3 years ago

Create your cocktails inspired in mexican flavors

By Carlos Andrés Ramírez, Global Advocacy Manager of Altos Tequila


Are you working through the creative process of your next Mexican flavors-inspired cocktail? This flavor harmony guide will help you to go above and beyond when you make and pair your cocktails.

When we talk about pairing, we almost always think of wine and food. However, mixology, or the art of mixing drinks, opens up an infinite world of possibilities when it comes to harmonizing handcrafted cocktails with all types of foods, and Mexican flavors offer an especially exciting opportunity. The objective: to find that third flavor that will captivate our clients’ palates. 

Given that the majority of cocktail bars around the world offer very interesting proposals on their food menus, we consider it important to share our expertise in cocktail creation that pairs perfectly with the offerings on a menu.

Before we begin, let’s define some key pairing concepts in order to have a clear idea of how to harness the creative process when bringing our next Mexican flavors-inspired cocktail to life.

What is pairing

The word pairing references union and harmony. When it comes to food and beverages, it is the technique used to potentiate and harmonize the flavors of both elements, achieving a perfect balance – creating a third flavor on our palate. 

Why is it so important to harmonize flavors?

When we combine foods with beverages, each of them contributes special flavors and characteristics when combined in the mouth.

If for any reason we don’t achieve that third harmonious flavor that we are seeking, we can cause a very unpleasant taste on the palate. 

One example of a pairing mistake is when an astringent beverage like red wine with a high level of tannins, or a bitter spirit, is combined with seafood. This causes an immediate metallic taste in the mouth and ruins the experience!

In fact, foods like onion, garlic, artichoke or asparagus should be considered with much caution because they are difficult to pair – not only with wines, but with cocktails as well. 

This is why it is important to have some useful pairing tools.

Types of pairings

Congruent Pairing

This is the most common type of pairing and seeks to harmonize similar flavors. When in doubt, it’s best to go with similar flavors. For example, if you have an acidic cocktail, like a margarita, choose a dish with high citric content, such as a ceviche.

Sweet cocktails like an old fashioned work well with dishes containing dried fruits or dark chocolate. A dry martini or a negroni, known for their bitterness, are ideal with olives, capers, artichokes, arugula or eggplant. 

Contrast Pairing 

Less common than congruent pairing, but most interesting once you do it, is contrast pairing. Here what we are looking for are flavor contrasts that awaken the senses.

For example, foods curated in salt like prosciutto and anchovies, pair quite well with citric cocktails of the sour variety.

Sweet and dry cocktails work very well with aged cheeses like roquefort and stilton, and also, spicy foods like curries. 

If you want to pair a cocktail that contains bubbles, like french 75 or the famous chamquila (champagne + Altos tequila), chocolate-based plates or fruit pies would be in order.

Regional Pairing

This type of pairing happens naturally, meaning, it seeks to join local foods with beverages from the same region. It’s that simple! A classic example is Italian food based on salsa di pomodoro which always tastes good with sangiovese wine – both from the Chianti region.

Of course the best of all regional pairing is a margarita al pastor with some good tacos al pastor. Unbeatable! Find the recipes at the end of the article.

4 ways to maximize the flavors of your cocktails

1. A trained palate. The palate should be prepared to understand the flavors, or at least recognize with precision the five flavors to detect: acid, bitter, salty, sweet and umami. One tip to train your taste buds is to be aware of your sense of taste at the moment of trying your cocktails and pair them with the food menu. 

2. In-depth knowledge of your clients’ flavor preferences. In North America people like spicy flavors, while in Latin America we tend more towards sweet and acidic. In Europe people prefer bitter flavors above all, and in Asia umami is found in many food and beverages.  

So, it’s important to have awareness around your clients’ flavor preferences, depending on where you are, in order to offer drinks with perfect balance.

3. Taste, taste and taste! Work your palate trying all of the menus and cocktails. This will give you the knowledge you need to convey your desired concept to your clients. Be adventuresome with all types of flavor combinations until you find your masterpiece.

4. Have a flavor wheel handy. Did you know that each drink has its corresponding flavor wheel? It’s the most professional way to define and understand flavor combinations.

What is a flavor wheel?

The flavor wheel is an instrument that is used broadly in the food and beverage industry, offering common vocabulary to name flavor and aromatic notes, in order to communicate with a universal language when discussing flavors and aromas. 

Altos Plata y Altos Reposado flavor wheels

These are our flavor wheels—a wider, more specialized cast of tastes that invites you to experiment, and spin-out, behind the bar.

How to build pairings with Mexican flavors

Picante as the protagonist

Mexican gastronomy is dominated by picante—with more than 250 native chile species to choose from. You seem them everywhere, like in those delicious salsas that accompany our beloved tacos. 

And while it can seem challenging to harmonize picante flavors with cocktails, we have good news: tequila and chile come from the same place! So, we can consider this duo to be an excellent regional pairing, as nature planned!

Add some lime

In Mexico a good dose of fresh lime juice is added to almost every dish. This factor makes almost every Mexican dish work well with citric cocktails. 

Sweet + sour

Another characteristic of Mexican flavors is the mix of sweet with acidic flavors. Fruits like tamarind are a great example of this. This combination has huge potential in cocktails because it is not frequently used around the world. You will surely surprise your clients with the uncommon mix. This sweet and sour touch can also be found in flor de jamaica (hibiscus flower) and in chamoy sauce.

