Beyond the iconic Margarita, tequila’s earthy bite is a welcome addition to an array of drink styles. With its complex, vegetal flavor profile, it doesn’t need much to dress it up. The agave spirit shines alongside a spectrum of flavors, including grapefruit and Campari in a slightly spicy highball, or cold brew and mole bitters for a wild-card take on the Espresso Martini. Here, five recipes that spotlight the versatile spirit—in five ingredients or fewer.
In her Dove Dispatch, Meaghan Dorman of Raines Law Room and Dear Irving aptly answers the call for something strong and savory with her tequila-based highball. Tying together Campari, a splash of grapefruit juice and bell pepper simple syrup, Dorman adds a chile-salt rim, easily made with the contents of your spice rack for a subtle hint of heat. She notes that even though the drink leans savory, it “should still be bright and enjoyable, but with that extra subtle layer.”
The popular south-of-the-border drink commonly calls for orange juice, but this rendition from Anvil’s Bobby Heugel reflects early accounts of the beverage. In place of orange juice, he relies on cassis and grenadine for a deeper-hued interpretation. The tart, fruity elements of the cassis bring out similar notes in the tequila, making this a more-complex take on the oft-maligned drink.
Espresso Martini variants abound, but a focus on Mexican flavors—namely, replacing the vodka with tequila and adding mole bitters for complexity—is what makes Justin Campbell’s version a standout. Campbell recommends using packaged cold brew coffee, but room-temperature brewed java and your own homemade cold brew both work here.
In this Mexican-minded cooler, Ivy Mix starts with a base of jalapeño-infused tequila, then employs a few dashes of both mole and Peychaud’s bitters. The simple addition of bitters adds depth and an elevated brightness, drawing out the nuanced notes of the floral chamomile tea. First developed when Mix was working at Brooklyn’s Fort Defiance, the Sonambula followed her to Clover Club, ultimately becoming a permanent fixture on the Leyenda menu.
Think of a Rosita as the agave-based answer to a Negroni. Though at The Franklin in New Orleans, Evan Wolf, Matt LoFink and Jason Sorbet go a step further with a few subtle tweaks. Their softer take still has plenty of character—swapping mezcal with tequila (extra points if you have smoky tequila on hand) and Campari with lower-proof Aperol.