Tequila Sunrise

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The Tequila Sunrise cocktail is a colorful, picture-perfect drink with a rock ‘n roll history. Serve it poolside, at parties, and any time you are craving a sweet sunrise, no fancy bar equipment required.

2 glasses of tequila sunrise.


 

The original Tequila Sunrise cocktail was created in Phoenix, Arizona in the 1930s or 1940’s by a bartender named Gene Sulit at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel. The original tequila sunrise ingredients were tequila, creme de cassis (a blackcurrent liqueur), lime juice, and soda water or club soda, so it didn’t have the sunny, golden hue we have come to expect.

The modern version of the Tequila Sunrise, now an official IBA cocktail, was first served in Sausalito, California in the 1970s, created by bartenders Bobby Lozoff and Billy Rice. It’s still made with tequila, but now it has tangy orange juice and sweet grenadine. You craft each cocktail by hand instead of using a cocktail shaker.

In 1972, Mick Jagger tried it at a launch part for the Rolling Stones upcoming tour. He liked it so much, that the band ordered it everywhere they played in the United States. Keith Richards jokingly said that tour became the “Tequila Sunrise tour” among other things.

All of this made tequila infinitely more popular all around the country, and Jose Cuervo started promoting the cocktail on the back of their tequila bottles. Things just snowballed from there. The Eagles recorded a song called Tequila Sunrise for their Desperado album, and then a movie named Tequila Sunrise was released in 1988. The movie started Mel Gibson, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Kurt Russel, and the movie was a commercial success.

Many versions of the Tequila Sunrise are pretty to look at but can taste overly sweet. Not this one! I add fresh lime juice and an optional splash of seltzer, which in my humble opinion makes this cocktail worth an extra look.

Recipe ingredients

Labeled tequila sunrise ingredients.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Tequila: Choose tequila blanco, aka silver tequila, which has not been aged. This lighter tequila is great for mixed drinks.
  • Lime juice: Purely optional, but oh, so amazing.  Tequila and lime are best buds.
  • Orange Juice: Freshly squeezed, if you can. It really makes a huge difference in a simple cocktail like this one.
  • Grenadine syrup: That little bottle of red, sugary pomegranate-flavored syrup that is part of a well-stocked bar? That’s the “sunrise.” The syrup sinks to the bottom of the glass, giving the cocktail a rosy hue and some sweetness.
  • Soda or seltzer water: Look for an unsweetened, bubbly soda. Optional, but lightens the drink up from syrupy to ahhh, refreshing!

Step-by-step instructions

  1. Fill a highball glass (or other tall glass) with ice. Add tequila, lime juice (if using), and orange juice. Stir. Pour grenadine down the back of a spoon and let it rise from the bottom of the glass (you should see it clearly through the side of the glass).
Pouring grenadine into a tequila sunrise.
  1. Do not stir. Top with seltzer water (if using) and garnish with the orange wheel and maraschino cherry.
2 glasses of tequila sunrise.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This recipe makes 1 cocktail as Tequila Sunrise drinks are best crafted one at a time, by hand. There isn’t really a way to see the grenadine float across the top of the glass if you make them in a big batch or in a blender.
  • Glassware: The more dynamic, the better. Tall glasses really show off the sunrise.
  • Tequila Sunset: Some variations use grapefruit juice instead of orange juice. Other recipes call for raspberry Chambord, crème de cacao, or even blackberry brandy drizzled over the drink instead grenadine, giving the drink a darker, purplish hue that resembles a sunset.
  • Tequila Screwdriver: Make it with tequila, orange juice, and a pinch of salt (no grenadine).
  • Grenadine substitute: Feel free to experiment with a drizzle of maraschino cherry juice, pomegranate molasses, a splash of cranberry juice, or raspberry syrup instead.
  • More Tequila Sunrise variations: Try pineapple juice or a tequila mix (for Margaritas). You could also pour your grenadine into the center of the drink instead of towards the edge of the glass.

Frequently Asked Questions

What was the original Tequila Sunrise cocktail?

The original Tequila Sunrise cocktail was created in Phoenix, Arizona in the 1930s or 1940’s by a bartender named Gene Sulit at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel. The original tequila sunrise ingredients were tequila, creme de cassis (a blackcurrent liqueur), lime juice, and soda water or club soda.

Where was the modern day Tequila Sunrise cocktail created?

The modern version of the Tequila Sunrise, now an official IBA cocktail, was first served in Sausalito, California in the 1970s, created by bartenders Bobby Lozoff and Billy Rice. It’s still made with tequila, but now it has citrusy taste from orange juice and a splash of sweet grenadine.

Which tequila is best for a sunrise?

Choose tequila blanco, aka silver tequila, which has not been aged. This lighter tequila is great for mixed drinks.

Does Tequila Sunrise contain alcohol?

Tequila Sunrise is an alcoholic cocktail made with tequila.

More tequila cocktails

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2 glasses of tequila sunrise.

Tequila Sunrise

The Tequila Sunrise cocktail is a colorful, picture-perfect drink with a rock 'n roll history. Serve it poolside, at parties, and any time you are craving a sweet sunrise, no fancy bar equipment required.
Prep Time 2 minutes
Total Time 2 minutes
Servings 1 cocktail
Course Drinks
Cuisine American
Calories 194
5 from 18 votes

Ingredients 

  • 1 1/2 ounces of tequila (see note 1)
  • 1 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice optional (see note 2)
  • 4 ounces orange juice (see note 3)
  • 1/2 ounce grenadine (see note 4)
  • Seltzer water optional (see note 5)
  • Orange wheel and cocktail cherry, for garnish

Instructions 

  • Fill a collins glass (or other tall glass) with ice. Add tequila, lime juice (if using), and orange juice. Stir.
  • Pour grenadine down a spoon and let it rise from the bottom of the glass. Do not stir. Top with seltzer water (if using) and garnish with the orange slice and maraschino cherry.

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Tequila: Choose tequila blanco, aka silver tequila, which has not been aged. This lighter tequila is great for mixed drinks.
  2. Lime juice: Purely optional, but oh, so amazing.  Tequila and lime are best buds.
  3. Orange Juice: Freshly squeezed, if you can. It really makes a huge difference in a simple cocktail like this one.
  4. Grenadine: That little bottle of red, sugary pomegranate-flavored cherry syrup that is part of a well-stocked bar? That’s the “sunrise.” The syrup sinks to the bottom of the glass, giving the cocktail a rosy hue and some sweetness.
  5. Soda or seltzer water: Look for an unsweetened, bubbly soda. Optional, but lightens the drink up from syrupy to ahhh, refreshing!
  6. Yield: This recipe makes 1 cocktail as Tequila Sunrise drinks are best crafted one at a time, by hand. There isn’t really a way to see the grenadine float across the top of the glass if you make them in a big batch or in a blender.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 cocktailCalories: 194kcalCarbohydrates: 24gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 6mgPotassium: 227mgSugar: 17gVitamin A: 227IUVitamin C: 65mgCalcium: 12mgIron: 1mg
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Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.

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Comments

  1. Grenadine is not maraschino cherry syrup. It is pomegranate syrup. Rose’s grenadine is high fructose corn syrup with red food coloring. It’s fairly shocking an executive chef wouldn’t know something most corner tavern bartenders do.

    1. Hi Wire, thank you for taking the time to let me know there was an error in the post! It absolutely is pomegranate-flavored syrup. I’ve updated it. Thank you again! – Meggan

  2. Love the recipe it’s fun, beautiful and refreshing. Would do it again this weekend
    😁👍🍹5 stars