Cocktail & Other Recipes By Spirit Tequila & Mezcal Cocktails

20 Tequila and Mezcal Cocktails to Try Right Now

Get into the agave spirits.

Bright Lights cocktail
Bright Lights Image: / 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, sure, but the agave spirits can be used in so much more than just that. From the disco-era Tequila Sunrise, the classic Old Fashioned and Manhattan 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 this drink shows why they should play in the same glass more often.

  • Zapatero

    Zapatero cocktail / Tim Nusog

    Mezcal and bourbon prove they’re a perfect match in this riff on an Old Fashioned created by California bartender Jeremy Lake. Instead of simple syrup, the spirits get a hit of sweetness and a nutty hint from orgeat. Chocolate bitters join the usual Angostura ones for an additional unexpected note. 

  • José Wallbanger

    Jose Wallbanger cocktail / Tim Nusog

    Take the Harvey Wallbanger south of the border in this spin from Will Benedetto, the beverage director at IGC Hospitality Group in New York City. He combines mezcal with complex and herbaceous Galliano, adding lemon juice and spiced honey syrup for a delightful twist on the classic disco drink.

    Continue to 5 of 20 below.
  • Ile Rouge

    Ile Rouge cocktail / Tim Nusog

    In French, Ile Rouge translates to Red Island, a nod to this drink’s garnish of pink peppercorns, which hint at the flavors within. Created by drinks consultant Aisha Sharpe, this cocktail combines muddled pink peppercorns with tequila, vanilla liqueur, and lemon and ruby red grapefruit juices, packing a spicy, sweet and fruity punch.

  • 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 this 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.

  • 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.

  • 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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  • White Dragon

    White Dragon cocktail / Tim Nusog

    You could say this cocktail, another from Meehan, riffs either on the Margarita, swapping in lemon juice for the usual lime and adding an egg white for frothy texture, or the classic White Lady, swapping out that drink’s usual gin for blanco tequila. Either assessment is correct, and the result is still a bright cocktail topped with foam, as elegant as it is simple.

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • 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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  • 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.” 

  • 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 New York bartender Phil 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.

  • 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.

  • Frozen Margarita

    Frozen Margarita / Tim Nusog

    When the temperature climbs and a regular Margarita isn’t enough to cool you down, turn to this ultimate beach sipper. Invented in Dallas in 1971, this chilly treat blends tequila, lime and orange liqueur with ice until it’s all smooth and frothy. Serve it in a salted Margarita glass (of course) garnished with a lime wheel. 

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  • Tequila Daisy

    Tequila Daisy cocktail / Tim Nusog

    A likely predecessor of the Margarita, this cocktail was invented by an Irishman living in Tijuana, Mexico, sometime in the 1930s. It combines tequila, Grand Marnier, lemon juice, superfine sugar and club soda, rendering a light refresher that’s best consumed in the sunshine.

  • Tequila Manhattan

    Tequila Manhattan / Tim Nusog

    Take your usual Manhattan and give it a tequila twist with this cocktail, also known as the Distrito Federal (the former name of Mexico City). Golden reposado tequila joins sweet vermouth and orange bitters in this spirit-forward sip topped with a lime twist and cocktail cherry. 

  • 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.

  • 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 this agave nightcap.