What Should You Mix With Tequila?

From seltzer to ginger beer, tequila plays well with others.

A cocktail shaker, tequila and two fresh margaritas
Photo: Gregory Kramer / Getty Images

Maybe you've been a longtime tequila drinker, and you're looking for a change. Or perhaps you had a bad run-in with the spirit when you were younger and are now looking to explore tequila in a setting that doesn't involve a booze luge. Whatever your relationship with the spirit, you might be wondering: What should you mix with tequila?

The answer for Abelardo Orendain, the third generation owner of Bribon tequila, is nothing. At least at first — in order to figure out what's going to mix well with your tequila, you should first sip it straight. "Sometimes I add ice," Orendain says. "My favorite tequila is the blanco, the silver, because then you get the pure tequila taste before the aging process." Once you've sized up your tequila, then you can look for good things to pair it with. A good, safe starting place is a seltzer or club soda. "My father used to drink it with soda water," Orendain says. "But honestly I also love a great margarita."

Tequila blanco lends itself well to a variety of citrus fruits, not just the classic lime margarita. Uduimoh Umolu, co-founder of Jon Basil tequila, encourages his customers to branch out. "I always recommend grapefruit or grapefruit juice, which is very traditional," Umolu says. "Though in some blanco tequilas you'll definitely get earthiness, you'll also almost always have some citrus notes." Orange, lime, key lime, and other citrus varieties are a good go-to when it comes to tequila blanco.

But you don't have to limit yourself to those. Proximo Spirits' head of agave advocacy Jaime Salas says that when working with a blanco tequila like Gran Centenario Plata, the best cocktails will highlight the spirit's bright and fresh qualities. "For example, when using blanco tequila, I'd suggest using tropical fruits, herbs, and spices to enhance or contrast its bright stone fruit and citric profile."

When it comes to aged tequilas, which are more robust, it's worth switching up your mixing approach. Reposado — when tequila is aged from two months to a year in a barrel — are some of Umolu's particular favorites for mixing."Pineapple goes really well with reposado, [as does] ginger beer," he says. Umolu particularly loves an Old Fashioned made from reposado. "It really has those notes that are similar to a bourbon but it's still so light, and it goes great with vanilla, bitters, agave syrup," he says.

>>Mijenta Tequila's floral profile pairs especially well with grapefruit, lemon, and orange juice.

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While Umolu prefers sipping anejo tequila (which is aged from one to three years)straight, Salas says that these spirits can also be a great backbone to a classic cocktail. "With an Añejo tequila like Maestro Dobel Añejo or Gran Centenario Añejo for example, think of heartier ingredients, like various bitters, spiced syrups," Salas says. "These tequilas hold up equally as well in a sour cocktail, as well as in spirit-forward cocktails."

Just remember –– no ingredient is off-limits. "While most tequilas taste beautifully on their own, the spirit is a great canvas that provides so many different flavors to highlight in cocktails," Salas says. "It's all about bringing interesting and different flavors to a drink while still respecting the nuances of the base spirit." Experimenting with tequila in your cocktails can often yield delicious and unexpected results. Just ask Umolu, who doesn't shy away from trying new mixology concoctions that don't seem like they should work but do anyway. "My new obsession is a reposado espresso martini," Umolu says. "I wouldn't take any mixer off the table — you'd be surprised what you might end up discovering."

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