Recently I had a discussion with a friend about what his ideal cocktail would be, his favorite spirits were bourbon and tequila, and I assured him that I could make a cocktail from those ingredients. Low and behold the next day when I decided to come up with something to suggest to him I discovered, these really are not easy to work with each other, some even say that tequila and whiskey are unworkable. Challenge accepted!
To start, my logic for this is that I would need a mixing ingredient that would work well with both of the spirits and not favor one over the other. For this I choose grapefruit as I love the way it pairs with bourbon, and it is just a natural companion to tequila. From there I figured that we would have sweet and sour covered, but it would be good to add a bit of bitterness. See below for the first attempt(I made these small test cocktails, measuring with metric jiggers to get an idea of proportions):
Trial 1: 20ml fresh grapefruit juice, 30 ml tequila, 30 ml rye, 15ml bourbon, 3 dashes Fee Brothers whiskey barrel bitters
This was missing something, it needed more flavor from the bitters and a stronger bitterness overall. Also the rye threw off the balance between the spirits so from this point on only bourbon an tequila were used. Thinking that herbal would be a good mix my first thoughts were Green Chartreuse or Fernet Branca, here is how those went
Trial 2: 20 ml grapefruit, 30 ml tequila, 30 ml bourbon, 3 dash whiskey barrel bitters, 15 ml green chartreuse
Trial 3: 20 ml grapefruit, 30 ml tequila, 30 ml bourbon, 3 dash whiskey barrel bitters, 15 ml Fernet
The result of each was TOO MUCH. The respective bitter just took over the cocktail and hid the other flavors, even with a mild bourbon (Old Grandad was used for all), every other ingredient got hidden by the bitter. I decided to tone it down for the next couple attempts:
Trial 4: 20 ml grapefruit, 30 ml tequila, 30 ml bourbon, 3 dash whiskey barrel bitters, splash green chartreuse
Trial 5: 20 ml grapefruit, 30 ml tequila, 30 ml bourbon, 3 dash whiskey barrel bitters, splash Fernet
Even toning it down to a “splash” (probably in the 3-5 ml range) these still did not work, the flavors were just too much, particularly with the delicate grapefruit juice. From here I decided to take a break, further trials in one night were not going to yield ideal results.
On day 2 I decided to try a new angle with the bitters and give up on the herbal, and try a more complimenting flavor, in this case Aperol.
Trial 6: 20ml grapefruit, 30 ml tequila, 30 ml bourbon, 3 dash whiskey barrel bitters, 15ml Aperol
Finally, this is good. All of the flavors are present and in good proportions. No herbal component as I had originally looked for but this overall is a great cocktail. Only one more thing to try:
Trial 7 : Trial 6 + 1 dash of Peychaud’s bitters
Nope, the herbal isn’t going to happen here. Even just a single dash of the Peychauds bitters completely eliminates the tequila from this drink. So trial 6 it is, and proof that yes, tequila and whiskey ARE workable, it just isn’t an easy process to make them work. Overall though this is a very good cocktail, simple and refreshing but every ingredient it noticeable and adds to the drink, very balanced.
1 1/2 oz Bourbon
1 1/2 oz Tequila
3/4 oz Aperol
1 oz Fresh Grapefruit Juice
2-3 Dash Whiskey Barrel Bitters
Shake all ingredients over ice an serve up in a coupe glass. No need for a garnish here, you just made a cocktail that highlights both Bourbon and Tequila, that is garnish enough!