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The Tequila Sunrise - Improving on a century old cocktail!

Hi, Friends of Cocktails. In Old vs New I take a look at the earliest written recipes of some of the best known classic cocktails and see how they compare to what you can get nowadays at the best bars around the world. Today’s post will be a little different, as we’re looking at the Tequila Sunrise… which wasn’t my idea - it was Robi’s, our director, who wants to see my take on one of the earliest classic cocktails using tequila, which actually dates back to 1930!

Surprising, I know. This popular Disco era cocktail is quite old, being made at first with lime, creme de cassis, grenadine and soda water - no orange juice. This recipe was first printed in Bottoms Up! (Y Como!), a cocktail and drinks guide & menu published in the early 1930s by the Agua Caliente resort in Tijuana, Mexico. Alongside the Tequila Sunrise recipe, it’s also got a strong opinion on the only good use for water (giving your baby’s behind a wash), so it’s a good book to check out purely for the jokes!

This episode is also extra special as it’s in celebration of Robi’s and my birthday (November 19th) although don’t tell him that I said this, but he’s the oldest of the two. Because of this, he’ll start by making the 1930’s recipe - he also asked me to make something special for the modern Tequila Sunrise - which you can see him make by checking out the YouTube episode linked at the bottom. I’ll also take the liberty to provide modern units of measurement so that it’s easier to replicate.

Original 1930’s Tequila Sunrise

● 45mL (1.5oz) tequila

● 15mL (0.5oz) lime juice

● 7.5mL (0.25oz) grenadine

● 1 barspoon creme de cassis

● 1 lime peel

● Soda water

Begin by adding all the ingredients into a highball glass, then add 2 lumps of ice and fill to the brim with Aqua Caliente Roca Blanca water - but if that’s not available use regular soda water, which is what Robi went with. Stir slightly and that’s the Original Tequila Sunrise, which the book calls a “Fascinating Tequila Fantasy… The Drink you can Never Forget”. It may not look like it’s related to the more famous Tequila Sunrise, but it allows the tequila to come through without too much sweetness from the grenadine. All in all, a light and refreshing drink with a lot of potential.

You may know the Tequila Sunrise from the gradient from red to orange it has, and I have a fun way of adding grenadine and creme the cassis into a modern version of this drink, but to be thorough let’s make the 70s version now.

‘70s Tequila Sunrise

● 45mL (1.5oz) tequila

● 90mL (3oz) orange juice

● 15mL (0.5oz) grenadine

Add 3 parts tequila and 6 parts orange juice into a glass over ice and stir just enough to combine. Then pour grenadine in, which will sink to the bottom and create the sunrise effect. I'd also recommend using something that doesn’t just add color and sweetness, and Liber&Co’s Real Grenadine has a strong pomegranate flavor and gentle floral aroma from the orange blossom water. Finally garnish the cocktail with an orange slice, a cocktail cherry and an umbrella. Kitsch.

With that out of the way, we are ready to make the modern version using Orange Super Juice and Sunrise Boba Pearls that will combine the flavor of grenadine and creme de cassis, but will also give a layered effect as they’ll sit on the bottom of the drink.

Sunrise Boba Pearls

● 100 g pomegranate juice

● 0.3g rose water

● 20mL creme de cassis

● 3mL agave syrup

● Sodium citrate - 0.8% of total weight

● Sodium alginate - 0.5% of total weight

● 1L distilled water

● 10g Calcium chloride

Begin by using a potato ricer to juice your pomegranate and then pass it through a strainer to remove the pulp. Don’t worry if you don’t have 100g of juice, what is important is to keep the same proportions of rose water, creme de cassis and agave syrup, also as a pro tip, avoid using a white shirt while juicing pomegranate! So mix these ingredients together and you’ll get the flavor you want in our Sunrise Pearls. To actually turn them into pearls, we’ll use a technique called “Direct spherification” and to make sure that works we need our liquid to have a pH above 4.

Pomegranate juice can be quite acidic, so we’ll correct it by adding 0.8% of the total weight of our liquid mixture in sodium citrate. Make sure it’s fully dissolved and then add the key ingredient in this process: 0.5% the weight of our liquid mixture in sodium alginate. All there is to do now is to wait for the air bubbles to disperse, so let it sit for at least an hour and in the meantime prepare the calcium bath in a separate container by dissolving the calcium chloride in the liter of distilled water.

Once we drop our liquid mixture into the water bath with calcium chloride, the calcium will link the alginate at the surface of each drop, forming a thin gel that contains the flavorful liquid. This will result in beautiful, poppable pearls in theory, so testing with a smaller sample is key. Once you see it working, it’s time to start making magic. I used a rapid caviar maker for this, but a classic pipette works just as fine - just 96 times slower. After the pearls have been in the calcium bath for 30 seconds transfer them into a pure water bath, to rinse off any calcium. After that, strain and they’re ready to serve.

That felt like something from Drink Masters, and we might do an episode with a cocktail from that show in the future, but for now let’s make a Modern Tequila Sunrise.

Modern Tequila Sunrise

● 45mL (1.5oz) blanco tequila

● 30mL (1oz) Orange Super Juice

● 15mL (0.5oz) agave syrup

● 4 drops saline solution

● Sunrise Boba Pearls

● Soda water

We’ll shake the base of the cocktail first before pouring it into the glass with our pearls and topping with soda water. So into your shaker add a good quality blanco tequila (too much work went into this drink to scrimper here), followed by the Orange Super Juice, the syrup and saline solution. Give it a quick shake, since we’ll dilute it further with soda water, and meanwhile prepare a highball glass with a clear ice spear ready to go.

Now add the sunrise pearls around the ice and gently strain the cocktail over the pearls. Top up with soda water and add an orange peel cut as a circle to resemble a risen sun, for when the sunrise pearls are gone. After all this work, we can finally taste this cocktail, cheers! Fresh orange and tequila greet you on the aroma, but it’s the pearls that burst through with their rich flavor. Taking a sip without the pearls I get a refreshingly bubbly and tequila-forward cocktail with the perfect balance of citrus and rich fruity sweetness leftover from the pearls. This is a drink that will definitely make Robi happy on his birthday.

He also got me something for my birthday, a book from one of my biggest role models, so I suggest you check out the full episode to see what it is! Until next time, Friends of Cocktails.

Get ingredients from this episode:

● Calcium Chloride:

● Sodium Citrate:

● Caviar dispenser:

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