Tequila is such a versatile drink, whether sipped or mixed into a cocktail, so we’re going to answer three common questions you’ve asked about tequila, go over some basic tequila terminology, and some pro tips with a few fun facts to get you on your way to being a master tequila mixer.
- What can I mix with tequila?
- What is a Tequila Sunrise?
- How much tequila is in a margarita?
Tequila Can Be Enjoyed in Many Ways
Tequila has undergone a great transformation in the United States over the last several decades. Once considered liquor for partying or shots only, it’s now revered as a sippable, appreciated beverage. Whether you’re mixing or sipping, you’ll experience craftsmanship. Yet, even as the taste for Mexico’s national spirit has spread, there’s a lot of information and questions that people still want to know about this amazing agave distillate.
Eleven Basic Terms Tequila Mixers Should Know
Mexico’s favorite spirit has been getting more and more popular, with tequila sales soaring across the country. It is well known as a great liquor to take shots with some salt and a lime wedge. Tequila mixers have become increasingly used as a favorite base spirit for many cocktail beverages. Here we will go over some tequila terms to get you on your way to becoming a master of what to mix with tequila in no time.
First off, let’s start with the foundation for any excellent tequila drink, and that’s tequila itself. Tequila is a spirit that is a specific type of mescal. It is made from the blue agave plant and most prominently produced in areas around the city of Tequila, northwest of Guadalajara.
Mezcal is commonly confused with tequila, but there is a difference. Tequila is always a type of mezcal. Mezcal is not a type of tequila. For example, just like scotch and bourbon are a type of whiskey, tequila is a type of mezcal. Mezcal, by definition, is any agave-based liquor. Where tequila is the blue agave version of mezcal, distillers make mezcal from more than 30 different agave varieties. Mezcal predates tequila by nearly 300 years, as modern “tequila” didn’t come about until the 1800s. Mezcal dates back to the 1500s when brandy-obsessed conquistadors first made it.
Distillers make tequila from the agave plant, as well as all other types of mezcal. Agave is a plant that thrives in the desert and native to northern Mexico and the southwestern United States. There are hundreds of different varieties. However, to make tequila, distillers only use blue agave that thrives in the rich, volcanic soil that is found in Jalisco. Blue agave is larger and has a core that yields a far greater concentration of sugar than most other agave varieties used for mezcal, making it particularly appealing for alcohol production.
Jalisco is a Mexican state on the western coast bordering the pacific ocean. Nearly 80 percent of all blue agave grown in Mexico comes from here. Few tequila distilleries operate outside of Jalisco even though Mexico has relaxed its laws to allow other Mexican states other than the actual town of tequila to produce the spirit.
Typically, to be considered tequila, the spirit must be distilled from at least 51 percent blue agave. A mixto is any tequila containing less than one hundred percent but more than 51 percent blue agave. A very well-known mixto that many of us have tried but probably not known to be a mixto is Jose Cuervo Especial.
6. Normas Oficial Mexicana (NOM)
The Normas Oficial Mexicana (Official Mexican Standard), abbreviated NOM, is an identifier for specific spirits that means the tequila meets the geographic and ingredient-based requirements established by the Mexican government. Without the NOM stamp of legitimacy, there is no guarantee that the spirit is tequila. It is very comparable to France’s appellation d’origine contrôlée.
Joven, also known as gold tequilas, are blanco mixtos that receive color and flavoring added to the spirit before bottling. This variation of tequila is usually less expensive and therefore used predominately for tequila mixers. However, some tequila producers make higher grade Joven tequilas from a mixture of a blanco tequila with a reposado or añejo tequila to offer a one hundred percent agave classification.
Blanco tequila is also known as a silver tequila and is the most common variation of this blue agave spirit. This variation of tequila gets its name from being perfectly clear in color. It is typically bottled immediately after distillation or shortly aged in steel tanks for no more than 60 days. Due to its unadulterated flavor, it is commonly used in tequila mixers or drank straight.
