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Tequila Sunrise Cocktail Recipe

The Tequila Sunrise became popular in the 1970s and sticks around because it’s so tasty. It’s also surprisingly easy to mix for such a beautiful drink. 

This version drink was created by Bobby Lozoff and Billy Rice at the Trident in California. An earlier version was but there was an earlier one created in the 1930s in Phoenix, Arizona. In 1972, Mick Jagger and his entourage enjoyed them on a US Rolling Stones tour they referred to as their “cocaine and tequila sunrise tour”.

This is a classic fruity cocktail recipe blending tequila with orange juice and grenadine. Because the grenadine sinks to the bottom, it looks like a sunrise.

The flavor is orange and berry, with notes from whatever tequila you use. And it’s worth using a small batch grenadine for a fresher taste, since it comes across in this drink.

Tequila Sunrise drink on table in front of tequila bottle

Can anyone learn to make a Tequila Sunrise?

Absolutely. It is so easy to make this drink at home. You just need to follow the instructions in the recipe. It’s not difficult to get that beautiful visual effect.

And this is a great drink to enjoy at home. It’s simple to make, tastes wonderful, and you’ll pay less overall than you would by ordering it at a bar.

Why do people love this drink recipe?

The popularity of this drink comes from how beautiful it is when you serve it, how good it tastes, and how easy it is to make.

That’s like the trifecta of cocktail recipes. When it looks as good as it tastes, but it doesn’t take a professional bartender to make it pretty, that’s a great drink. Specifically:

  • The sunrise effect is memorable and gorgeous. You don’t even need a fruit garnish, although that makes it even prettier.
  • The taste is sweet orange and berry, with some agave notes from the tequila in the background. Who doesn’t love orange and berry?
  • The process of making it is just pouring ingredients into a glass of ice. No stirring or shaking.
  • It doesn’t need an expensive liquor. Olmeca Altos Tequila Plata or Jose Cuervo will be great in this drink.

The long-standing appeal of orange juice drinks is actually the juice as much as the alcohol. It hydrates your body and provides Vitamin C to prevent or reduce hangover effects. But you still get your alcohol kick, too.

Other orange juice based drinks include the Screwdriver, the Orange Blossom and the Harvey Wallbanger.

The Tequila Sunrise is a great choice to serve guests who are just social drinkers. It’s delicious and there’s a high ratio of mixers to spirits in this one.

But it’s equally popular with more dedicated drinkers. That orange and berry flavor is a very likable combination, even for people who don’t love tequila.

If you have a guest who really doesn’t like tequila, you can always serve them the Vodka Sunrise. It’s virtually the same drink, only with the less flavorful vodka in place of the tequila.

Closeup of Tequila Sunrise on table

The beauty of the Tequila Sunrise recipe

The Tequila Sunrise recipe gets its name from how it looks. It has that beautiful visual effect from the grenadine dropping to the bottom then slowly rising. That gives it a red color at the bottom that slowly blends into an orange layer.

That makes this a really cool-looking cocktail that always looks impressive, especially in a tall glass. And yet, getting this sunrise effect is easier than you might imagine. In fact, this drink is incredibly easy to make. You don’t even need a cocktail shaker.

The way to get that look is to pour the grenadine last. You pour it right down the center, and slowly. This method of dropping syrup in slowly is actually the easiest way to get the visual effect of a layered cocktail.

If you find it hard to pour slowly, you probably need to use a pour spout over the bottle. This is especially true when a bottle is full and the lack of air inside makes the liquid tend to chug out instead of pouring smoothly.

Pour spouts are such a help whether you’re layering cocktails or just want to reduce mess. They can help keep liquid from dribbling down the side of the bottle.

Liquor pourer attached to bottle for grenadine in Tequila Sunrise

Tasting that Tequila Sunrise

Orange dominates the flavor of this drink, followed by berry. The tequila adds its own notes, and what those notes are depends on the exact type of tequila you used.

For this drink, you don’t need to break out your top shelf bottle. Any good, drinkable tequila will work in this cocktail.

If you’re looking for a recommendation, Altos Tequila Plata makes a good choice. It’s 100% agave, so you get hints of something herbal, but it also has citrus notes that brighten it up and make it smooth and easy to enjoy.

Some versions of the recipe call for white tequila and others for gold, but either can work. What’s so great about this cocktail is that it’s hard to get it wrong.

If you want to garnish this drink, add an orange slice and/or a cherry. That will cue people into what the main flavors are going to be.

Tequila Sunrise with orange and cherry garnish

When to Serve the Tequila Sunrise

This cocktail is terrific by the poolside. It’s also great for a night of dancing. And it makes a great drink to have at the end of a long day, before the evening begins.

It’s even great for brunch. Not too strong, with an easygoing fruity flavor that goes with most any brunch foods.

It is a terrific choice for barbecue cocktails because it’s light, refreshing and cold. You can serve it at any party, too.

You might think of the Tequila Sunrise as a very long drink. That’s true, but it only has twice as much fruit juice as alcohol, so it’s still a good stiff drink.

If you want, you can add more orange juice to make it a longer drink for sipping. It’s made to be poured over ice, which will water it down after a few minutes.

If you want to keep the flavors intense, you can chill all the ingredients in advance – and even the glass, too – and skip the ice. You’ll get a nice cold drink this way. And you might want to pour it into a smaller rocks glass.

Tequila Sunrise drink on table in front of tequila bottle
Yield: 1 drink

Tequila Sunrise cocktail recipe

Prep Time: 3 minutes
Total Time: 3 minutes

The Tequila Sunrise is a classic cocktail recipe blending grenadine with tequila and orange juice. It has a beautiful sunrise effect. The flavor is orange and berry, with notes from whatever tequila you use.


  • 4 ounces orange juice (fresh squeezed is preferred)
  • 2 ounces white tequila
  • 1/2 ounce grenadine syrup


  1. Put ice cubes into a highball glass.
  2. Add in the tequila followed by the orange juice.
  3. Now slowly pour the grenadine syrup straight down the middle, so it falls to the bottom.
  4. Optionally garnish with a maraschino cherry, citrus wedge or sliver of orange peel.

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