From barbecue beers in the garden to Zoom drinks on Friday nights, we Brits haven’t let lockdown stop us from drinking. As pubs and bars remain closed, alcohol sales have skyrocketed, but one drink has proven surprisingly popular: tequila. According to Waitrose, tequila sales increased by more than 175% between March 24 and the end of April. Also in the US, market researcher Nielsen found that tequila sales increased by 55% during those two months.
So why have we all been reaching for the salt and lemon? Actually, we probably haven’t. The ritual of raw (not particularly traditional) tequila has gradually fallen out of favour, and the spirit is gaining popularity as a cocktail ingredient. In the US, the increase in sales can be attributed to the Cinco de Mayo celebrations, commemorating the Mexican army’s victory over France in 1862, which took place earlier this month. But the surge in demand could also be because tequila production, which can only be done in Mexico, has been allowed to continue during the coronavirus crisis. The spirit is considered an agricultural product, while breweries, for example, have been forced to close.
“Tequila is associated with vacations and being at the beach, and while people are in lockdown they want to replicate that feeling a bit,” says Eduardo Gomez, owner of Mex Grocer and founder of London’s Tequila & Mezcal festival. With this in mind, we asked bartenders and tequila experts to share their favorite homemade recipes.
Erik Lorincz, owner of Kwānt, London
Blend 50 ml of tequila, 30 ml of lime juice and 15 ml of agave nectar with fresh cilantro (to taste). Pour the mixture into a cocktail shaker or flask filled with ice and shake well. Double strain (using a tea strainer, to make sure there are no coriander bits in the drink) and top with pink grapefruit soda (I use Three Cents or Two Keys soda). Leave out the cilantro to make another popular tequila cocktail: the Paloma.
Eduardo Gómez, owner of Mex Grocer and founder of Tequila & Mezcal Fest
Tommy’s daisy. Photo: ZUMA Press Inc/Alamy
Tommy’s margarita replaces the triple sec in a classic margarita with agave syrup, making it a little less harsh. It’s the only cocktail I drink! Put 50ml of 100% blanco tequila, 25ml of freshly squeezed lime juice and 15ml of agave syrup in a cocktail shaker -or any container with a lid- and shake vigorously. Serve straight into a martini glass or over ice in a tumbler—no salt rim needed. A tommy’s margarita goes great with foods that use corn and chiles: tacos, guacamole… You can also add a spoonful of fresh chile or jalapeño salsa and cilantro to this drink for a spicy house cocktail.
Victor Tutuianu, manager of the Lost Alpaca bar at Lima Floral, London
Take 30ml tequila (we recommend Patrón Añejo), 15ml bourbon (any decent one will do), 50ml fresh pineapple juice, 20ml sugar syrup (easy to make at home – just mix one part water and two parts sugar), 25 ml fresh water, lime juice, a vanilla bean (or a pinch of vanilla syrup/essence) and two drops of orange bitters. Pour over ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake well and strain over ice. Garnish with fresh pineapple for an extra touch of summer.
Joseph Cribley, manager of Bar Pina, Sheffield
There’s still a bit of a stigma around tequila: people think they don’t like it. An espresso martini is a good introduction because tequila is surrounded by familiar flavors. Typically an espresso martini contains vodka, but our version is a bit richer, with more caramel flavors.
Add 40ml of espresso (the fresher, the better) to 30ml of reposado tequila (reposado means it’s aged two to 12 months in barrels, so it has more sweetness and more vanilla or caramel flavors); We use Live. Mix with 20 ml of coffee liqueur (we used Kahlua, but Patrón Cafe is just as good), 15 ml of agave syrup, a pinch of kosher salt and a couple of ice cubes. You want to get some texture in the drink and this can be done with a Nutribullet or hand blender. Alternatively, fill a sports bottle halfway with ice and shake very well. Either way, the aeration makes it velvety smooth.
Mark Selby, Co-Founder of Wahaca, Nationally
Tequila is a magical drink. During lockdown, people are discovering that it may not be the drink they thought it was. In its younger years, it may have been associated with bad hangovers, but very good and refreshing drinks can be made from it.
One thing that makes a big difference is popping the glass in the freezer for 10 minutes (or in the fridge for an hour) beforehand. The ginger and tequila mix here makes for a truly uplifting drink. Prepare and stir (instead of shaking) 35ml white tequila, 125ml ginger beer, 20ml fresh lime juice and 5ml vanilla syrup (this can be done by boiling and cooling a mixture of water, syrup castor and vanilla extract). Garnish with a lime wedge and Angostura bitters.
white mexican spritz
Deano Moncrieffe, co-founder of Hacha, London
The acidity of the sauvignon blanc in this recipe helps balance the sweetness of the agave syrup. Start by mixing 25ml of agave syrup and sauvignon blanc in a small pitcher until smooth. Then add to a tall glass with 50 ml of blanco tequila and 25 ml of freshly squeezed lime and lemon juice (equal measures of each). Fill with soda water or bitter lemon and ice cubes, and stir. It’s almost a cross between a spritz and a margarita, very refreshing on a nice day.
a lot of lizard
Ben Reilly, bar manager at Luck Lust Liquor & Burn, Manchester
The perception of tequila is changing. This drink is super cool and unusual, and quite easy to make at home. You don’t need a cocktail shaker or strainer and it’s perfect for sunny weather. Take 50 ml of white tequila, a tablespoon of lemon sorbet, 25 ml of lemon juice, a pinch of mint and 10 ml of blood orange syrup (any fruity syrup will work). Shake and top with crushed ice and grapefruit soda.
Ryan Chetiyawardana aka Mr Lyan, owner of Lyaness and Cub, London
In a warmer climate, what is needed are spicy drinks. Sure, riffing on sours like a margarita is great, but shaking them out can be a pain. If you want something simpler to relax, highballs are ideal. Start by making a salty raspberry syrup: bring 100ml of water to a boil, turn off the heat, then add 100g of sugar and a handful of raspberries and a pinch of salt. Whisk to dissolve the sugar, let cool, and pass through a strainer. Keep it refrigerated; this will make many servings.
To make the batanga, add 30ml blanco tequila (100% agave), 30ml fino sherry, 10ml salted raspberry syrup, and bitters (if using) into a tall glass and stir to mix. Add cubed ice, stir, then add more ice until it reaches the top of the glass. Add chilled Coke and garnish with a large lime wedge.
James Aspell, owner of 400 Rabbits, Nottingham
The key to making a great tequila cocktail is using great tequila. Always choose 100% agave, and generally avoid anything with a hat on the lid.
The mangarita is a delicious and fruity cocktail perfect for summer. Mix 50 ml of white tequila with 30 ml of mango juice (you can make it at home by blending fresh mango with a splash of water), 25 ml of fresh lime juice and 10 ml of agave syrup. Shake with plenty of ice and strain. Serve directly in a martini glass or glass and garnish with a strip of mango peel.
old fashioned tequila
Callum Rixson, Operations Manager, Two Fingers, Bath
Old-fashioned tequila at Dos Dedos. Photography: Ferla Paolo Photography
Make a “pro-gave” syrup by mixing equal parts prosecco with agave syrup. Then take 60ml of reposado tequila (we used Espolon), 10ml of the pro-gave syrup, two drops of orange bitters and two drops of Angostura bitters, and build on ice. Stir for 30 seconds, then serve in a tall glass or tumbler.