Tequila just screams warm weather to me. Maybe it’s from happy beach vacations in Mexico, where we learned that tequila has been around for at least 500 years. Distilled from the blue agave plant and produced in the Mexican state of Jalisco, tequila ranges in depth of flavor from the unaged blanco or silver tequila—perfect in both cocktails as well as savory and sweet recipes—to extra añejo, which is aged at least three years and meant to be sipped and savored. Look for tequila that is 100 percent blue agave, otherwise, it is a mixto tequila, which means that it includes sugar.
We reached out to some of our favorite mixologists around town and asked them to share their favorite tequila drink—as long as it wasn’t a margarita. It’s time to branch out, amigos!
Heather Behm, Union Pizzeria, Evanston
Makes one cocktail
Herby, citrusy, spicy…this cocktail hits all the right flavor profiles (and it works equally well with gin or vodka, by the way).
- 2 large basil leaves
- 2 thinly sliced rings jalepeño chile
- 1 lime wedge
- 2 ounces of tequila blanco (MIB likes the Wansas brand)
- 1/2 ounce Cointreau
- 1/2 ounce Rose’s lime juice
- 1/2 ounce simple syrup
In a 10-ounce rocks glass, muddle together basil, jalapeño and lime. Add tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and simple syrup. Stir well; fill to the rim with ice and finish with a splash of club soda.
Marcos Rivera, Libertad, Skokie
Makes one cocktail
Ripe strawberries really make this cocktail pop; at Libertad, they infuse the tequila with roasted serrano chiles for a bit of smoky heat.
- 2 ripe medium strawberries, hulled and halved
- 1 1/2 ounces roasted serrano-chile-infused tequila*
- 3/4 ounce simple syrup
- 1/2 ounce lime juice
In cocktail shaker, muddle strawberries. Add chile-infused tequila, simple syrup and lime juice and ice cubes to shaker. Shake well and strain into a short rocks glass. Garnish with a serrano chile.
*Roasted Serrano Chile-Infused Tequila: In a dry skillet over medium heat, char five serrano chiles (do not use oil). When the skin is blistered and blackened in spots, cut the serrano chiles lengthwise, remove seeds and stems, and immerse in a bottle of tequila. Let infuse for 12 hours, then strain. Discard peppers. Rebottle infused tequla.
El Buho Swizzle
Cody Modeer, Ward Eight, Chicago
Mezcal is a smoky distilled spirit from Oaxaca; it is also made from agave, but not limited to the blue agave. It pairs particularly well with grapefruit.
- 1 1/2 ounces El Buho Mezcal
- 3/4 ounce Campari
- 3/4 ounce passion fruit syrup
- 3/4 ounce lime juice
- 3/4 ounce grapefruit juice
Build in a collins glass filled with crushed ice and swizzle with bar spoon or swizzle stick. Garnish with grapefruit peel and mini umbrella.
Bonus recipe! Tequila and chocolate are a match made in heaven, especially when drizzled over cinnamon, coffee, ginger or coconut ice cream.
Julie’s Tequila Fudge Sauce
- 2 cups chopped bittersweet chocolate (Ghiradelli works well)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup tequila
In medium sauce pan over medium-low heat, combine chocolate, cream and tequila. Heat, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and sauce comes together. Serve warm over ice cream or gelato; garnish with toasted almonds.