If you’re tired of boring juice drinks in the summer, how about a deceptive cocktail, the Smoky Tequila Sunrise, a combination of juices and hot, spicy bitters to trick the eyes and intrigue the palate? This is not a tequila drink for wimps – it’s got plenty of juice in it, but the heat from the bitters hits back of the mouth, with that top of the tongue kick that you get with a healthy dose of hot peppers. Depending on how much of the spicy bitters you add, you might need a creamy chaser to get the fire off your palate.
What is A Tequila Sunrise?
The Tequila Sunrise, to me is a less-than-interesting cocktail, just orange juice, tequila, and grenadine. For the Home Bar Awards July competition, the challenge was to create a riff on the cocktail, with the requirements that it must use juice and it must have tequila in it. (It’s sponsored by Dano’s tequila.)
To be fair, it was popular in the 70s and 80s – eras in which cocktails were noticeably sub-par. The first mention in print of the cocktail in its modern form was in 1946 in The Roving Bartender by Bill Kelly.
How to Make a Smoky Tequila Sunrise
So let me make the cocktail a little more interesting. First off, I wanted heat. When I’m sipping a cold, sweet drink, sometimes the only way to make it more interesting is to add an element you don’t expect when looking at the cocktail.
In this case, I added heat with the Jamaican Jerk bitters and the Hella’s Smoked Chili bitters. And, I added the smoke with the mezcal. I’ve gradually come to the conclusion that I need more mezcal in my life. I may be stopping by my local honey spot to find some different types. It will most likely turn me into an Islay Scotch fiend. I’m ok with that.
Bitters to Use in this Spicy Tequila Sunrise Cocktail Recipe
Now you have to be really careful with the jerk bitters. They are they hottest bitters I’ve ever tried and taste testing them with 4 drops in a glass of soda water blew out my palate for a couple of hours. Three drops in a cocktail this size is manageable, to me. However, if you love heat, add more, just do so sparingly.
Hella’s Smoked Chili bitters are still spicy, but three generous dashes adds a nice layer of warmth to the cocktail without overwhelming it. If you like a blood mary these are bitters you definitely need in your cocktail cabinet.
Other ingredients in the Smoky Tequila Sunrise Riff
I decided to work with mango because I had some open after Mangonificent Tequila Mango Sipper last week and wanted to combine that with lime. Also because orange juice is rather wimpy in cocktails in my opinion. If I’m adding orange flavors I’d prefer to use an orange liqueur or oleo saccharum.
I kept the garnish a little tropical with the pineapple fronds, but it is a tequila summer drink, so I had to do a little something excessive. If you don’t have a pineapple a lime wheel with some tajin on it will work just fine.
Need a suggested food pairing? This Mexican Street Corn Salad is savory and spicy – just the thing to munch on while sipping this smoky tequila cocktail.
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Recommended Bar Tools
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You probably already have these, but you may need them, too:
- 2 oz mango juice
- 2 oz Dano’s Reposado tequila
- 1 oz lime juice
- 3 drops Jamaican Jerk bitters more or less to taste – it’s a really HOT bitters
- 3 dashes Hella Bitters Smoked Chili bitters
- ¼ oz St Elizabeth’s allspice dram
- ¼ oz hibiscus syrup
- ¼ oz mezcal
- San Pellegrino Aranciata orange
- Garnish: pineapple fronds, tajin
- Combine mango juice, tequila, bitters and allspice dram in a shaker.
- Add ice, shake briefly to combine and strain into a tall, ice-filled glass.
- Combine the mezcal and hibiscus syrup in a small jigger or shot glass and stir to combine. Pour that into the glass so that it sinks to the bottom.
- Top with Aranciata soda and a quick shake of tajin.