Tequila has been somewhat slow to catch fire in cocktail culture despite its rapid volume growth, but the rise of high-end expressions has spurred a push to experiment. And while the Margarita is still by far the most popular Tequila-based drink, the agave spirit is being adapted to a range of cocktail styles. “The creative energy in the mixology community has caused bartenders to rethink what can be done with Tequila, and that shift is helping it evolve,” says Barry Augus, president and CEO of Tres Agaves Products.
La Revolución, a drink created by Chicago mixologist Alex Renshaw for Terlato Wines and Artisan Spirits’ Riazul Tequila, mixes Riazul’s Reposado expression with Nonino amaro, fresh lime juice, Monin Strawberry syrup, Angostura bitters and cinnamon. “Tequila has moved far beyond its reputation as a cheap drink,” says Bill Terlato, CEO of Terlato Wines and Artisan Spirits. “The spirit has established its credibility as a complex, sophisticated ingredient that can play at all levels.”
Dove’s Luncheonette in Chicago offers the Te for the Day ($9), comprising black tea–infused Lunazul Blanco Tequila, house-made ginger syrup, lemon juice, simple syrup and club soda. Eden Laurin, managing partner of Chicago bar The Violet Hour, created the cocktail for Dove’s, where she consults on the drinks program. Dove’s bar manager Kate Lerner notes that the true beauty of Tequila lies in its ability to work well with a plethora of ingredients. “Tequila is extremely versatile and doesn’t need to be held to just one category,” she says. “Coffee, tea, chocolate, beer—breaking paradigms can create delicious and surprising cocktails.”
Other mixologists put new spins on classic cocktails. Manny Hinojosa, brand ambassador for Bacardi’s Cazadores and Corzo Tequila brands, created the Corzo Negroni Bianco. The drink is made with Corzo Reposado, Campari aperitif, Martini & Rossi Bianco vermouth, The Perfect Purée of Napa Valley Orange Zest and Fee Brothers Lemon bitters. At Spoke & Steele in Indianapolis, the Smoke Over Chicago ($16) is aged for three months in St. George Verte absinthe–rinsed barrels and blends Casa Pacific Blanco Tequila, Hum botanical liqueur, Del Maguey Vida mezcal and Crema de Mezcal liqueur. “A lot of people have preconceived notions about how Tequila tastes and how you consume it,” says beverage director Tyler Burns. “I love changing people’s minds and showing them how versatile it is.”