This historic yet under-the-radar cocktail first appeared in the Café Royal Cocktail Book, which was published in 1937 by the United Kingdom Bartenders Guild (UKBG). Head bartender at the London-based Café Royal and President of the UKBG, William J. “Billy” Tarling curated this compilation of recipes, which features a range of cocktails that were being served in London’s fashionable bars and restaurants at the time. Interestingly, many of the drinks profiled in the book involve some of the earliest known recipes to use vodka and tequila in cocktails, both unusual spirits to mix with at the time.
The original Matador recipe is an equal-parts mixture combining tequila, dry vermouth, and orange curaçao. A Trader Vic’s riff also called the Tequila Matador first popped up in the 1972 edition of Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide, and transformed the drink into a tropical concoction that includes pineapple and lime juice. However, the original Café Royal formulation may be more suited to modern tastes that prefer drier, more spirit-forward cocktail profiles.
This lesser-known recipe would be a fine replacement for a Martini, albeit a more aromatic and slightly less boozy order. The equal-parts ratio also frames itself well as an aperitif cocktail or pre-dinner sipper. While spirit-forward cocktails are typically stirred, the original recipe instructs the drink maker to shake the ingredients. In the spirit of staying true to the original creation, we’ve let that step remain. Perhaps you’d like an extra-cold drink with slightly more dilution—as with all cocktail interpretations, the final execution is up to you.
1 ounce tequila
1 ounce dry vermouth
1 ounce orange curaçao
Add the orange cuaçao, dry vermouth, and tequila into a shaker with ice.
Shake until well-chilled.
Strain into a chilled coupe or Nick & Nora glass.
Could the Equal Parts Ratio Be Increased or Tweaked?
Equal-parts cocktails are some of the easiest to riff on. Prefer to substitute mezcal for tequila? Increase the amount of tequila or use a traditional Martini ratio of 2:1? With only three ingredients that are familiar to most, this cocktail is a promising candidate for successful variations. Try the recipe as is and then tweak to your tastes.
What’s the Best Vermouth for a Matador?
If you’re looking for a particularly dry vermouth with assertive botanical and floral qualities, Noilly Prat Original Dry Vermouth can hold up to the earthy flavor profiles of most quality tequilas. It also offers a slight salinity that works especially well with agave spirits. Dolin Dry Vermouth is often considered lighter and more delicate, with fresh citrus and herbal notes that can pair well with Highlands tequilas.