Tequila Sunrise

Tropical and tasty, the Tequila Sunrise is a terrific drink for relaxing on the beach. Learn how to make this gradient cocktail that mimics a sunrise over the ocean.

Two red and orange tropical tequila cocktails garnished with cocktail umbrellas, a cherry and orange on a skewer and a bamboo straw.

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Tequila Sunrise cocktail recipe

When you’re relaxing on the beach, it doesn’t hurt to have a delicious drink in hand.

The Tequila Sunrise fits the bill. Sweet, tart and colorful, this pretty cocktail looks exactly like a sunrise over the sea.

You might know this drink from ordering it at a bar or on a cruise, but you’ll be glad to know you can easily make it at home.

It’s a little tricky (but not hard) to make the perfect sunrise effect. And with just a few ingredients, it’s important that each one is high-quality so this cocktail shines as bright as the sun.

So grab a bottle of tequila, and let’s get into what makes the best Tequila Sunrise.

More tequila recipes: Ranch WaterClassic MargaritaBloody MaryPaloma

Why you’ll love this recipe

The Tequila Sunrise is the perfect cocktail for a hot summer day.

  • With just three ingredients, it’s an easy cocktail to make.
  • It’s perfect for sipping on the beach (or anytime you wish you were on vacation).
  • The colorful gradient of the drink is sure to impress any guests.
A Tequila Sunrise cocktail garnished with an orange slice and cherry. Cocktail umbrellas and an orange half sit around the glass.

What is a Tequila Sunrise?

The Tequila Sunrise is a sweet, alcoholic cocktail made of tequila, orange juice and grenadine syrup.

When layered properly, the grenadine sinks to the bottom of the glass, creating a gradient effect that mimics a sunrise.

There is also a cocktail called the Tequila Sunset, which is made with grapefruit juice and has a similar ombré effect.

These cocktails are tropical and refreshing, perfect for relaxing on a beach. They’re also a common order at bars and restaurants everywhere.

History of the Tequila Sunrise

The original Tequila Sunrise dates back to the 1930s. According to Tres Agaves, Gene Sulit of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel created a drink of tequila, club soda, lime juice and liqueur.

The drink found a reinvention in the 1970s at the Trident, a seaside restaurant in Sausalito, California. Bartenders Bobby Lozoff and Billy Rice remade the drink with tequila, orange juice and grenadine to mimic a summer sunrise.

When Mick Jagger tried one of the cocktails at a tour kickoff party at the Trident, it was an instant hit. He and his entourage ordered them at bars across America on The Rolling Stones’ 1972 tour.

Two tequila sunrise cocktails sit next to a wooden cutting board next to an orange half and orange slices.

Tools & glassware

A Tequila Sunrise can be made in just about any glass, but a highball glass or collins glass really showcases the pretty ombré gradient of this sweet cocktail. You can also use a rocks glass.

If you plan to juice your own oranges, you will need a citrus squeezer or electric juicer.

You can pick up a set of cocktail picks or bamboo skewers for the garnish.

Ingredients

You only need a few simple ingredients for the Tequila Sunrise:

Tequila

Tequila, of course, is the key ingredient. This clear spirit is made from the Blue Weber Agave plant in Mexico.

You can mix your favorite tequila into this colorful cocktail. There are a few types of tequila that I detail in my Tequila 101 crash course.

Tequila blanco, or silver tequila, is best for the Tequila Sunrise because it is clear and colorless. Gold tequila has added caramel color to make it seem aged, so I don’t usually recommend it, but it will taste just fine if you use it.

My favorite tequila brands right now are Sauza, El Jimador and Lunazul, but there are tons more out there. For a top-shelf Tequila Sunrise, try Don Julio, Patron or Milagro.

Orange juice is poured over ice in a highball glass. A half an orange and orange slices sit on a wooden cutting board.

Orange juice

If you have the time and the tools, squeezing your own orange juice will go a long way and provide the freshest flavor for your Tequila Sunrise.

Navel oranges are most common, but cara cara oranges have a delicious, sweet flavor. Most oranges produce a few ounces of juice, which is all you need for one sunrise cocktail. Be sure to strain out any pulp.

However, if you are planning to make a bunch of Tequila Sunrises, then you will probably want to pick up a gallon of OJ.

If you purchase your orange juice, then you should grab one that has no pulp or low pulp. If there is pulp, even just a little, it might float to the top. Totally fine, just not as pretty.

a copper cocktail shaker next to a bottle of homemade grenadine syrup.

Grenadine

The red layer at the bottom is thanks to grenadine, a pomegranate syrup with a brilliant red color. You can make homemade grenadine yourself with pomegranate juice or you can buy it.

It is available at most grocery stores — look near the other cocktail mixers and ingredients like bitters and sour mix. It is also available online.

