales growth of any spirit over the last ten years,” says bar manager Kaitlyn Fischer at South Boston’s Loco Taqueria & Oyster Bar

“I honestly think you can swap out tequila for almost any other spirit, making maybe minor changes to other ingredients, and craft a delicious cocktail. The versatility of tequila and its variance in flavor profile, from clean and bright blancos to anejos with a hint of smoke or caramel, really promotes bartenders to be playful and think outside the box when coming up with new ingredients to mix with tequila. Almost anything is fair game.”

With that in mind, here are 20 classic cocktails that are made even better by substituting tequila for other spirits. Bottoms up, people. 

Tequila Martini

Cadillac Anejo Martini – The Skylark, NYC – created by Johnny Swet

  • 2 oz Don Julio anejo 
  • 1 oz Carpano Antico Bianco 
  • 4 dashes of Chuncho bitters 

Add all ingredients into a mixing glass and stir. Strain into a martini glass rinsed with Grand Marnier. Garnish with an orange twist.

Parkeroo – BlackTail, NYC – Jesse Vida

Photo: Jesse Vida
  • 1.5 oz green pepper-infused Cabeza tequila 
  • .75 oz Don Amado mezcal 
  • .75 oz fino sherry 
  • .25 oz Falernum 
  • .25 oz pineapple cane syrup 
  • 1 Tsp yuzu cane syrup 
  • 2 dashes Boston Bittah’s

Stir ingredients together over ice, strain into cocktail glass.

Tequila Sangria

Dueling Sangria – The Regal, NYC – created by beverage director Steve Escobar

  • 2 oz Mezcal Joven 
  • 1.5 oz silver tequila 
  • 1 oz Berentzen’s apple liqueur 
  • .75 oz peach puree 
  • .5 oz grapefruit juice 
  • 1 oz orange juice 
  • 1 oz pineapple juice 
  • 4 oz white wine 

Combine in punchbowl and serve over ice.

Tequila Sour

Jalisco Sour – Hotel Chantelle – created by beverage director Steve Escobar

  • 1 oz Ilegal Mezcal Joven
  • .75 oz Blue Nectar reposado tequila
  • .25 oz Amaro Montenegro
  • .5 oz orange juice
  • .75 oz lime juice
  • .5 oz egg white

Dry shake, wet shake, strain over rocks. Add dehydrated lime and cayenne pepper as a garnish.

Tequila Mai Tai

Rainbow Dragon – Loco Taqueria & Oyster Bar, South Boston – created by bar manager Kaitlyn Fischer

  • 2 oz Cabrito reposado tequila 
  • .5 oz triple sec 
  • .75 oz fresh lime juice 
  • .25 oz simple syrup 
  • .5 oz orgeat syrup 

Shake ingredients together, pour into cocktail glass and garnish with an orange wedge.

Tequila Negroni

Hop Sea Negroni – Cassia, Santa Monica

Photo: Melanee Singha
  • 1.5 oz Cimarron blanco tequila 
  • .75 oz Punt e Mes
  • .75 oz Cocchi Americano, citra hops-infused 

Spray and rinse rocks glass with oyster shell-infused Union mezal. Serve on the rocks with a cucumber or salmon roe garnish, spray garnish with Union mezcal.

Jaliscan Spring – Milkwood, Louisville – created by Stacie Stewart

  • 1.5 oz tequila 
  • .75 oz Aperol 
  • .75 oz Dolin Rouge 

Stir over ice in shaker, and pour into collins glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Blanquita – Prime + Proper (opening soon), Detroit – created by Jonathan Shock

  • 1 oz tequila 
  • .75 oz Suze 
  • .75 oz blanc vermouth 
  • pinch of salt 

Combine tequila, Suze, blanc vermouth, and pinch of salt into a coupe glass. Stir, and garnish with lemon and rosemary.

Tequila Old Fashioned

Burdeos Old Fashioned – Patron Tequila

  • 2 oz Gran Patron Burdeos 
  • 2 oz Angostura bitters 
  • Orange zest 
  • Dememera syrup or sugar 

Express orange zest into double Old Fashioned glass. Combine tequila, sugar, and bitters in glass. Add large ice chunks and stir ten times. Express second orange garnish over surface of drink, garnish with orange peel.

