This tequila sunrise recipe is sweet and smooth, requires only three ingredients, and has the gorgeous color gradient of a summer sunrise! Pair them with margarita cookies for an awesome summer combo.
It’s not often that I order a fruity drink at a bar. My default is a French 75 cocktail, and aside from that I look for a dry Riesling. Or if I’m at a place that has their own brew, I’ll order a lighter style beer like a hefeweizen or a blonde ale (and no, it’s not because I’m blonde).
But fruity drinks? Rarely at the top of my list. However, I will make an exception for a tequila sunrise. This freaking drink, you guys. I almost hate how much I love these things.
What’s in a tequila sunrise?
I don’t know if you’ve ever had one, but it tastes just like juice and goes down so smooth. It’s only three ingredients: tequila, orange juice and grenadine.
That’s it. There’s no shaking or stirring, no need for a simple syrup.
Orange slices and maraschino cherries are a must have garnish. Okay, so I guess technically that means there are five ingredients.
The first thing I do is shove the cherry and the orange slice into the drink so they soak up all the flavors, and I save them to eat at the end. I also might be known to add a crapload of cherries when I make them myself, because I do what I want.
In preparation for our Hawaiian honeymoon this fall, I’ve started getting my stomach used to fruity drinks – because our honeymoon plan looks like this:
- Be as non-hysterical as possible during the 14 hour flight from Boston to Hawaii, likely drink some mai tais
- Upon landing, immediately hit the hotel bar and celebrate surviving the flight, preferably with some sort of fruity drink served in a pineapple
- See the Haleakala sunrise
- Eat ridiculous fresh poke
- Attend a legit luau (which will of course, have fruity drinks)
- Splash around in the ocean with sea turtles
- Have people serve us fruity drinks before/after/during splashing around in the ocean
- See a volcano
- Have drinks at hotel #1’s grotto behind a waterfall
- Become best friends with the penguins at the hotel (that’s right, I said penguins)
- Take a tropical mixology class at hotel #2
- Have shaved ice
- Try aerial silks at hotel #2
- Become a vacation tiki drink connoisseur and report back to you with my findings
It’s gonna be a lot of fruity drinks, my friends.
How to make a tequila sunrise
But as for what we’re doing here at home in our Honeymoon Mixology Stomach & Liver Prep Course, here are the quick and easy steps for making a tequila sunrise cocktail:
You start with a highball glass filled ¾ of the way with ice cubes.
In these photos, I’m actually using these 12 ounce Collins glasses from Crate and Barrel that we got as wedding gifts. If you’re going to use a 12 ounce sized glass, you may want to only fill it ½ way with ice to leave a little more room for the ingredients.
Then you’ll pour in your tequila.
You can use whatever brand of tequila you prefer, but my personal advice to you us is to use a gold tequila, and not use something like Sauza Blue Silver because it has additional fruit flavor notes that won’t give you the classic tequila sunrise flavor.
Next up, the orange juice. You want it to be smooth and pulp free. I can’t emphasize enough how much I hate pulp, and how much it doesn’t belong in this drink. When people serve me orange juice in a restaurant and it has pulp, they have become my new great enemy. Why do you hate me, Karen?!
I’ve said my piece – let’s move on.
Add the grenadine. I usually just pour it slowly in a bit of a zigzag motion so that it’s not straight down the middle, but you can also get fancy with it.
This will work best when you have some room in the top of the glass, and not if it’s nearly filled to the brim. Because that’s basically just asking for nice blood red grenadine all over everything and no I’m not speaking from experience, shut up.
Turn a spoon upside down and place it inside the glass, with the tip of the spoon resting against the inside edge of the glass (or least near the edge) – right above the top of your existing liquid.
From the opposite side of where you’re holding the spoon, pour the grenadine as slowly as possible over the back of the spoon, moving the spoon up the side of the glass as the liquid level rises.
That’s it! JUST LOOK AT THOSE COLORS.
I swear to you, I have some pictures of sunsets here on the coast that come pretty damn close to looking like this. And I plan to get some in Hawaii as well. After I get those, we’ll do a side by side comparison of which is prettier.
Sorry tequila sunrise, it’s probably going to be Hawaii. No hard feelings.
In fact, it’s so pretty I turned it into an animated gif so that you can watch the whole process of making your very own sunrise without having to scroll.
Luxardo maraschino cherries
Now, about those maraschino cherries. I don’t know if you know this, but there are these crazy expensive, fancy cherries out there called Luxardo Gourmet Maraschino Cherries (affiliate link).
I, of course, get whatever jar of maraschino cherries is cheap and available at the super market and proceed to eat them in inadvisable quantities.
I have to admit, there’s a big difference in quality. Luxardo cherries have no corn syrup, no thickening agents, no preservatives. They’re so rich with flavor that it shows in their color – they’re much darker, almost a purpleish black color.
At a glance, they look like olives. They’re definitely worth the extra money for the quality, but we’re trying to save money here in prep for spending all the money in Hawaii, so bright red cheap cherries it is.
Side note: don’t put olives in your tequila sunrise, because that sounds beyond terrible.
As for the orange slices, there’s really nothing fancy or special I need to tell you about those. Just buy an orange, slice it, and add it to your drink.
Make sure to serve these with coasters or cocktail napkins, because the outside of the glasses are going to get a good amount of condensation.
I know that goes for basically any drink with ice in it, but I’m very concerned with the well-being of your tequila sunrise because it’s just too pretty to slip out of your hands and onto the floor. I’m pretty sure that’s against some sort of wasting-a-pretty-drink law… somewhere.
Peek behind the scenes
If you ever wonder what kind of nonsensical setup I have to shoot these photos, here’s a look at what it was for this recipe. The light was coming in the east side of the house, and I needed there to not be cat fur all over the set.
The only place in the house on that side where I can close a door to keep the cats out is the pantry, which is a very narrow room. In that picture above, the shelves full of food are just barely offscreen to the left, so that gives you an idea of the width.
My husband was outside working on some landscaping around that oh-so-picturesque air conditioner unit, so when I was done I opened the window and asked if he wanted a drink.
He reached in, grabbed one, and then proceeded to chug both of those cocktails and get back to work.
While I don’t necessarily condone chugging an alcoholic drink, they do just taste like delicious, delicious juice.
And to be fair it is mostly juice.
Looking for snacks to pair with your tequila sunrise?
- Watermelon & Blackberry Mint Salad
- Grilled Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos by Whitney Bond
- Crunchy Pineapple Salsa by Hunger Thirst Play
- Tropical Chicken Cups by Foodal
- Mango Panna Cotta Coconut Cheesecake by Sugar Salt Magic
- Pina Colada Seven Layer Bars by Averie Cooks
- Hawaiian Haupia (Coconut Pudding) by Contemplating Sweets
- Coconut Lime Chiffon Cake by Life Made Simple
After you’ve made this recipe, please consider coming back to share your experience with others by leaving a comment below with a star rating!
Tequila Sunrise Cocktail
- 4 ounces tequila, divided
- 1 ½ cups orange juice, pulp-free and divided
- 2 ounces grenadine syrup, divided
- Orange slices and maraschino cherries, for garnish
- Fill two 16 ounce highball glasses ¾ full with ice cubes.
- Add tequila and orange juice.
- Slowly add grenadine – it’s going to sink to the bottom to give you the gorgeous “sunset” gradient.
- Garnish each glass with an orange slice and maraschino cherry. Serve immediately, and enjoy!