Reposado, meaning “rested” in Spanish, starts as a blanco tequila then undergoes an aging process in wooden barrels for two months to a year, giving the spirit a golden hue. The aging process can be carried out using many different types of wooden barrels such as white oak or barrels that have been previously used to store cognac, bourbon, or wine, lending the spirit other flavor profiles.
Any tequila that ages for more than one year can be classified as an añejo, which means “vintage.” Due to it”s longer aging process, an añejo tequila undertakes a darker, richer, amber color. More importantly, this tequila’s flavor becomes more complex and smooth, making it the best type of tequila to sip straight without any tequila mixers.
11. Extra Añejo
Extra añejo, also know as an ultra añejo tequila, undergo aging for over three years. Officially introduced in 2005, this is a relatively new designation for tequila. It is the most expensive type of tequila, and sipping it is comparable to a fine whiskey. The higher price tag on one of these fine tequila bottles comes due to the improved flavor from more extended aging and because distilleries reserve only their best spirits to age for such a long time. An extra añejo tequila should be enjoyed and sipped slowly without the adulteration of any other tequila mixers.
Now, the next time you browse around at the liquor store, ordering up a fancy cocktail, or shots of your favorite type of tequila at you the bar, you’ll know the basic tequila terms to get exactly what you like. Next, we will cover some tequila pro tips and fun facts that every tequila aficionado should know.
Eleven Pro Tips and Fun Facts for Pro Tequila Mixers
1. Blue Agave Is Key
A spirit can only be classified as tequila if it is a minimum of 51 percent derived from the blue agave plant, with the remainder consisting of another kind of neutral spirit. Any of your quality brands of tequila typically use 100 percent blue agave in spirits, and any of these brands will flaunt it on their label. A “mixto,” a term we went over early, is a lower percentage of agave and generally cheaper.
2. Appearance can be deceiving – agave isn’t a cactus
Despite blue agave’s appearance that’s prickly and pokey in nature, it is technically not a cactus. It is actually part of the Agavoideae family, making it a succulent more closely related to a lily plant. Fun Fact – agave means noble, admirable, and illustrious in Latin.
3. The Blue Agave harvest takes time, love, and care
The blue agave plants, known as agave tequilana weber to the scientific community, take a whopping eight to twelve years to grow to maturity for harvest and be up to seven feet tall. That’s comparable to the time, love, and care to raise a small child that goes into producing your favorite bottle of tequila.
4. Tequila comes from the heart – of agave
Tequila producers only use the heart of the blue agave plant, also known as piñas, to make tequila. The process involves cutting out the heart, cooking until soft, grinding down, and then fermenting the piñas to make tequila. Tequila is unlike a fruit-based beverage like wine, where the fruit can be harvested seasonally and regrown from the same plant. This means that the agave plant is wholly depleted after it is harvested in the production of tequila and a new plant grown in order to make the next batch. So next time you are drinking your favorite 100 percent agave tequila like Casa Mexico Tequila, you know you are getting the whole heart of the agave plant in every sip.
5. Appellation of origin
Tequila, just like cognac, champagne, and some fine wines, has an appellation of origin. That means real tequila can only be produced legally in five regions of Mexico. These regions include Michoacán, Tamaulipas, Guanajuato, Nayarit, and, the largest producer of tequila by far, Jalisco. An authentic tequila will have the Normas Oficial Mexicana.
6. In Mexico, they typically sip, not shoot tequila
In the United States, it is common practice to drink tequila as a shot with a salted rim and a lime wedge chaser, known in Mexico as tequila cruda. Whereas in Mexico, they typically choose to savor their tequila and sip it neat like a fine whiskey.
