7 Must-Try Tequila Cocktails (That Aren’t Margaritas) in NYC

By Emily Rothschild  |  April 29, 2014
Credit: Clay Williams

Winter coats are being banished to the backs of closets, long-forgotten flip-flops are making their triumphant return and those smelly white flowers are beautifying even the most nondescript city blocks: the time for tequila drinking is upon us. While there’s nothing wrong with settling for the same old margarita this Cinco de Mayo season, why not make like George Clooney and try something different? From updated takes on classic cocktails to more original tipples featuring unusual ingredients like shrubs, here’s our list of the most delicious and interesting non-margarita tequila drinks around.

  • Credit: Clay Williams

    Charlie Bird: Two One Two

    The drink: A boozier take on a classic Aperol spritz, this simple cocktail starts with the Italian apéritif but swaps out Prosecco and soda for tequila and grapefruit juice. Despite its deceiving bright-pink color, this grown-up cocktail ain’t sweet. It’s refreshing and citrusy, but the bitter bite of the Aperol cuts through the sweetness of the grapefruit for a light drink that somewhat softens the tequila flavor, but doesn’t disguise it.

    Pair it with: The buttery grilled-ramp toast, which is one of the most decadent, crave-worthy bites you’ll find, and which says spring even more than tequila cocktails.

  • The Dutch: The Green Flash

    The drink: Made with green peppercorn-infused tequila (hence the name), plus Chartreuse and pineapple juice, this flavorful cocktail awakens different parts of the tongue. The sweetness of the pineapple hits first, followed by the spiciness of the tequila, making for one full, well-balanced drink that goes down easy - and makes you long for the beach.

    Pair it with: The famous double-cheddar brunch burger, and not just because it comes with a mountain of salty french fries, which activate yet another taste bud.

  • Mayahuel: Afternoon Delight

    The drink: Strawberry- and jalapeño-infused blanco tequila, mango syrup, lime, salt and Modelo Especial come together in this light, spritzy drink served in a tall beer glass. Reminiscent of a beer shandy, but fruitier and sweeter, this summery cocktail is dangerously smooth. We’re already trying to recreate it at home.

    Pair it with: The equally snarfable Palomitas: freshly popped popcorn covered with a heavy dusting of cotija cheese plus lime and ancho chile. The savoriness of the cheese and spicy kick of the pepper pair perfectly with the sweetness of the cerveza cocktail.

  • Credit: Clay Williams

    Salvation Taco: Sonora Old Fashioned

    The drink: Don Draper’s cocktail of choice gets the tequila treatment with this serious drink featuring El Tesoro reposado tequila, Bacanora (an agave-based liquor), Jamaican pepper and grapefruit bitters - no whiskey in sight. With a tongue-coating, syrupy flavor, it has all the essence of a classic old fashioned, but with a different, slightly lighter edge. Though make no mistake; this one’s made for slow sipping.

    Pair it with: Chips and salsa. Sure, that might sound boring, but one of the biggest mistakes you can make here is skipping over the duo of spicy, tangy salsas, which aren’t just intensely flavorful, but also a nice match for the heaviness of the cocktail. You won’t want to miss the cauliflower tacos either, not necessarily because they’ll go so well with the drink, but just because they’re awesome.

  • Credit: Lizzie Star

    Saxon + Parole: Bloody Maria

    The drink: A springier version of your typical Bloody Mary, this hair-of-the-dog favorite is made with vegetable juice instead of tomato juice for a lighter, fresher flavor that doesn’t mask the taste of booze. The addition of cilantro is another reason it tastes like a garden, while a mezcal float on top gives it a complex, smoky finish. And as a bonus, since tequila is an upper (not a downer like vodka), this brunch cocktail won’t put you to sleep mere minutes after paying the bill - especially since you won’t want to stop at one.

    Pair it with: Poached eggs with ham, yuzu hollandaise and potato Parmesan cakes. Because it’s brunch, man.

  • Credit: Tanya Blum

    Bodega Negra: Blood & Fire

    The drink: A close relative of the margarita, this simple cocktail is made with Patron Silver tequila, lime juice and spiced hibiscus syrup, which gives it its pretty pink hue and a citrusy-sweetish tang that’s one of the more unusual, yet delicious, flavors we’ve found in a drink. 

    Pair it with: Soft-shell crab taco, because such an original drink requires an equally unusual counterpart.

  • Amor y Amargo: Mittens

    The drink: Made with pour-over Counter Culture coffee, blanco tequila, Aperol, Cocchi Americano (an Italian apéritif wine) and grapefruit bitters, this memorable cocktail was crisp and refreshing, with a light citrusy taste that enhanced the flavor of the coffee. It’s our new favorite caffeine drink.

    Pair it with: Another one.