This pomegranate syrup keeps in the fridge for about 2-3 months, so you can make all the Shirley Temples and Dirty Shirleys you want with it.

Garnishes

The Tequila Sunrise is typically garnished with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry.

When citrus and maraschino cherries are speared together with a cocktail pick, this combination is called a “flag” garnish.

You can also use cocktail cherries, which are usually soaked in brandy or rum and lack the bright red color.

These cocktails are tropical and beachy, so it doesn’t hurt to add a cocktail umbrella, too!

A tropical tequila cocktail.

Variations and substitutions

If you love this simple and delicious cocktail, try one of the Tequila Sunrise’s many variations:

Non-alcoholic Tequila Sunrise: Skip the tequila altogether or substitute a zero-proof tequila such as Ritual tequila alternative. We call this a Sunrise Mocktail.

Tequila Sunset: Use grapefruit juice instead of orange juice.

Mango Tequila Sunrise: Substitute mango juice for the orange juice.

Pineapple Tequila Sunrise: Use pineapple juice instead of orange juice.

Malibu Sunset: Use coconut rum instead of tequila and pineapple juice instead of orange juice.

Frozen Tequila Sunrise: Blend ice with orange juice and tequila. Pour the icy mixture into a glass, then carefully spoon the grenadine down the inside of the glass. It will sink to the bottom.

Corona Sunrise: This is essentially a Tequila Sunrise mixed with a Mexican lager beer. So good!

Red syrup is poured into an orange juice cocktail.

How to make a Tequila Sunrise

Here’s how to make the perfect Tequila Sunrise:

Add tequila to a highball glass filled with ice cubes. Top with orange juice.

Slowly add a splash of grenadine. Watch as it sinks to the bottom.

Garnish with an orange and a cocktail cherry on a cocktail pick, and maybe a cocktail umbrella too!

Red grenadine syrup is poured into a tequila cocktail.

make it a mocktail

Want to make it non-alcoholic? Here’s what to substitute:

  • Simply swap the tequila 1:1 for a non-alcoholic spirit. I like Ritual tequila alternative and Seedlip Grove 42.
  • You can also omit the tequila entirely and add an extra splash of orange juice.

Tips & tricks

Add the grenadine last. It will sink to the bottom rather than mix with the OJ. If you pour the orange juice on top of the grenadine, it will mix into a pink drink rather than a layered, sunset-like effect.

Don’t stir the drink (unless you want to). It will lose the ombré effect.

Use homemade grenadine for a more natural flavor. Store-bought grenadine is much sweeter.

What to serve with a Tequila Sunrise

Mexican tequila is a winner with Mexican food. Serve them with nacho dip or chips and peach salsa for an appetizer, tacos for dinner and churros for dessert.

The Tequila Sunrise is a favorite bar drink, so they’d also be good with usual bar snacks like fried pickles, pretzels and beer cheese dip or spicy popcorn.

FAQ

What’s the difference between a Tequila Sunrise and a Tequila Sunset?

While the Tequila Sunrise and the Tequila Sunset are both made with tequila and grenadine, the main difference is the juice mixer. The Sunrise is made with orange juice and the Sunset is made with grapefruit juice.

Is a Tequila Sunrise strong?

The Tequila Sunrise is not very strong. It only has 2 ounces of tequila. You can add ½ ounce more tequila for a stronger drink or lighten it up for a weaker drink. To make a non-alcoholic mocktail, simply skip the tequila altogether.

Which tequila is best for sunrise?

Also called silver tequila, blanco tequila is the best choice for a Tequila Sunrise because it is clear.

More classic cocktails

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A tropical tequila cocktail.

Tequila Sunrise

Yield: 1 cocktail
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
With all the colors of a morning sky over the ocean, the Tequila Sunrise has just three ingredients and is easy to mix up.
5 from 53 votes
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ingredients

  • 2 ounces tequila
  • 4 ounces orange juice pulp-free
  • ½ ounce grenadine syrup
  • 1 orange slice for garnish
  • 1 maraschino cherry for garnish

instructions

  • Add tequila and orange juice to an ice-filled highball glass.
  • Slowly pour in the grenadine. It will sink to the bottom.
  • Garnish with a maraschino cherry and a slice of orange.

notes

Add the grenadine last. It will sink to the bottom rather than mix with the OJ. Pouring the orange juice on top of the grenadine will create a solid pink drink rather than a layered, sunset-like effect.
Don’t stir the drink (unless you want to). It will lose the ombré effect.

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nutrition information

Yield: 1 cocktail

amount per serving:

Serving: 6ounces Calories: 239kcal Carbohydrates: 27g Protein: 1g Sodium: 6mg Fiber: 1g Sugar: 20g
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