Beyond Margaritas — Six Tequila Cocktails To Sip at Austin Bars
It’s Time to Level Up the Fiesta
By Taylor Tobin
Tequila (and agave spirits in general) holds an essential place in Austin cocktail culture on Cinco de Mayo and beyond. Popular tequila drinks like margaritas and palomas appear on almost every beverage list in town.
But many Austin bartenders understand that tequila’s nuanced flavor profile can shine in unconventional drinks. These pioneering mixologists are committed to finding new and extremely tasty ways to show off everything tequila offers.
These six cocktails represent some of the most innovative uses of tequila in the Austin beverage scene — just in time for Cinco de Mayo.
La Sancha at La Holly
You may think at first that La Sancha, found at East Austin agave spirit destination La Holly, is a straightforward spin on the frozen margarita.
But the key to this drink’s success lies in its flawless incorporation of an atypical margarita ingredient: hibiscus syrup. Not only does it give La Sancha a photo-friendly magenta hue, it adds a gently floral and tart taste to balance the mezcal’s smokiness.
Lime juice brings a fresh and invigorating note to the drink. With a rim of lime, salt, sugar and chili powder, La Sancha’s taste dimensions sing.
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The Italian Side of Austin at Laurel
The herbaceous Italian aperitivo Aperol is generally associated with the fizzy Aperol Spritz, which appears on brunch menus and at happy hours around the world.
But at Laurel, the Italian-accented restaurant inside Hotel Viata in West Lake Hills, the bar team gives Aperol a Texan interpretation. It’s included in a clever cocktail aptly called “The Italian Side of Austin.”
The cocktail drinks like a margarita that returned from an exchange program in Florence. Blanco tequila is the base, but orange liqueur is swapped for Aperol. Orgeat, an almond syrup found in tiki drinks, steps in for simple syrup.
The result is a refreshing and inventive spin on a classic that speaks to the versatility of tequila.
Cucumber Lime Agua Fresca at Lulu’s
Lulu’s is a new tequila bar located in South Austin that boasts impeccable design, killer vibes and a lovely outdoor patio (complete with a top-notch taco truck). The bar has already made a name for itself in the Austin cocktail scene due to its focus on artisanal agave spirits and its top-notch margaritas.
Another major draw at Lulu’s is its agua fresca program. The bar makes its own versions with watermelon, cucumber lime, pineapple and cantaloupe. Guests have the option to add their spirit of choice to the highly-refreshing drink.
The cucumber lime agua fresca gets particular praise for its deeply refreshing flavor. An added dose of blanco tequila turns it into the ideal cocktail for a warm Austin evening.
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Paris in Time at Whisler’s
When it comes to craft cocktails in Austin, many beverage aficionados would argue that no one does them better than Whisler’s.
The bar team at this East Austin icon is always prepared to innovate with tried-and-true ingredients. Its spring 2023 menu includes a tequila cocktail with an international twist.
The Paris In Time marries tequila with chartreuse (an aromatic and herbal French liqueur), za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice blend with sumac, toasted sesame seeds and oregano), honey and lime.
These ingredients combine to make an engaging cocktail that offers new dimensions with every sip.
Melee at Cider Hall at DrinkWell
Speaking of unexpected combinations, how about hard cider and tequila?
The savvy cocktail maestros at North Loop favorite DrinkWell have enough imagination to conceive of such a union. The finished cocktail, Melee at Cider Hall, doesn’t disappoint.
This drink centers around reposado tequila, an aged version of the spirit with a deeper color and flavor. The dry cider’s acidity, along with the lemon’s tang and grapefruit juice, plays off the tequila’s richness.
A carrot and blood orange aperitivo lends an anchoring touch of sweetness.
Blue Rose of Texas at Wax Myrtle’s
Blue curaçao often gets a bad rap in cocktails. Some drinkers assume its sweet flavor and bright blue hue mean that it’s not an ingredient to be taken seriously.
But when a bar crew knows how to make the most of this uniquely fruit-forward and slightly bitter liqueur, the result is pure magic.
Find the perfectly-implemented blue curaçao in Blue Rose of Texas. It’s a large-format cocktail served at Wax Myrtle’s, the Thompson Austin’s lively and picturesque bar and poolside lounge.
This drink features both tequila and mezcal. Lime and passion fruit amplify the orange-y notes of the blue curaçao and highlight the flavor of the agave spirits.
It would be hard to think of a better tequila cocktail for a summertime party than this one.
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