Made in the usual way, on the rocks in a Tom Collins glass, the Tequila Sunrise is bit like the very well known Eagles song. A quintessential expression of 1970s culture, a bit over sweet and self-indulgent, but it goes down easily enough.
Still, as revealed to me by cocktail guru David Wondrich, there is a way to make this drink that makes it a thing of beauty and as pure and sweet as anything by East L.A.’s favorite sons, Los Lobos. It’s even better with an interesting tequila, but more about that in a bit.
Below is my simplified and, if I must say so myself, absolutely marvelous version of Wondrich’s take on this latter day cocktail classic.
The Tequila Sunrise
1 1/2 ounces white tequila
3 ounces orange juice (very preferably fresh squeezed)
1 teaspoon grenadine
Combine tequila and OJ in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail/martini glass. Add 1 teaspoon grenadine directly to glass. Let it sink to the bottom of the drink. If you’ve squeezed the OJ yourself from really good oranges, prepare for some ambrosial goodness in a pretty glass.
This week’s DOTW is very much brought to us by a brand new upstart variation on Mexico’s national liquor. If you remember your high school Spanish, you’ll know that’s calling Peligroso “the dangerous tequila” is as redundant, bilingually speaking, as talking about the La Brea Tar Pits. (I’m fond of noting that since “La Brea” means “the tar,” “The La Brea Tar Pits” translates as “The The Tar Tar Pits.”)
Even so, I really do quite like the free booze I received from the new chicos on the tequila block. With only two percent more alcohol than standard tequilas, this dangerous tequila isn’t really all that terribly peligroso at 84 proof in a world of 90+ proof gins and 100 proofs bourbons and vodkas. Nevertheless, the extra bit of alcohol does make for a livelier flavor that definitely compliments this version of a tequila sunrise, cutting through the sweetness of the orange juice and grenadine. In my tequila sunrises, it was definitely more than a cut above the cheaper, well known brand X agave spirit I also made it with.
That being said, even more than upgrading the tequila, the biggest favor you can do for this drink is to squeeze the oranges yourself. Even though I now own a hand juicer, I have to admit that it’s fairly labor intensive. This was especially true the first time I made this as I was actually making two drinks and juice oranges are currently out of season. Fortunately, the current crop of navel oranges available down here in Southern California are delightfully sweet and juicy enough for our purposes — though this drink will be easier to make when the Valencias return.
I also tried my version of a Tequila Sunrise with some store bought “not from concentrate” juice. Unlike Wondrich, I found it produced a very respectable result, though admittedly a few steps down from the stuff I squeezed my own self.
For me, the more garden variety on-the-rocks highball glass version of the drink is a let down even with fresh squeezed juice. However, if you insist on making it that way, use the same proportions as listed above. Just be sure to stir your orange juice and tequila together before adding the grenadine to create your sunrise effect.
And now I leave you with my kind of musical accompaniment to a Tequila Sunrise.