It’s an extremely good question to ask not only your bartender but rhetorically: “What should I mix with tequila?”
Maybe you have a bottle of reposado tequila at home that you don’t remember buying, or an añejo that you’ve been told you have to sip neat — which doesn’t always sound ideal, particularly on a day when the temperatures hit three digits — or that Cristalino your friend brought over because it was “fun.”
The answer is that there is very little you can’t mix with tequila, but you need to be aware of what type of tequila you’re using (an unaged blanco? A heavily aged añejo?). And then you have to see both what you have on hand and what fits your flavor profile.
First, some simple ground rules. “When it comes to mixers for tequila, always be aware of the quality of the product and be sure to pair it with a quality mixer,” says Pamela Wiznitzer, Beverage Director at The Lookup Rooftop. “If you’re using any juices or citrus, try to make it fresh squeezed or squeeze it yourself. Aged tequilas have lots of flavors from the barrels and many reposados and añejos can be enjoyed with minimal mixers — think more along the lines of splashes of soda waters, coconut water or a squeeze of citrus.”
Now, you can get more complex — combining tequila with other spirits, subbing tequila in non-agave classic cocktails, etc. But the great thing about tequila is that it’s not only versatile, but it holds up well in drinks that have just one or two other ingredients, and probably ones that you have in the fridge right now.
With all this in mind, we asked four dozen bar professionals about the best mixers for tequila. We also added a few ideas that we’ve scrounged up over the years during our trips to Mexico (and our local agave-forward bars). We promise, by article’s end, you’ll have a new use for that tequila bottle. Even if it’s a Cristalino.
What can I mix with a blanco tequila?
“Tequila loves fresh juice, especially lime, and grapefruit, and particularly Blanco/Silver,” explains H. Joseph Ehrmann, owner of San Francisco’s Elixir Saloon and the VP of Mixology at Fresh Victor, a new line of fresh mixers. “The inherent citrus flavors in most well-made tequilas brighten the earthy vegetal flavor of the agave.”
And while you can simply add a grapefruit soda and make a Paloma, blancos can be fun to experiment with, says Alicia Russell, the lead bartender at Panzano in Denver. “Try something yuzu or bergamot,” she says. “I also had a juice-based drink in Mexico called verdita [pineapple juice blended and strained with jalapeños, mint and cilantro] that is my favorite homemade mixer to make and add to a blanco tequila or mezcal margarita with lime and agave.”
“Blancos go very well with citrus in particular grapefruit and lime,” adds Dan Calin, the Beverage Director at Boston’s da LaPosta. “Stone fruits, tropical fruits and berries tend to go very well, but don’t be afraid of using vegetal notes like oregano, sage, cucumber or peppers.”
What can I mix with a reposado tequila?
“Reposado tequila is aged in oak barrels for a short period, giving it a smoother and slightly more complex flavor profile,” says Santiago Ferreira, the Bar Supervisor at Hotel Barriere Le Carl Gustaf in St. Barts. “It works well with mixers that complement its subtle oak notes.” For a reposado, Ferreira recommends ginger beer, pineapple juice or an Old Fashioned (with a 1:1 honey syrup in lieu of a sugar cube or simple syrup).
If You Love Whiskey, Try These 9 Añejo and Extra Añejo TequilasWhether you prefer whiskey cocktails or sipping neat, these tequilas are worthy replacements
What can I mix with an añejo or extra añejo tequila?
You can find some interesting variety in a longer-aged tequila. “Once you get into tequilas that have undergone an aging process, especially older expressions like añejos and extra añejos, you get into a territory similar to brown spirits like whisky,” says RT60 General Manager Josef Grznar. “They get their flavor from sitting in barrels for years and leaching flavors from these barrels which have notes of caramel, honey and vanilla. These aged expressions pair amazingly in more spirit-forward cocktails like Old Fashioneds but they lend themselves to highballs, which usually are associated with whisky drinks. An añejo tequila and Coke is an easy combination that brings those caramel notes to the forefront. Reposado tequila and ginger ale is also a nice highball.”
But don’t limit yourself to soda. As Grznar suggests, his favorite añejo tequila pairing is with vanilla ice cream in a boozy milkshake.
“With the heavier oak influence, añejos are better sippers with just some mineral water to lighten the tastes,” says Kai Wilson, Beverage Manager of Chicago’s Mercat a la Planxa. “That said, an añejo Sidecar variation works quite well.”
What can I mix with a Cristalino tequila?
