Like its sister cocktail, the Margarita, the origin of the Tequila Sunrise is unknown. The research reveals two claims to its invention: the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix in the 1940s and the now-defunct Agua Caliente resort and racetrack near Tijuana in the 1930s. The recipes are similar, but neither mirrors the modern Tequila Sunrise, which features orange juice and appeared in the 1970s. It is possible that the modern Tequila Sunrise evolved from the original. The drink was considered a ‘morning after’ drink, and people may have simply become lazy, combining their daily glass of orange juice with the hangover remedy.
Here are the two versions of the original Tequila Sunrise, with a bit of background on each. Recipe cards can be found in the slideshow.
Agua Caliente hangover remedy
Built in 1927 by a wealthy San Diego businessman, the Agua Caliente resort (which included a racetrack, hotel, restaurants, casino, and more) attracted plenty of well-off Southern Californians, including Hollywood elite, longing to escape the puritanical hold of Prohibition. The drinks flowed at Agua Caliente, and the Tequila Sunrise was marketed and sold for 25 cents as a morning after hangover remedy, which would reinvigorate passed-out patrons with sweetness, bubbles, and a little ‘hair of the dog.’
Interestingly, the recipe calls for the drink to be stirred before serving, which suggests that the name came from the drink being a hangover remedy, and not because it looks like a sunrise.
The recipe below is a modern interpretation based upon the original recipe as printed in “Bottom’s Up,” a brochure published by the racetrack, with portions reprinted in Bartender Magazine, Spring 2006. (The original recipe uses outdated measures, like “dashes” of grenadine.)
Tequila Sunrise (Agua Caliente version)
- 1 1/2 oz tequila blanco (silver)
- 1/2 a lime
- 1/4 oz grenadine
- 1/8 oz crème de cassis
- Soda water
- Combine tequila, the juice of 1/2 a lime, grenadine, and crème de cassis into a highball glass filled with ice.
- Drop the spent lime shell into the glass.
- Fill with soda water (seltzer) and stir slightly before serving.
Arizona Biltmore Hotel’s poolside sipper
The story goes: a frequent guest to the Biltmore in the late 1930s and 1940s requested that the bartender, Gene Sulit, make him a refreshing drink to sip by the pool. He mixed the drink below, and it was dubbed the Tequila Sunrise because the colors mimic that of a sunrise.
Tequila Sunrise (Arizona Biltmore version)
- 1 1/4 oz premium tequila blanco (silver)
- 3/4 oz crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur)
- Juice of 1/4 lime
- Club soda
- Combine tequila, lime juice, and crème de cassis into a highball or Collins glass filled with ice.
- Top with club soda and garnish with a lime wheel or lime wedge.
For more info: Here’s the recipe for the modern Tequila Sunrise, or enjoy it margarita style. Explore more vintage cocktails, this month’s Drink of the Month on aerochug.com.
Get the Tequila Examiner widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox!