Day of the Dead: 10 Tasty Tequila Cocktail Recipes
Day of the Dead or Día de los Muertos is an annual holiday held on November 1-2 in Mexico. Often the festivities are kicked off with a toast, and naturally, a tequila party. Photo: Courtesy of Volcán Tequila
Tequila. The spirit has gained so much popularity in recent years, it actually has its own day, just like gin and whisky. It’s the juice of the spiky blue agave plant with leaves as long as my arm, and it is this blue agave that has me.
Naturally, it all started with a love story. Aztec legend tells that the plant first sprung from the site where the deity Quetzalcoatl buried the remains of his beloved, Mayahuel, the goddess of fertility. She also just happened to be the granddaughter of Tzintzimitl, the evil goddess who devoured light.
When Tzintzimitl discovered that Quetzalcoatl had run away with Mayahuel, she hunted them down and Mayahuel was killed in the battle. Quetzalcoatl, in his grief, retaliated and destroyed the goddess. The light returned, and with it the blue agave, with those spiky arm-length leaves that reach up to sun and sky. When he would visit the site, Quetzalcoatl would drink the agave elixir from the plant as remembrance of his beloved and as a comfort in his grief.
That elixir, as you may have guessed, is tequila, the juice that’s distilled from the blue agave plants found in Jalisco, Mexico. Think of Jalisco as a sort of Champagne or Porto region, an-only-made-here place. And like Champagne or Port, tequila comes in more than one age and colour.
But Tequila is not just a drink. It’s an actual place. Designated a cultural UNESCO World Heritage site, this “magical town” in the state of Jalisco covers 90,000 acres in the heart of the blue agave’s landscape. And while mythical in its origin story and magical it may still be, it’s also been the centre of the tequila universe since the 16th century in a more practical sense — cultivating the plant and producing the spirit, giving way to what is now known as agave culture and its enterprising distilleries taking hold in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is a part of the Mexican identity.
To identify your favourite tequila, take a journey of blanco (white, or silver, freshly distilled without aging), reposado (aged two months to one year), añejo (aged one to three years) and extra añejo (aged longer than three years) to get a true sense of this made-in-Mexico spirit. The older the age, the more rich the colour, going from clear (blanco) to caramel (reposado) to golden brown (extra añejo).
Star mixologist Vicente Díaz of the Grand Velas Los Cabos resort in Baja California, Mexico, weighs in on how to drink the spirit on its own:
- Use a medium to large glass, even a champagne flute, rather than a shot glass. The extra space encourages the oxygenation process and helps release the tequila’s natural flavours and aroma.
- When going to take the first sip, swirl the tequila around in the glass first, to help the oxygenation process. After the second sip, inhale through the nose, swallow the spirit over your tongue, and exhale. This process softens the tequila’s flavour.
- Silver tequila pairs well with seafood, salads, or pasta. Reposado tequila, featuring a caramelized flavor, goes well with enchiladas, tacos, and a hot soup or creamy vegetable soup. In the mood for spicy food? Pair your dish with anejo tequila that stands up to the flavor. Ultra-aged tequila is best paired with bitter or bittersweet foods, or milk chocolate. Gold tequila pairs best with sweet flavours or with high-fat cuts.
And in that spirit, may we present a few recipes for you to mix up at home, on tequila day or any day. Try these twists on the classic Margarita, Paloma and even a healthier option (Kombucha, anyone?). And if you’re taking in the low to no trend, we’ve got you covered with an alcohol-free take. No shooters here, but we suggest keeping the salt and limes, as they are a match. After all, it’s all about the sip.
1. Aguamiel Paloma
Sure we know this spirit is distilled in Mexico, but we couldn’t resist sharing the short story of a homegrown entrepreneur who went south-south of the borders to make it, well, Canadian. Craig Shaw launched Aguamiel Tequila in 2018. With the help of Augustin Sanchez Rodriguez, his master tequilier (yes, there is such a thing), Shaw tapped into that blue agave culture and created a premium blanco tequila with Canadian chops. The result is subtle, with pepper, vanilla, earth and lemongrass mingling together on the tongue. I won’t lie — it’s what brought this gin lover back to truly appreciating tequila. Warm and with just a hint of spice, kinda like the best of us here in the true north.
1.5 oz Aguamiel Blanco Tequila
1.5 oz grapefruit juice
0.5 oz lime juice
0.5 agave syrup
Cocktail rimming salt (optional)
Rim the glass with salt. Pour all ingredients but the sparkling water into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake cocktail shaker. Pour mixture into glass with ice. Top off with sparkling water. Garnish with a grapefruit wedge. Enjoy!
2. Tropical Escape
Not that we’re saying that indulging in a cocktail is exactly healthy, but a little bit of alcohol is also not a bad thing. If you want to up your wellness game while enjoying, may we suggest using Kombucha as your mixer? Rise has introduced a low sugar (only 1 g and 4 calories per serving) and is made in Montreal. Kombucha also has the benefits of possessing probiotics, antioxidants and organic acids as part of its DNA. This can lead to better gut health and digestion. And you can get a bit of that in this cocktail.
1oz (30mL) tequila
½ oz (15mL) grenadine syrup
5oz (150mL) RISE 1g – Kiwi & Pineapple flavour
Fresh kiwi for garnish
Combine the tequila and the grenadine syrup in a glass filled with ice. Add Kombucha and stir with a bar spoon. Garnish with a fresh slice of kiwi and get ready to chill out with these tropical flavours.
The classic but with a hint of spice and citrus, brought to us by manager Carlos Armas of the Grand Velas Los Cabos resort in Baja California, Mexico.
1 oz. lime juice
2 oz tequila (or mezcal)
1 oz. orange liqueur (such as Cointreau)
Tajin Clasico Seasoning for rim
pineapple ring for garnish
Fill a cocktail shaker or tall glass with ice. Add lime juice, tequila and orange juice. Shake or stir until chilled. Using a rocks glass, press the glass’s rim into the pineapple slice to moisten, then dip in Tajin seasoning to rim. Garnish with pineapple.
4. Volcán Grapefruit Collins
According to the company, Volcán Tequila Blanco is an “expression of our terroir,” blending its herbal, citrus and spice notes indicative of the lowlands with fruit notes of cherry, pear and peach from the highlands. No, this is not Scotland. This is a tequila made very close to the home of the conical-shaped volcanoes, known as “stratovolcano,” in Mexico, hence its name.
2 oz Volcán de mi Tierra Blanco Tequila
¾ oz Fresh Lemon Juice
¾ oz Simple Syrup
1 oz Fresh Grapefruit Juice
Top with Soda Water
Shake tequila, lemon juice, simple syrup and grapefruit juice with ice. Strain into a double rocks glass over a large cube of ice. Top with soda water. Garnish with a grapefruit wedge.
5. Don Julio Blanco Soda
This is one of the all-time favourite premium tequilas, known for its highland-produced spirit, and also for the buzz around Don Julio 1942. It’s sort of gorgeous on its own, and worth the price. So treat yourself. In the meantime, the silver, or blanco, is no slouch either: the microclimate and mineral-rich clay soil of the highlands is where the blue agave plant is happy, which means a happier tequila. Pair this super simple cocktail with grilled and raw seafood, as well as veggies and citrus-heavy recipes.
1.5 oz Don Julio Blanco Tequila
Mint leaves for garnish
Hibiscus flowers (optional) for garnish
Pour tequila and sparkling water over ice into a rocks or highball glass. Garnish with mint leaves and hibiscus flowers.
6. Espolòn Mexican Mule
The company creates the spirit in the hills of Los Altos, double distilling its Blanco in column and pot stills — a method that many Irish whiskey distillers also employ. The blanco is then rested in lightly charred, new American oak barrels, and aged for between 3 to 5 months. The result is a golden Reposado that mixes well in cocktails, to add a more complex and well-rounded flavour.
1 ½ parts Espolòn Reposado
½ part lime juice
Combine tequila and lime juice in a mule cup (shown here) on the rocks and top with ginger beer. Garnish with a lime wedge.
7. Low- to no-alcohol Seedlip Grove 42 Margarita
A distilled mashup of fruits, botanicals, herbs and spices which, when blended together, give the botanical or herb-like taste of a clear spirit like tequila or gin but without the alcohol. Fun fact: Did you know that, if placed in water, lemons float and limes sink? Limes are 88 per cent water, 10 per cent carbs and less than 1 per cent each of fat and protein.
2 oz Seedlip Grove 4
1 tbsp Agave Syrup
0.5 oz fresh lime juice
Salt for rim
Lime wheel for garnish
Run a lime wedge around the outside of the rim of a tumbler or rocks glass, then roll the rim in salt. Add Seedlip, agave syrup and lime juice with ice to a cocktail shaker. Shake, then strain, pouring over fresh cubes of ice into glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.
From Tequila with love…
This twist on a very classic cocktail comes to us directly from Jalisco’s Viva Tequila Festival mixologists. And, yes, there’s even a tequila trail you can follow (once we can travel safely again) that includes five stops in the state, including Guadalajara and Teuchitlán, where you can visit the archaeological zone of Los Guachimontones and its incredible circular stepped pyramids.
8. Tequila Old Fashioned
2 oz Añejo Tequila Don Julio
¼ once Agave syrup
1 dash of Angostura Bitters
Stir ingredients together in an Old Fashioned glass, add ice and orange peel for depth.
9. The Rancho San Lucas Signature Mezcalita cocktail
For snowbirds that love Mexico, here’s another way to dream now and travel later. Set on 834 acres on Mexico’s Pacific coast, the desert-by-the-sea resort community of Rancho San Lucas melds all of the serene colours, textures and elements of the Los Cabos vibe into their resorts and dwellings. The Norman Estates collection, in partnership with professional golfer and entrepreneur Greg Norman, is a design of Baja chic.
2 oz tequila or mezcal
0.5 oz Grand Marnier
1 oz lime juice
1 oz orange juice
½ oz lemon simple syrup
dash of orange bitters
¼ tsp activated charcoal (optional)
Combine all ingredients with ice and shake vigorously, then serve in cocktail glass.
10. Margarita LeBlanc
Hugo Estrada, head mixologist at the adults-only Le Blanc Spa Resort in Los Cabos, Mexico, took the classic cocktail and gave it an extra kick. A twist to the traditional spicy margarita, this unique blend takes it up a notch by combining both serrano pepper as well as ancho pepper with an añejo aged a minimum of one year, giving it the ultimate spice, with a twist of sophistication.
1 oz Tequila Añejo
0.5 oz of Grand Marnier
¼ oz Ancho Reyes Liquor
¼ oz Simple Syrup
1.5 oz Orange juice
2 slices of serrano pepper
Salt for rim
Shake well, add salt around the rim of the old fashion glass and garnish with 2 pieces of serrano peppers.