Cocktail & Other Recipes By Spirit Tequila & Mezcal Cocktails

20 Tequila and Mezcal Cocktails to Try Right Now

These classic and contemporary recipes will let you explore the range of the agave spirits.

Trato Hecho cocktail / Tim Nusog

The first half of this list is “bartender’s choice” cocktails, contemporary creations that come straight from the cocktail shakers of today’s top bartenders. The second half is classics, both pre-Prohibition standards and more modern ones that have achieved worldwide acclaim. You’re sure to find something for every palate among these 20 drinks.

Think of tequila cocktails, and the Margarita is sure to come to mind. It’s a great drink, certainly, but the agave spirits can be used in so much more than the popular combination of tequila, lime juice, and orange liqueur. From the disco-era Tequila Sunrise and classic Old Fashioned riffs to the minty-sweet Polar Bear and the Negroni-leaning Loaded Pistol, these 20 drinks are sure to show you a whole new side of tequila and mezcal.

  • Smoke Follows Beauty

    Smoke Follows Beauty cocktail / Tim Nusog

    Warm up and cool down at the same time with this Spicy Margarita riff from bartender Ricky Agustin, formerly of New York City’s Pegu Club and now the owner of Seattle’s Mountaineering Club. He combines mezcal with serrano-infused triple sec, muddled cucumber and cilantro, lime juice, and agave syrup to produce a refreshing drink that brings the heat. 

    Get the recipe.

  • Lone Ranger

    Lone Ranger cocktail / Tim Nusog

    Tequila and rosé wine are both warm-weather staples, and bar pro Jeffrey Morgenthaler had the good sense to combine them for this pale-pink mix of the spirit, lemon juice, and simple syrup topped with rosé sparkling wine. Think of the result as a French 75 on vacation in Mexico. 

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  • Añejo Old Fashioned

    Anejo old fashioned cocktail / Tim Nusog

    Bartending vet Julie Reiner of NYC’s Clover Club and Leyenda created this Old Fashioned riff in which a heavy pour of aged tequila forms the base, joined by agave nectar, Angostura bitters, and a muddled swath of orange peel. A cocktail cherry garnish is the perfect accent to the agave nightcap.

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  • Ready Fire Aim

    Ready Fire Aim / Tim Nusog

    Spice meets its match in this cocktail from Steve Schneider of Employees Only. Joven mezcal is joined by lime and pineapple juices, honey-pineapple syrup, and a few dashes of habanero shrub. A sprinkling of ground pink peppercorns atop the pineapple juice’s froth finishes off the spicy-sweet concoction.

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    Continue to 5 of 20 below.
  • Polar Bear

    Polar Bear cocktail / Tim Nusog

    Mezcal makes fast friends with blanc vermouth, creme de menthe, and celery bitters in this unusual cocktail created by The Bon Vivants, the group behind San Francisco’s Bon Voyage and Trick Dog. These four ingredients may not often be found together, but one sip of the Polar Bear shows why they should play in the same glass more often.

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  • Mezcal Mule

    mezcal mule / Tim Nusog

    A riff on the classic Moscow Mule, this iteration, created by Jim Meehan while at PDT in NYC, swaps out vodka in favor of mezcal, giving the mule even more of a kick, while a few additional ingredients add surprising elements. Cucumber slices get muddled with lime juice, then are joined by mezcal, passion fruit puree, and agave nectar. It all gets topped with ginger beer for the drink’s trademark spicy touch.

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  • Tequila Mockingbird

    Tequila Mockingbird / Tim Nusog

    New York City bartender Greg Seider created this spicy and sweet riff on a Margarita. The usual tequila, lime juice, and agave nectar are joined by muddled jalapeño slices and cubes of watermelon, rendering a wonderfully refreshing summer sipper.

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  • Loaded Pistol

    Loaded Pistol cocktail

    Arlene Ibarra 

    From Erick Castro of San Diego’s Polite Provisions and Raised by Wolves, this drink combines mezcal, sweet vermouth and Strega, an herbal digestivo liqueur, plus a dash of grapefruit bitters. A dried grasshopper—yes, grasshopper—salt rim accents the drink’s complex flavors. 

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    Continue to 9 of 20 below.
  • Bright Lights

    Bright Lights cocktail / Tim Nusog

    The co-owner of Brooklyn’s Leyenda, Ivy Mix, employs tequila as well as another agave spirit, sotol, in this cocktail, combining both with verjus, celery bitters, and a syrup made from rosé cava to produce a delightfully complex and spirit-forward sipper.

