The Tequila Sunrise is one of the most iconic and visually stunning cocktails involving tequila. With its fiery orange and red layers resembling a brilliant sunrise, it has remained a crowd favorite for decades.

The recipe is delightfully simple, containing just three main ingredients – tequila, orange juice and grenadine syrup. When mixed properly, poured slowly and left undisturbed, these come together to produce the bold layered effect that gives this drink its name and signature appeal. 

But beyond good looks, the Tequila Sunrise is also incredibly refreshing and flavorful. The tangy orange and subtle sweetness from grenadine complement the smoothness of tequila beautifully for a balanced cocktail that is as enjoyable as it is memorable.

What Is A Tequila Sunrise

A Tequila Sunrise is an iconic cocktail known for its vivid layered appearance. It gets its name from the way the ingredients separate in the glass, resembling a beautiful sunrise. Made with just tequila, orange juice and grenadine syrup, when poured correctly the grenadine sinks to the bottom, with the orange juice resting above it. 

Together the red and orange colours blend together yet remain distinctly separate, creating a dazzling visual effect that makes the Tequila Sunrise one of the most visually stunning cocktails.

The History Of The Tequila Sunrise

Tequila Sunrise

The origins of the Tequila Sunrise date back to the 1930s when it was invented at the Arizona Biltmore hotel in Phoenix. But it really became widespread in popularity in the 1970s after The Rolling Stones band enjoyed it so much on their US tour. 

They ordered it everywhere they went, helping spread the word about this brightly colored drink featuring tequila, orange juice and grenadine syrup. Ever since, its vibrant look and tasty flavor have kept the Tequila Sunrise firmly established as one of the most iconic tequila cocktail creations.

Tequila Sunrise Ingredients

Here are the ingredients for a Tequila Sunrise cocktail:

  • Tequila – Choose a silver/blanco tequila for this cocktail. Around 1.5 ounces per drink.
  • Orange juice – Freshly squeezed is best but shop-bought is fine. Approximately 4 ounces per cocktail.
  • Grenadine syrup – This gives the signature red layering effect. 1/2 ounce per drink.
  • Ice – Fill the glass with ice before building your cocktail.
  • Orange slices – Provides color and a citrus twist.
  • Maraschino cherries – Optional sweet garnish that complements the flavors well.
  • Alternative juices – You can substitute orange juice for grapefruit juice or other citrus varieties to change things up.
  • Garnishes – Besides orange and cherries, you can also use pineapple wedges, lime wedges or candied ginger slices as a garnish.
  • Glassware – Build it in a highball glass, Collins glass or other tall glass vessel to show off the layers best.

How To Make A Tequila Sunrise

Here are the steps to make a Tequila Sunrise cocktail:

  1. Fill a highball glass with ice.
  2. Add 1.5 ounces of tequila to the glass.
  3. Pour 4 ounces of fresh orange juice over the back of a spoon so it floats on top of the tequila.
  4. Slowly drizzle 1/2 ounce of grenadine syrup down the inside of the glass. It will sink to the bottom.
  5. Rotate the glass slowly so the grenadine rises up the sides and separates into layers.
  6. Do not stir or mix the layers together.
  7. Garnish by placing an orange slice and maraschino cherry on the rim of the glass.
  8. Serve immediately so the drinks can be enjoyed in their colorful layered state.
  9. Instruct drinkers to gently swirl or stir before drinking to fully blend the layers together.
  10. Enjoy the classic cocktail with its bright citrus and tequila flavors and dazzling appearance. 

How Strong Is A Tequila Sunrise

A classic Tequila Sunrise cocktail has an alcohol content of around 11-12% ABV, putting it on the milder side of cocktails. This is due to using just 1.5 ounces of tequila mixed with 4 ounces of orange juice.

The large proportion of juice helps cut the alcohol, making the Tequila Sunrise a refreshing yet lightly spirited drink. Its balancing ingredients allow it to be enjoyed in the heat of summer without becoming too intoxicating.

What Type Of Tequila Is In A Tequila Sunrise

A traditional Tequila Sunrise calls for using a silver or blanco tequila. This type of tequila has not been aged, retaining a light color and smooth flavor profile that does not overpower the other blended ingredients. 

Its subtle character allows the natural flavors of orange juice and grenadine syrup to shine through while still providing the essence of tequila. A blanco tequila is perfect for mixing into this iconic cocktail.

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Tequila Sunrise vs Tequila Sunset?

A Tequila Sunrise gets its name from the orange and red layers that resemble a sunrise. When made correctly, the grenadine syrup sinks to the bottom of the glass, with the orange juice floating above it. This creates the bright “sunrise” effect.

A Tequila Sunset is very similar but uses different colorful ingredients to mimic a sunset sky. Instead of orange juice, grapefruit juice is often used which has a pinkish hue. And sometimes berry-flavored syrups like raspberry or cranberry are floated at the top, resembling the reddish pink tones of a sunset. 

So both drinks feature layered colors, but the Sunrise uses orange and red while the Sunset employs pinks and purples to portray the setting sun instead of the rising sun.

What Makes Tequila Sunrise Red?

What Makes Tequila Sunrise Red?

A key ingredient that gives the Tequila Sunrise its beautiful red color is grenadine syrup. Grenadine is made by cooking pomegranate seeds and juices with sugar, water, and spices. This produces a deep red, thick liquid. 

When floated over the orange juice and tequila base, the grenadine sinks gradually to the bottom, creating colorful layers that slowly blend like a red sunrise emerging over the horizon.


While a Tequila Sunrise is often enjoyed without any garnishes, some extra touches can take it to the next level. Common garnishes include a slice of orange, maraschino cherry, or cube of fresh fruit like pineapple, peach or watermelon. 

These not only add visual appeal but also provide extra layers of flavor to enjoy with each sip. A citrus twist or fresh herbs can also complement the fruity sweetness.


The potency of a Tequila Sunrise depends on the recipe but generally contains 1-2 ounces of tequila per drink. This silver or gold tequila is 40% alcohol by volume, lending a moderate alcoholic bite. 

Combined with orange and grenadine mixers, the sweetness and acidity help balance the drink, making it easy to consume more than intended if not careful. Mindful sipping is advised to enjoy the flavor without overindulging.

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When To Serve Tequila Sunrise

The bright colors and refreshing flavor of Tequila Sunrises make them perfect for daytime imbibing. You can enjoy these cocktails at brunches, picnics in the park on sunny days, backyard get-togethers, or lazy weekends by the pool. 

The mild sweetness and acidity also make them an appealing option earlier in the day compared to heavier drinks. So break out the tequila, orange juice and grenadine to celebrate good company during daylight hours with this colorful classic.

Recommended Tequilas For This Cocktail

Espolón Blanco Tequila:
Espolón Blanco Tequila is a good, affordable option that falls in the $25 range. This blanco tequila is perfect for everyday drinks like the Tequila Sunrise, mixing well and enhancing the flavors of cocktails.
Patron SilverPatron Silver is a smooth and delicious tequila that is considered a high-quality choice. While a bit pricier, it remains my personal favorite for cocktails like the Tequila Sunrise.


Nutrients (per 1 serving)Amount
Vitamin C20% DV
Alcohol1.5oz (12% ABV)


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