7. Terroir can affect the taste of tequila
Like wine, the tequila flavor can be influenced by the terroir or the natural environment that the tequila is produced. This can include the yeast used to ferment it, whether it is a commercially added yeast or wild yeast that is naturally occurring in the surrounding environment. Along with the type of yeast, the soil that the agave is grown in can also affect the flavor profile. Generally speaking, tequilas produced in the Highlands or Los Altos can take on a grassier and sometimes sweeter flavor profile. In contrast, tequilas from the Lowland or El Valle can acquire an earthier, more mineral-like flavor.
8. The Agave Region is recognized as a World Heritage site
UNESCO recognizes Mexico’s spectacular agave landscape in Jalisco, made up of more than 85,000 acres, as a World Heritage site. To be recognized as a world heritage site, the property must display “Outstanding Universal Value.” According to UNESCO, this means it has a cultural and natural significance that is so exceptional as to surpass national boundaries and be of common importance for all humanity’s present and future generations.
9. No worms needed
Chances are you have heard of the classic worm at the bottom of the tequila bottle. Well, traditionally, tequila was never meant to have any sort of bugs in it. The worm that everyone talks about is technically a moth larva called gusano de maguey. It is the adolescent form of the Mariposa or Atlas moth that feeds on agave plants. The custom of having a worm in the bottle was a marketing ploy devised for mezcal, rather than tequila, in the mid-20th century. The Normas Oficiales Mexicanas, which dictates standards for various Mexican products, don’t allow there to be a worm in any tequila. There is much speculation as to why the worm was added in the first place. It could have been for the flavoring, a virility enhancement, or simply as a differentiation from the American market’s tequila. So contrary to popular belief, a worm is actually not an appropriate ingredient for what to mix with tequila.
10. Tequila is not the only Mexican spirit
While tequila and mezcal are Mexico’s claim to fame in the United States, sotol is another spirit that is growing in popularity. Sotol is produced in the Chihuahua region of northern Mexico. It is made in a similar process as tequila and mezcal except that it is made from a different type of succulent called the Dasylirion or desert spoon plant.
11. Tequila isn’t stronger than other spirits
Tequila has the reputation of being stronger than other spirits, which simply isn’t true. It is possible that the urban legend of tequila being stronger probably came about from its distinctive flavor and the fact that it is commonly consumed in shots. Taking shots will most certainly get you drunk faster but not more intensely than any other spirit of the same proof. Alcohol is simply alcohol, and all the different types will affect the human body basically the same way. Most tequilas available commercially are 30 to 40 percent ABV whereas strong, cask-proof tequilas can be up to 55 percent ABV, lower than some rums and other neutral brandies.
So there you have it, all the basics you need to know to get you started on your way to becoming master tequila mixers. We covered eleven tequila terms to get you talking the lingo. Eleven pro tips and a few fun facts sprinkled in there to impress all your friends and colleagues with your new knowledge of tequila. Now you can get started on mixing up some classic tequila cocktails or even experimenting with your own recipes of what to mix with tequila. If you are ready to give it a shot yourself, we have provided you with a comprehensive list of what to mix with tequila below.
What Can I Mix with Tequila?
Maybe it’s easier to answer, “what can’t I mix with tequila?” If you’re into sipping tequila cocktails and looking for new ideas on what to mix with tequila, here is a comprehensive list of great mixers and tequila cocktail ideas to get you inspired:
Tequila + Grapefruit Soda
AKA the Paloma, this is a popular choice of what to mix with tequila. If you like bright, citrusy, and slightly bitter, you’ll love this combo. Depending on your preference, you can use silver or reposado tequila for the base of the cocktail. A silver tequila keeps the drink light and crisp, while a reposado tequila makes it richer and more decadent. There are far too many variations of the Paloma to list, and you are sure to find a different house variation of this drink at any bar or restaurant where you might find yourself. The most popular version of the Paloma you make with fresh grapefruit juice, club soda, and silver tequila. Garnish and squeeze in a fat wedge of lime and a pinch of sea salt. This drink will help you survive the hot summer months!
