5 Summery Tequila Cocktails That Aren’t Clichés (Yet)

Drink Lists tequila

While country songs and frat boys drone on about their tequila hangovers, cocktail-lovers have been giving Mexico’s national drink another—less bleary eyed—look. Unaged silver (or blanco) tequilas have the mixing versatility of vodka and gin, but with a characteristic agave bite that’s a perfect foil for fruity summer cocktails with a bit of sweetness.

A good, fresh margarita is one of the world’s great drinks, but if you want to explore the subtleties of Spring Break’s favorite spirit, here’s a stash of cocktails that pair beautifully with hot afternoons and porch sitting. Use any of your favorite unaged tequilas—I used Monarch, a spirit made with agave and maple syrup in my home state of Vermont by Appalachian Gap Distillery; they can’t call it “tequila,” which is a region-specific word, but it’s close enough for cocktails.

La Paloma

When Mexicans order tequila cocktails, this is at the top of the list. Crisp, bubbly, and refreshing, it’s easy to see why La Paloma is the heir apparent to the margarita’s long and sticky reign. There are a dozen ways to make them, using everything from fresh grapefruit juice to squirt, but I prefer the balanced acidity of San Pellegrino’s Pompelmo.


  • 1 ½ ounces tequila
  • juice of ¼ lime
  • 3 ounces of grapefruit soda

Directions: Squeeze the lime into an ice-filled glass, and top with the tequila, and ginger beer. Garnish with a lime wedge, and find a hammock.

El Diablo

This drink has been kicking around since the 1940s, when it appeared in a Trader Vic’s recipe book as the hilariously redundant “Mexican El Diablo.” Crème de cassis is a sweet liqueur made from black currants, whose high levels of tannins make for a more nuanced drink than most fruit liqueurs. Still, this drink can be on the sugary side, so I go light on the ginger beer and liqueur to let the tequila shine through.


  • 1 ½ ounces tequila
  • juice of ¼ lime
  • 1 ½ ounce ginger beer.
  • 2 dashes (about 1/3 ounce) crème de cassis

Directions: Combine first three ingredients over ice in a rocks glass, then gently pour crème de cassis over the top; garnish with lime, or fresh blackcurrants.


A great way to ease into tequila cocktails, the Matador’s blend of pineapple juice and lime has a margarita-like smoothness. Served straight up in a coupe or cocktail glass, it’s the perfect drink for swanning around garden parties in seersucker.


  • 1 ½ ounces tequila
  • 2 ounces pineapple juice
  • juice of ¼ lime

Directions: Combine all ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker, and shake vigorously until the shaker ices over; strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass, and garnish with a lime wheel.

Chalino Special

This prohibition-era cocktail is another blend of crème de cassis and tequila, though some recipes call for Chambord, a raspberry and vanilla-infused cognac. It may be the color of fruit punch, but this drink puts tequila front and center, with just enough citrus and cassis to make it bright and fruity. Some recipes for the Chalino call for simple syrup, but a high-quality crème de cassis will bring all the sweetness you need.


  • 2 ounces tequila
  • 2 dashes crème de cassis (about 1/3 ounce)
  • ½ ounce lemon juice
  • ½ ounce lime juice

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled rocks glass or couple, and garnish with lemon and fresh blackcurrants.

The Almeja

It’s not hard to love the spicy substance of a bloody mary, but the flavor of vodka tends to disappear behind the salad bar. There’s a whole family of drinks that pair tequila with tomato juice, from the Vampira to the Bloody Maria; I prefer this simple cocktail made with clamato, which is just what it sounds like: a spiced blend of tomato and clam juices.


  • 1 ½ ounces tequila
  • 1 ½ ounces clamato
  • ¼ ounces lemon juice
  • 2 dashes of Cholula hot sauce (optional)
  • Chile powder, green onion and lemon wheel for garnish.

Directions: Combine the first four ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, and shake vigorously. Strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass, and garnish with a chile-dusted lemon wheel and a green onion.

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