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  • Trato Hecho

    Trato Hecho cocktail / Tim Nusog

    If you have Last Word ingredients on hand, consider switching up your base spirit. Phil Ward, the former owner of New York City’s now-shuttered Mayahuel, infuses mezcal with pineapple, then combines it with the requisite green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, and fresh lime juice for a slightly tropical twist on the classic. 

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  • Paloma

    Paloma / Tim Nusog

    It may play second fiddle to the Margarita here in the States, but the Paloma is a refreshing and easy-to-make cooler that’s consumed in droves in its home country. Most likely first created sometime in the 1950s, this drink can be built right in the glass with just tequila, grapefruit soda, and fresh lime juice.

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  • Margarita

    Margarita / Tim Nusog

    It’s one of the most popular cocktails in North America and for good reason. The combination of tequila, orange liqueur, and lime (plus simple syrup and/or agave nectar as you prefer) strikes all the right notes. As a bonus, this recipe works with either tequila or mezcal, leaving it up to your interpretation and preferences.

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    Continue to 13 of 20 below.
  • Tequila Sunrise

    Tequila Sunrise / Tim Nusog

    With colors evoking a beautiful summer sunrise, there’s no question how this drink got its name. Created in the early 1970s at The Trident bar in Sausalito, California, the mix of tequila, orange juice, and grenadine gained notoriety after Mick Jagger tasted it at a party to kick off The Rolling Stones’ 1972 tour and subsequently ordered it at stops across the country, dubbing it “the cocaine and Tequila Sunrise tour.” 

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  • Oaxaca Old Fashioned

    Oaxaca Old Fashioned / Tim Nusog

    A newer addition to the classic cocktail canon, this take on an Old Fashioned is one of the best ways to enjoy agave spirits. Created in 2007 by Ward at Death & Co., it mixes lightly aged reposado tequila with mezcal, agave nectar, and Angostura bitters, then adds a flamed orange peel for a burst of flavor and dramatic flair.

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  • Bloody Maria

    Bloody Maria / Tim Nusog

    Your usual Bloody Mary is fine, but the addition of tequila and hot sauce takes the brunch favorite to new heights. This version has likely been around for decades, but our recipe brings it to a higher level of perfection with a mix of tequila, tomato, savory spices, and two kinds of hot sauce. An over-the-top garnish of lemon, lime and cucumber plus a skewer of sweet pepper slices, jalapeño slices and queso fresco completes the drink.

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  • El Diablo

    El Diablo / Tim Nusog

    The recipe for this midcentury classic, which combines tequila, creme de cassis, lime juice, and ginger beer, first appeared in “Trader Vic’s Book of Food and Drink,” published in 1946. It’s stunning either mixed or layered, giving you free rein to create it however you prefer.

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    Continue to 17 of 20 below.
  • Spicy Margarita

    Spicy Margarita cocktail / Tim Nusog

    Trends might come and go, but this jalapeño-fueled twist on the classic mix of tequila, lime juice, and orange liqueur has become nearly as ubiquitous as the Margarita itself. Sometimes the addictive spice comes from infusing the spirit with peppers, but we find the best flavor comes from muddling fresh jalapeño coins right in the shaker. 

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  • Naked & Famous

    Naked and Famous cocktail / Tim Nusog

    Joaquín Simó, most recently a partner of New York City’s now-closed Pouring Ribbons, created this modern classic of mezcal, Aperol, yellow Chartreuse, and lime juice at Death & Co. NYC in 2011. He describes the cocktail as a cross between a Last Word and a Paper Plane: Like the former, it includes lime juice and Chartreuse (albeit a different type), and like the latter, Aperol. Like both, it’s deliciously complex. 

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  • Tommy's Margarita

    Tommy's Margarita cocktail / Tim Nusog

    In the early ’90s, Julio Bermejo, now the owner of his family’s San Francisco spot Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant, proved that a Margarita could be much more balanced than the cloying sour-mix versions most people knew at the time. He opted to use freshly squeezed lime juice instead of the bottled stuff and employ agave syrup as a sweetener rather than orange liqueur, all the better to spotlight the high-quality tequila he was using.

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  • Mexican Firing Squad

    Mexican Firing Squad cocktail / Tim Nusog

    Drinks historian Charles H. Baker first recorded this tart mix of tequila, lime juice, grenadine, and Angostura bitters in his 1939 book The Gentleman’s Companion, but he happened upon it two years earlier at La Cucaracha Cocktail Club in Mexico City on a research trip. Consider it an alternative to your usual Margarita.

    Get the recipe.