Tequila + Pineapple juice
They go together better than mac and cheese. Fresh pineapple juice is more ideal than canned, but either way, you’ll end up with a cocktail that is tropical, fruit-forward, and downright peppery. Best of all, literally any tequila – be it silver, reposado, or añejo – works as the base of this drink.
Tequila + Orange Juice + Grenadine
AKA the Tequila Sunrise is typically enjoyed at breakfast, but in this global pandemic of 2020, you can enjoy it whenever you please – we won’t judge! We prefer to use a reposado tequila to mix with orange juice because it lends its vanilla notes well to the orange juice. You can also add grenadine to give it that classic multi-layer red-orange sunrise color this drink is famous for, which will make you feel like your drinking to a sunrise on the beach.
Bonus tip: if using fresh orange juice, whisk it for 20 seconds. This will give it a fluffy, airy, and creamy texture. Salud!
Tequila + Agave Syrup
Incredibly refreshing and an excellent choice for summer, this is essentially an Old Fashioned without the bitters. We prefer to use our reposado or añejo for more depth and flavor. To bring this drink to life, use a tray of ice, mixing glass, bar spoon, agave syrup (2 parts agave to 1 part water), and your preferred amount of tequila.
Tequila + Vermouth
Vermouth is red or white wine flavored with aromatic herbs, made chiefly in France and Italy and used in cocktails. Tequila and vermouth can be combined in a myriad of ways – the types of tequila and vermouth you use will create entirely different cocktails. For a vegetal riff on a martini, you can use silver tequila with either dry vermouth or a semi-sweet blanc vermouth, which will produce a rounder, more velvety texture in the drink. For a richer, spicier take on the Manhattan, mix a reposado or añejo with sweet vermouth.
Tequila + Campari + Sweet Vermouth
AKA the Tequila Negroni, a classic cocktail that is making a comeback in popularity over the last few years. Traditionally made with gin, we have substituted that part with a silver tequila since we are looking at what to mix with tequila. Boy, is it delicious! It is a beautifully simple cocktail that calls for a mixture of equal parts Campari, Casa Mexico Blanco Tequila, and sweet vermouth poured over ice.
Tequila + Bloody Mary Mix
Kick vodka to the curb. Tequila lends so much more flavor to the Bloody Mary. And if you want to kick it up a notch with the spice, add a jalapeno. You can use our silver tequila to make a Bloody Mary, but a reposado or añejo will lend more flavor to the Bloody Mary.
Tequila + Ginger Beer
We have all heard of a Moscow Mule. Well, ginger beer is also one of the drinks to mix with tequila to make the Mexican take on this delicious cocktail. To make a Mexican Mule, in a glass with ice, mix two parts of ginger beer with one part of tequila, squeeze in half of a lime, then garnish with a lime wedge and a pinch of salt.
Tequila + Lemonade
America’s favorite pastime refresher is bound to mix well with tequila creating a sweet and smooth beverage. Like any of these drinks to mix with tequila, a squeeze of lime juice can make the mix sourer and a pinch of salt added to the rim to dress it up. The ratio is dependent on how strong you like your drinks, but a good starting point is one part tequila to three parts lemonade. Of course, we recommend a nice homemade lemonade.
Tequila + Muddled Mint & Limes + Simple Syrup + Club Soda
AKA Tequila Mojito, the secret to making this refreshing cocktail, uses a high-quality tequila, preferably aged such as Casa Mexico’s reposado or anejo tequila. Mojitos have a flavor combination that can’t be topped and a perfect refreshing beverage for sunny days at the beach or a backyard bbq.
Tequila + Lemon + Simple Syrup + Club Soda
AKA Juan Collins is the Mexican stepchild of the trendy Collins cocktail family. There are many different kinds of Collins drinks, with the main difference being the base spirit used to make it plus a sweet mixer, a sour mixer, and club soda. To make the Juan Collins, we like to use our Casa Mexico Silver Tequila mixed with fresh lemon juice for the sour, agave nectar for the sweetness, topped off by club soda for a little fizz. It is simple yet one of the most delicious drinks to mix with tequila, which you can mix in minutes.
