The Tequila Sunrise is one of those drinks that has been maligned over the years, mainly due to its often poor execution. It’s likely that any Tequila Sunrise you’ve ordered at a bar was a cloying concoction made with artificially flavored, sickly sweet grenadine and store-bought orange juice. But it doesn’t have to be that way, explains Portland, Oregon bartender Nathan Elliot. “The Tequila Sunrise is a classic that when at its worst—i.e., cheap mixto tequila, processed juice and artificial grenadine—can be nothing more than a headache in a glass and difficult to enjoy,” he says. “When this cocktail is made properly, with fresh ingredients and a high-quality tequila, it can be a true thing of wonder."
For his take on the classic, the Bacchus Tequila Sunrise, Elliot makes his own grenadine, juices fresh Cara Cara oranges, and picks a solid tequila as his base—Espolon reposado tequila. Notably, the lightly aged tequila adds more color and additional depth to the drink than most silver tequila would. If you want to use your own favorite brand, go right ahead, but be sure to use something comparable.
Where the drink really differentiates itself from something you’d find in a 1990s dive bar is with the juice and syrup. Fresh squeezed orange juice is ubiquitous at this point—even neighborhood watering holes often have it on hand—but using Cara Cara rather than regular navel oranges means a sweeter, juicier flavor. And while you can always pick up a bottle of grenadine at the store, taking the time and effort to make your own will transform your cocktails. Start with this take on the Tequila Sunrise, then see what other drinks the spiced grenadine can go in—the Jack Rose, Ward Eight and even the non-alcoholic kid’s drink the Shirley Temple all benefit from using real, homemade grenadine.
- 1 1/2 ounces Espolón reposado tequila
- 3 ounces Cara Cara orange juice, freshly squeezed
- 1/4 ounce spiced grenadine*
- Garnish: dehydrated orange wheel
- Garnish: maraschino cherry
Add the tequila and orange juice into a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
Double-strain into a highball glass over fresh ice.
Carefully pour the grenadine down the inside of the glass to allow the drink to layer, creating a “sunrise.”
Garnish with a dehydrated orange wheel and maraschino cherry.
*Spiced grenadine: Bring 2 cups POM Wonderful 100% pomegranate juice to a boil, then reduce heat. Stir in 2 cups sugar, 2 ounces pomegranate molasses, 1 teaspoon orange blossom water, 4 star anise, 1 tablespoon whole allspice, 1 teaspoon whole pink peppercorn and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Allow spices to steep for 15 to 20 minutes. Strain and bottle. Allow to cool in the fridge before using.