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Tequila Sunrise

How the cult classic came of age.

It could be argued that the Tequila Sunrise was corrupted by rock ‘n’ roll. The drink as we know it came of age in the 1970s—a notoriously dark era for cocktails—but the cocktail’s current incarnation bears little resemblance to its first appearance.

This was likely at Agua Caliente, a resort and racetrack in Tijuana, Mexico, and a popular escape for Americans fleeing the strictures of Prohibition. The resort’s recipe, from a booklet titled Bottoms Up! Y Como!, published in the early 1930s, calls for one jigger of tequila, the juice of half a lime, six dashes of grenadine, and two dashes of crème de cassis, topped with sparkling mineral water. The Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix also claims creation of the drink in the late ’30s or early ’40s by bartender Gene Sulit, whose version likewise featured tequila with lime, cassis, and soda—no orange juice in sight.

It would be several decades before Bay Area bartender Bobby Lozoff would concoct the Tequila Sunrise we recognize today. Lozoff worked at The Trident in Sausalito, a waterfront restaurant popular among the local music scene, attracting regulars like Janis Joplin and Jerry Garcia. As Lozoff recounted to drinks writer Jeff Burkhart for National Geographic in 2012, his initial Sunrise riffed on the Singapore Sling with tequila, sweet and sour mix, orange juice, grenadine, and crème de cassis, all topped with soda. For the sake of simplicity, the mixture was pared down to just tequila, orange juice, and grenadine.

On a Monday night in 1972, the Rolling Stones were in attendance at The Trident. “Mick came up to the bar and asked for a Margarita,” Lozoff said. “I asked him if he had ever tried a Tequila Sunrise.”

The cocktail proved so popular with the band that the remainder of their tour became unofficially christened the “cocaine and Tequila Sunrise tour.” By 1973, Jose Cuervo had capitalized on the trend, marketing the drink in print ads and even releasing a canned version. Today, owing to bartenders’ proclivity for rehabbing old drinks, riffs on the Sunrise abound with subbed ingredients like mezcal, bitter orange juice and hibiscus syrup. However, the original, when made with quality tequila, fresh-squeezed juice, and a judicious amount of grenadine, can still make for a groovy way to greet the dawn.


  • 2 oz. blanco tequila
  • 4 oz. fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 oz. grenadine
  • Tools:shaker, barspoon, strainer
  • Glass:collins
  • Garnish:orange wheel


Add the tequila and orange juice to an ice-filled glass and stir gently to combine. Slowly pour in the grenadine, allowing it to sink to the bottom, then give one or two stirs to create the gradient “sunrise” effect, and garnish.

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