Tequila + Your Favorite Soda Water
This is an easy two-ingredient cocktail. Aside from a margarita, it’s popular among a lot of people. While any soda will work, whether it’s seltzer water, club soda, or tonic water, you will have to try them all out and decide for yourself which your favorite is.
- Seltzer water is typically plain water that has been artificially carbonated and can be mixed with tequila to give it an effervescence. Still, we feel that club soda with a high mineral content is among our favorite drinks to mix with tequila.
- Club soda differs from seltzer water. Club soda has sodium and potassium salts added to neutralize seltzer water’s acidity and try to replicate mineral water’s naturally occurring flavors. We recommend mixing equal parts of club soda with your favorite tequila profile, any of which will benefit from the club soda’s flavors.
- Tonic water gets its flavor from the quinine that is added in small quantities for its unique bitter taste. The recommended ratio is 4 oz of tonic water with 2 oz of Casa Mexico Tequila. Although it is more commonly mixed with gin, tonic water is also a great choice of drinks to mix with tequila if you like a slightly more bitter, carbonated beverage.
Garnish any of these with a wedge of lime that you can squeeze into the drink, and you’re done!
Tequila + Cream
Here is a strange combination of what to mix with tequila that you may have never imagined. Although it may seem odd, the cream can actually pair very well with tequila like in a Leche Mexicana. This cream-based cocktail is a dashing mixture of 2 oz of creme de cocoa, 1.5 oz tequila, and 1 oz of half and half, shaken in a shaker with ice, then strained into a glass, and it’s ready for you to enjoy!
Tequila + Egg
Another combination that might make you curious enough to try. The Sherry Flip cocktail could very well flip your opinion on this counterintuitive combo. We recommend having it made by a professional the first time or two before you attempt to create this rigid recipe yourself. It consists of an ounce of tequila, an ounce of smooth sherry, an egg, and a nutmeg dash. To prepare this cocktail, mix the tequila, sherry, and egg in a shaker with ice and shake thoroughly for 20 seconds. Then strain your cocktail into a martini glass and garnish with grated nutmeg.
Two-part shots, commonly known as shooters, are yet another fun way to make drinks to mix with tequila. Shooters are mini mixed drinks that can be a combination of one or more liquors and mixers, while shots consist of only one type of alcohol. You can make them in one shot glass or two separate shot glasses. Some recipes use a cool technique where two or more liquids with different thicknesses are poured carefully to achieve a layered effect with different colored liquids called a “Float” since it looks like one ingredient is floating on top of the others. Here are a few popular shooters with a tequila base:
A Sangrita is one of the most popular tequila shooters and offers a flavor experience like none other. There are a few ways to make it. The modern version is a shot of tequila chased with a spicy tomato juice mix, while the original version you chase with a shot of lime, orange, and grenadine mixture spiked with hot sauce for a kick in the taste buds.
- Jello Shots
Jello shots are another very popular shooter that is a classic hit at parties. Easy to make and even easier to put down. Make these fun, colorful shots by first whisking boiling water and your favorite Jello mix in a bowl until the powder dissolves. Then whisk in cold water, tequila, and any other flavors inspired by what to mix with tequila. Pour the mixture into shot glasses or containers. Let them chill in the fridge until they become firm and you’re ready to party!
- Mexican Flag
This shooter embodies the true Mexican spirit by portraying the Mexican flag with red, clear (white), and green colors floated atop each other. You achieve this with grenadine on the bottom, tequila sandwiched in the center layer, and a layer of creme de menthe floated on top. Indeed, this is one of the best drinks to mix with tequila for celebrating Mexican festivities such as Cinco De Mayo.
