Learn the in's & out's of tequila while making a champagne and tequila cranberry cocktail.
This sparkling cranberry sauce cocktail with champagne and tequila is the perfect winter drink. Whether you need an easy, elegant cocktail to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, or even Valentine's Day, this drink will get the job done! Also in this post, learn more about selecting the best bottle of tequila for mixed drinks.
What I absolutely LOVE about winter cocktails, are the beautiful colors and the decadence that comes along with them. Of course, during the holidays, we like to treat ourselves a little. And boy does this sparkling cranberry champagne and tequila cocktail do just that!
This sparkling champagne and tequila drink would be perfect for a holiday cocktail party or paired alongside your Thanksgiving dinner table. The cocktail uses cranberry sauce (preferably homemade cranberry sauce), which adds sweetness and depth to the drink, along with some freshly squeezed orange juice.
One of the stars of the show in this cocktail is the tequila. Now I know, not everyone is a fan of tequila. But, I want to take you through a journey of discovering a bottle of tequila that you like and that fits with your flavor palate. Tequila is a very versatile spirit if you know how and when to use it.
This post goes along with our cocktail video series where I teach you the basics of liquor. The goal of this series is to get you more familiar with the basic in’s and out’s of common liquor (how it’s made, how to buy a bottle you’ll like, and how to make mixed drinks with it). By the end of the series, you’ll be a pro at mixing up fun and inspiring drinks in your home bar. Be sure to follow along on YouTube!
How is Tequila Made?
The in's and out's of creating any spirit are obviously very complex. Let me give you the 30 second run-down so you have some base knowledge on the topic and you can sound fancy next time you're sipping margs with your friends and they ask you a question about tequila.
True authentic tequila can only be made in Mexico. More specifically, only in these five regions: Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas.
The blue agave plant takes 7 years to mature, and after that, it is harvested entirely by hand (it's HARD work) by skilled harvesters called 'jimadors.' From there, only the center part of the fruit, the piña, is used.
The piña is baked for many hours to convert the starch to sugar. The fruit is then shredded and pressed to release the agave nectar. The sugar is added to fermentation tanks, along with yeast. Once it's been fermented for a few days (24 - 72 hours), the mash is transferred to copper stills where the alcohol is boiled off and condensed a minimum of two times (this is the distillation process).
Then, the alcohol is transferred to yet another tank where water is added to the mixture to dilute the alcohol content down to the correct level. It's then ready to drink and gets bottled up and shipped out!
If you want to learn more, check out this video from Discovery UK.
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What to Look for in a Good Bottle of Tequila
The most important thing to look for when purchasing a bottle of tequila is that '100% blue agave' appears somewhere on the label. The reason this is so important is that all alcohol is made from sugar. We want to ensure that our tequila is created solely from the sugar of the blue agave and nothing else!
There's not necessarily anything 'wrong' per se with buying a bottle of tequila made with sugar additives other than agave - that's called mixto tequila. However, if you're shelling out the money for a quality bottle of tequila, you should get what you pay for.
In an ideal world, the bottle would also say where it was made. Legally, tequila is only allowed to be produced in five regions of Mexico: Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas.
Types of Tequila
There are 5 types of tequila, all with different flavor profiles and requirements for distillation. After you learn about the things to look for in every bottle of tequila, it really comes down to personal taste, flavor profile preference, and what drink you're making to determine what type of tequila to purchase. Here's a brief overview of each type of tequila:
Blanco Tequila (sometimes called silver or platinum): Blanco tequila is typically unaged. By law, it is only allowed to rest for up to 60 days. So, in a sense, blanco tequila offers the purest taste of tequila agave. It should be completely clear in color.
Gold Tequila (sometimes called mixto): Mixto, or gold, tequila is a blend of no less than 51% blue agave with a mixture of sugar coloring and additives from other sources. You can probably guess that the gold color comes from additives. As for the 51% of blue agave, it can be made from a blend of unaged and aged tequila (but more commonly unaged tequila).
Reposado Tequila: Reposado tequila, typically a pale golden color, is required to age in oak barrels for no less than 2 months, but no longer than 1 year. Usually, reposado tequila has a somewhat mellow woody taste.
Añejo Tequila: Añejo tequila is a little more strict when it comes to requirements. It must be aged for at least 1 year in an oak barrel no larger than 600L. It takes a lot more time to make an añejo bottle of tequila.
Añejo tequila has somewhat of a similar taste to whiskey because of the oak barrels they're both aged in. Typically, añejo has a deep amber color and a smooth yet smokey taste. This type of tequila is usually best for sipping.
Extra Añejo Tequila: Extra añejo must be aged at least 3 years in an oak barrel no larger than 600L. This type of tequila has more of a smoky flavor and is best for sipping. With all the time it tastes to produce extra añejo tequila, the price will typically be higher.
Best Type of Tequila for Mixed Drinks
Typically, your best bet for mixed drinks (including this champagne and tequila cocktail) is going to be a blanco or reposado tequila. Although there technically are no rules when you're bartending at home, let me explain why these are the best options.
First off, the price tag of the añejo and extra añejo tequilas are going to be higher because they take more time to make. If you're making a pitcher of margaritas for you and your friends for a casual Saturday hangout, chances are you're not going to want to spend the money to use an añejo tequila in such a basic drink.
In addition, the true flavor of the añejo and extra añejo tequilas will be lost when you add in mixers and other flavors.
When making mixed drinks, it's best to use a blanco or reposado tequila so the bold tequila flavor can complement and mix nicely with additional components of the drink.
Blanco tequila tends to fair on the more fresh side of things, so it tends to work for light, fruity drinks. Reposado, on the other hand, has a more woody flavor, so it works well for similar drinks that you would use whiskey for.
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Sparkling Cranberry Champagne and Tequila Cocktail
For the Cranberry Sauce
- ½ cup fresh cranberries
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 medium orange zested and juiced
- 2 tablespoons water
For the Cocktail
- 2 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice (usually 2-3 medium-sized oranges)
- 2 ounces blanco tequila
- champagne chilled, for topping
- fresh cranberries for serving
For the Cranberry Sauce
- In a medium saucepan, add ½ cup cranberries, ¼ cup sugar, zest and juice from one orange, and 2 tablespoons of water. Cook over medium heat, stirring often and reducing heat as needed to avoid scorching until cranberries begin to burst and a dark red syrupy juice forms (about 5 minutes). Transfer to a small bowl, and allow mixture to cool for 15 minutes.
For the Cocktail
- To four champagne flutes add 1 ½ tablespoons of the cooled cranberry sauce into each glass. Top each glass with ½ ounce of orange juice and ½ ounce blanco tequila. Top off each glass until full with chilled champagne. Carefully mix each glass with a bartender mixing spoon.
- Garnish with a few fresh cranberries in each glass and serve immediately.
Additional Resources on Tequila
If you want to do more of a deep-dive into the world of tequila, here are some of my favorite resources. It's such an interesting spirit to learn about!
- A video guide to the different types of tequila from Beer, Wine and Spirits YouTube
- A complete tequila glossary on all the popular tequila lingo from European Bartender School
- If you're interested in the production and distillation process of tequila, check out this video from Sipping Life
- Another cool How It's Made video from Discovery UK
LET’S SHARE RECIPES
I love trying new recipes! Let’s discover new recipes together on Pinterest!
P.S. If you made this champagne and tequila cocktail, share a picture with me on Instagram using #HomebodyEats. I love seeing your creations!!