Oaxacan Old Fashioned – I|O Godfrey, Chicago – created by Nate Cayer

  • 1.5 oz cocoa and chili-infused Roca Patron tequila 
  • .5 oz orange-infused mezcal 
  • .5 oz agave syrup 
  • dash of mole bitters 

Combine ingredients and stir over ice. Strain and serve neat or over ice.

Tequila Old Fashioned – The Mixing Room at JW Marriott, Los Angeles LA Live

  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters 
  • 1 dash orange bitters 
  • 1 dash Peychaud’s bitters 
  • 2 cubes sugar 
  • splash of water 

Muddle all into a mixing glass, add 2 oz Tapatio Blanco and .5 oz Tapatio Anejo.
Stir and strain over fresh ice and garnish with an orange peel.

Tequila Manhattan

Distrito Federal – JIMMY at the James – created by Johnny Swet

  • 2 oz anejo or reposado tequila 
  • 1 oz Carpano Antica 
  • 2 dashes orange bitters 
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters 

Mix ingredients with ice. Pour into a chilled martini glass, and garnish with an orange twist. 

Modern Tequila Cocktails

El Mexicano – Temerario, NYC – created by Danny Vasquez

  • 1.5 oz Cocci Americano 
  • .5 oz Cocci Vermouth Di Torino 
  • .5 oz Aperol 
  • 1.5 oz Espolon blanco tequila 
  • 2 splashes club soda 

Stir ingredients together, garnish with a lemon peel.

Boston Strongboy – Green River, Chicago

  • 1 oz yellow chartreuse 
  • 1 oz papaya-infused El Tesoro platinum tequila 
  • .75 oz Aperol 
  • .75 oz lime juice 
  • .25 oz kirsch 
  • 2 drops hickory smoked salt solution 
  • 1 dash fennel tincture 

Build all ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake and strain into coupe glass with one ice cube. Spray with tincture.

Pale Blue Dot – Dear Irving – created by Tom Richter and Dave Anderson

  • 1.5 oz blanco tequila
  • .5 oz blanc vermouth 
  • .5 oz Quina D’oro
  • .5 oz Fino sherry

Build in rocks glass, stir in big rock. Add two drops blue curacao. Garnish with lime disc.

Blood Orange Mule – Dos Caminos, NYC

  • 2 oz Don Julio blanco tequila
  • 1 oz blood orange puree
  • .25 oz lime juice
  • 3 oz ginger beer

Combine first three ingredients in shaker and shake. Pour over ice and top with ginger beer. Garnish with an orange wedge.  

Spanish Cosmo – Sunriver Resort, Bend, OR

  • 1.5 oz silver tequila 
  • .5 oz triple sec 
  • .25 oz lime juice 
  • 2 oz cranberry juice 

Combine in cocktail shaker and shake for 15 seconds. Strain into chilled martini glass with salted rim. Garnish with lime.

Mexican Mule – Casa Vega, Los Angeles – created by Christy Vega

  • 1.5 oz Don Julio blanco tequila 
  • .5 oz lime juice 
  • 1 teaspoon agave or cranberry syrup 
  • .5 cups ginger beer 

Add ice to mug and pour ingredients in. Stir to combine. Garnish with rosemary leaves and sugared cranberries.

Monte Cristo – Nelson’s at Terranea Resort, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

  • 1 oz Don Julio Blanco
  • .75 oz Giffard Banane du Bresil
  • .5 oz Giffard Orgeat syrup
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1 oz Meyers’ dark rum (float)

Stir ingredients together, strain over rocks. Garnish with lime wheel and banana chips.

Paco Martinez – Jimmy’s An American Restaurant & Bar, Aspen, CO – created by Jimmy Yeager

  • 2 oz Suerte reposado tequila
  • .5 oz sweet vermouth
  • .25 oz Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
  • dash orange bitters

Stir until chilled in a mixing glass, serve up (classic way) or on a BFIC (big fucking ice cube, Jimmy’s way) with an orange twist.