Cristalinos — the somewhat derided, unofficial spirits category for aged tequila that’s gone through a filtering process to look clear — actually work well in cocktails, given their smoother profile and clear appearance. “We love pairing Cristalinos with our house-made ginger soda or strawberry ginger if we’re feeling more lively,” says Daniel Frazier, the GM of The Pharmacy Burger in Nashville. “The bright flavors with added age complexity make for a very lovely drink. We also love to add Cristalino to an Aperol spritz to give it an extra kick.”
What’s the best classic cocktail where you can swap in tequila?
Tequila is highly versatile — and the aged expressions work well as a whisk(e)y substitute. “With añejo or reposado tequilas, the obvious choice is to make a Negroni or an Old Fashioned,” says Danny Astorga, the Beverage Director of The Press Room in Chicago. “But if you make a Manhattan variation with reposado, that’s a game changer. Mixing reposado tequila with sweet vermouth and bitters is a good combo that is not just delicious but also balanced.”
Can I use pre-packaged mixers with tequila?
Can you mix tequila with other spirits?
You mean, beyond the margarita? You certainly can, says Joe Shaw of Bartender Planet. “Rum and tequila are a match made in heaven,” he says. “They work well together in cocktails because both have complex flavors. Tequila has a unique earthy, sweet flavor profile. And rum, made from sugarcane, can add a different sweetness and a bit of a tropical flavor, which can balance out the harsher edges of the tequila.”
And if you want to make your margarita more interesting … but still recognizable? Do a split base of tequila and your favorite mezcal, which should add some more character to your drink (earthy, smoky, vegetal, etc.).
At The Vine in New York, Beverage Director Jason Hedges utilizes a multi-booze tequila drink, a riff on a Negroni. “It’s called the Red Right Hand,” he says. “It uses reposado tequila, Bonal, Aperol and orange bitters.”
“Try a blanco with Genepy, a herbaceous liquor that complements the terroir of the agave,” suggests Nelson Dow, the lead bartender at Chicago’s Asador Bastian. “For a reposado, mix with a Cognac-based Pineau des Charentes, which can also see time in oak barrels, to add a honeyed sweetness.”
What’s the simplest tequila mixer possible?
“Sparkling water with citrus notes and sparkling juices can help to enhance the flavors of tequila,” says Lynnette Marrero, an award-winning bartender, founder of SpeedRack and Partner and Chief Mixologist of Delola, a new line of bottled spritzes. “You see this often with the classic Paloma. I also like to keep around some simple tepaches like the brand De La Calle, for a simple one and one.” (Hint: For these, use a blanco tequila.)
“If you can get your hands on some freshly pressed watermelon juice or make an agua fresca at home, you must try it with some tequila,” says Paul Kushner, CEO of MyBartender. “It’s the taste of summer, and the green freshness of melon hits all the right notes with summery, herbal tequila. Serve over crushed ice with a sprig of mint.”
“All summer I make a variety of long process shrubs from pretty much any fruits that come our way,” says Megan Coyle, head bartender at DC’s Lutéce. “Adding an ounce or so of, say, a blackberry or rhubarb shrub to a tequila highball is a simple way to elevate the cocktail while showcasing the flavors of the local market.”
One overlooked mixer? Guava juice. “It pairs well with agave spirits like tequila due to its sweetness and refreshing and tropical nature,” says James Baugh, Director of Food & Beverage at Drift Hotels. “And other fruit juices, particularly citrus, are used often to enhance guava’s flavor within a cocktail, allowing for a bright summer drink.”
And personally, it’s been mentioned before — tequila, Coke, lime. It’s called a batanga, and it’s the central drink of La Capilla, a tiny hole in the wall in the town of Tequila that’s also one of the best bars in the world.
Other ideas: Ginger beer, coconut water, or the increasingly popular Ranch Water recipe, which we have below from Jared Masucci, a Mixologist at Austin’s Chapter Social and Spirits.
Prep Time: 1 min
- 2 oz tequila (blanco or reposado)
- .5 oz lime juice (roughly half a squeezed lime)
- Richard’s sparkling water
- Salt or tajín rim (optional)
In a glass full of ice, pour in the tequila and lime juice, then fill the rest with sparkling water.
What doesn’t mix well with tequila?
The consensus here is that creamy or heavy mixers (which include dairy products) don’t make for a great combination with tequila of any sort. And even some fruity/citrus flavors can be a turn-off. “Personally, I don’t like fibrous fruit juices like peach, apple or pear with tequila,” admits Manny Flores, the owner of Que Hospitality in North Carolina, whose restaurants feature a tequila-heavy cocktail program.
That said, there was one dissenter from our tequila panel. “All mixers work with tequila,” says Wiznitzer. “Even cream — try a tequila White Russian! Just remember what you use, tequila is loaded with flavor, so don’t drown it out.”
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