Cranberry Tequila Sunrise

published Dec 8, 2023
Cranberry Tequila Sunrise Recipe

Make this holiday-ish version of the classic cocktail with homemade cranberry grenadine.

Serves7

Prep10 minutes

Cook15 minutes to 20 minutes

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Head on shot of two cranberry tequila sunrises in collins glasses, and garnished with an orange wheel, cinnamon stick and maraschino cherries.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Rachel Perlmutter

This holiday season, I wanted to create a festive version of the Tequila Sunrise, a classic cocktail made with orange juice, tequila, and grenadine, by incorporating tart cranberries and a dash of cinnamon. Here, I opt for making a homemade grenadine with cranberry juice. This recipe makes a good amount of cranberry grenadine, which you can use anywhere you would use a traditional grenadine, or simply mix it with soda water for a refreshing, non-alcoholic drink.

The History Behind the Tequila Sunrise

The earliest iteration of the Tequila Sunrise was a Prohibition-era cocktail invented at Agua Caliente resort in Tijuana. Nowadays, the orange juice, tequila, and grenadine version is associated with the Trident Bar in Sausalito, outside of San Francisco. It became popular during the 1972 Rolling Stones’ America tour. After that, the drink was everywhere: on the back of tequila bottles, as the name of the song on the Eagles’ Desperado album, and as a name for a popular movie starring the biggest stars of the time, Michelle Pfeiffer and Mel Gibson.

Ingredients in Cranberry Tequila Sunrise

  • Cranberry juice: Traditionally, grenadine, a pomegranate-based syrup, gives this cocktail its signature “sunrise” effect and tart flavor. It’s essential to use 100% cranberry juice (and not cranberry juice cocktail) for a deep burgundy color and intense tartness to balance the sweetness from the sugar and orange juice.
  • Orange blossom water: You might have to hit Middle Eastern stores or use your trusty Amazon Prime account to find orange blossom water, but believe me — it’s worth the trouble. This essential ingredient in grenadine can be used as an extract in various cookies and cakes or mixed into Greek yogurt with a touch of honey and topped with berries and granola for an elegant breakfast or brunch. 
  • Tequila: The classic drink uses blanco tequila, which is not aged. I prefer reposado, which is aged in oak barrels for up to a year, or an añejo, aged from one to two years. Using aged tequila adds robust and earthy notes that complement the warm cinnamon.

Cranberry Tequila Sunrise Recipe

Make this holiday-ish version of the classic cocktail with homemade cranberry grenadine.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes to 20 minutes

Serves 7

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the cranberry grenadine:

  • 2 cups

    100% cranberry juice (no sugar added), such as R. W. Knudsen

  • 2 cups

    granulated sugar

  • 1

    (about 3-inch) cinnamon stick

  • 1 teaspoon

    orange blossom water

For the tequila sunrises:

  • 2 to 3

    medium limes

  • 3 cups

    fresh orange juice

  • 1 1/2 cups

    reposado or blanco tequila, preferably Cimarrón or Casamigos

  • 1/2 cup

    cranberry grenadine

  • 7

    fresh orange slices, for garnish

  • 7

    (about 3-inch) cinnamon sticks, for garnish

Instructions

Make the cranberry grenadine:

  1. Place 2 cups cranberry juice, 2 cups granulated sugar, and 1 (about 3-inch) cinnamon stick in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often until sugar dissolves.

  2. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer until slightly reduced, about 10 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let cool completely.

  3. Add 1 teaspoon orange blossom water and stir to combine. Transfer to an airtight container or jar (include the cinnamon stick). Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 months.

Make the tequila sunrises:

  1. Juice 2 to 3 medium limes until you have 1/4 cup. Place in a small 5-cup or larger pitcher. Add 3 cups orange juice and 1 1/2 cups reposado or blanco tequila. Stir to combine.

  2. To serve, fill a highball glass with ice. Pour in 2/3 cup of the tequila mixture. Add 2/3 ounce of the cranberry grenadine by pouring it down a spoon and letting it rise from the bottom of the glass. Do not stir. Garnish each with an orange slice and cinnamon stick, and serve with a straw.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The tequila can be mixed with the orange and lime juices up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container. Stir before serving.