We have covered some of the more common and not-so-common ingredients of what can I mix with tequila in a cocktail. If you want to dive deeper into being a real tequila aficionado, you can take your tequila mixing skills to the next level by making a tequila infusion. Making infused tequila is not as difficult as it sounds yet can make a considerable impression sipped by itself or mixed in a cocktail. So now, what can I mix with tequila to make a great infusion? There isn’t any right or wrong answer to that. It all boils down to your creativity and preference. The combinations are endless with ingredients such as fruit, herbs, and spices. Here is a rundown of a few pro tips to make your very own homemade tequila infusions:
- Start small – Make small batches to hone in on your perfect recipe. The ratio of ingredients you use can make a big difference in the outcome, so try experimenting before committing to larger batches. They also make great gifts to impress your friends!
- Expensive isn’t necessary – You don’t need a top-shelf tequila to make a delicious infusion. Casa Mexico’s silver tequila is a fantastic tequila to try out different infusions. Since you add flavor to the tequila, we believe a silver tequila is best to accentuate the flavors you are infusing without the aging process’s added flavors in a reposado or anejo tequila.
- Storage – It is best to store your infused tequila in a cool, dark area. Shaking and swirling the jar a few times a day will help aid in the infusion process.
- Label – This will significantly help you in perfecting your recipe. Be sure to label your jar with the ingredients, quantities, and duration of the infusion of what you have added so when you find that perfect recipe, it will be easier to reproduce.
- Don’t be shy to taste – If you are infusing your tequila with spices such as chilies or jalapenos, it is good to give it a taste test each day to achieve just the right amount of heat for your preference. Your tequila will get spicier the longer you choose to let it infuse.
- Patience is a virtue – Great things take time! It may take a week or longer for tequila to infuse with some ingredients or as short as a couple of days. Be patient, have fun, and experiment!
We hope that answers your question, “What can I mix with tequila?” It’s ultimately up to your taste and preference. The best way to drink and mix tequila is exactly the way you prefer to drink tequila. There’s no wrong way, and it depends on the type of tequila you’re drinking. Some of the best tequilas are just as enjoyable neat, and slowly sipped as the finest whisky, scotch, and rum. Some people like taking tequila shots with lime and salt. Citrus and hot sauce go especially well with the fruity, spicy notes of tequila – which is why tequila cocktails like the Screwdriver, Margarita, Bloody Mary, and Paloma are so delicious. Salud!
What is a Tequila Sunrise?
No matter what time of year it is, you can enjoy a Tequila Sunrise. A Tequila Sunrise is similar to a Screwdriver, except that you also mix in grenadine (and garnish with a cherry!).
Grenadine is a commonly used, non-alcoholic bar syrup, characterized by deep red color and a flavor that is both tart and sweet. It is popular as an ingredient in cocktails, both for its flavor and to give a reddish or pink tint to mixed drinks.
Here’s how to make a Tequila Sunrise:
- 4 oz. orange juice
- 2 oz. Casa Mexico Silver Tequila
- 1/2 oz. grenadine (or more if you prefer sweeter!)
- Orange slice, for garnish
- Maraschino cherry, for garnish
Fill a tall glass with ice. Add orange juice and tequila and shake to combine. Add grenadine, then garnish with an orange slice. For a pop of sweet, toss in a few maraschino cherries. Salud!
How Much Tequila in a Margarita?
The classic recipe is 3-2-1. That is, 3 parts tequila, 2 parts triple sec, and 1 part freshly squeezed lime juice. But it’s truly up to your personal preference.
Josue Romero, AKA @the_garnishguy, prefers a 2:1:1 ratio—two parts tequila, one part sweet and one part sour. And if you want to learn how to make the perfect margarita, head over to our blog, In Pursuit: The Perfect Margarita.
So if you are asking “how much tequila in a margarita,” start with the above portions and you can add more if you’d like.
We also get other questions about tequila, such as:
- What is añejo tequila?
- What is reposado tequila?
- Is anejo tequila better than reposado?
- What is silver tequila?
And you can head over to our blog, Understanding the Differences in Types of Tequila, to learn the answers to all of these!