Tortilla flavor

Who can resist the smell of tortillas slowly warming on the comal? This delicate aroma is very Mexican. 

In order for tortillas to be elastic and edible, the corn must undergo a process called nixtamalization. Once the grains of corn are cooked, they are submerged in an alkaline solution made of water and quicklime (calcium oxide). They are then strained, rinsed and ground to produce the tortilla and tamal dough.

You may wonder how the flavor of tortillas can be replicated in a cocktail. We have good news! It’s possible thanks to Nixta, a corn liquor that is being widely talked about.

Nixta combines aromas of fresh and toasted corn, wood, dried fruits, spices and the subtle note of vanilla; mixing it with the fruity, slightly citric and sweet notes of a tequila like Altos unleashes your imagination as you create your own Mexican flavors-inspired cocktail.

Check out the photo and recipe for the golden margarita, made with Altos tequila and Nixta liquor:

Golden Margarita


1.5 oz / 50 ml Altos Plata

1 oz / 30 ml Nixta liquor

.75 oz / 20 ml pinneaple juice 

.5 oz / 15 ml lime juice

.25 oz / 5 ml agave nectar

Pinch of salt (optional)

Lime wheel or freeze dried corn or golden edible dust or dusted pinneaple triangle, for garnish


Add all ingredients to a shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously. Serve in to a tumbler glass over fresh ice.  Garnish with lime wheel or corn slice. 

If you want to know more about Nixta, you can follow them on Instagram: @nixtalicor 

Finally, we leave you with some cocktails made with Altos Tequila Plata and Reposado for some ideas when creating your own Mexican flavors-inspired cocktail: 

Spicy Drinks

Pinche Cha Paloma

This paloma was created for the day after a night of partying, like in Mexico when we usually go for a beer with clamato and some sea food, both with spicy salsas. Of course it’s also inspired in part by the bloody mary, but the Mexican version—with Tajín, salsa and tequila. I love to serve this paloma at brunches and summer events. Try different garnishes depending on your theme or event, and experiment with different chiles.

Carlos Andrés Ramírez, Global Advocacy Manager Altos Tequila


  • 60 ml / 2 parts Altos Reposado
  • 10 ml / 1/3 part fresh lime juice
  • 30 ml /1 part fresh grapefruit juice 
  • 30 ml /1 part tomato juice
  • 3 dashes of hot sauce
  • 1 dash of celery bitters
  •   salt and ground chile mix, for rim


Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice and toss.  Pour into tumbler rimmed with salt and ground chile mix. Garnish with celery stalk, slice of grapefruit and pickled chiles.

Spicy Watermelon

Very fruity and fresh, the tequila and watermelon are pushed forward by the lime and the slight spiciness of the Ancho Reyes.


  • 40 ml / 1 1/3 parts Altos Plata
  • 20 ml / 2/3 part Ancho Reyes Verde
  • 15 ml / 1/2 part basil syrup
  • 45 ml / 1 1/2 parts fresh watermelon juice 
  • 20 ml / 2/3 part fresh lime juice 


Add all ingredients to a shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously. Double strain to a tumbler filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a small watermelon triangle and a basil leaf. 

Habanero Mango Margarita

Spicy habanero chiles are cooled by fresh mango notes, followed by the savory notes of the cilantro. These are flavors that we know go well together (think of any salsa). The finished product should be smooth and frosty. If you like the look of this drink but don’t like spicy flavors, skip the habaneros for a sweet tropical treat.


  • 30 ml / 2 parts Altos Plata 
  • 25 ml / 2/3 fresh lime juice 
  • 15 ml / 1/2 agave syrup
  • 1/4 cup ripe mango 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 2 thin slices of habanero pepper


Blend all ingredients together with ice until smooth, like a slushie. Garnish with mango slice and chile coins.

Sweet Sour Drinks

Hibiscus Margarita


  • 50 ml / 2 parts Altos Plata  
  • 25 ml /1 part fresh lime juice 
  • 20 ml / 2 tablespoons hibiscus syrup


Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice. Shake. Double strain into a chilled coupette glass and garnish with a caramelized chile.


Celebrating Mexico’s obsession with fresh fruit spiked with salt and chile, the Palomada is a lush, tropical concoction that’s perfect for a sunny day. Not as pink as you would expect a Paloma to be, it definitely still has that recognizable grapefruit profile. Fruity, aromatic, spicy and very authentic.


  • 60 ml / 2 parts Altos Plata
  • 20 ml / 2/3 part fresh grapefruit juice 
  • 40 ml / 1 1/2 smashed mango
  • 20 ml / 2/3 part lime juice
  • 10 ml / 1/3 part agave syrup
  • Chamoy & Tajin, for rim


Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice. Shake. Serve into a rocks glass rimmed with chamoy and Tajin. Garnish with a mango peel.

Sour Drinks

Al Pastor Margarita

Popular since the launch of the internationally-acclaimed Licorería Limantour in Mexico City, this unique cocktail is inspired by tacos al pastor, a dish developed in the early 20th century in central Mexico by Lebanese immigrants using techniques from their homeland and the ingredients that they found locally. The tacos are made with pork that is marinated in a chile and spice mix and then spit-grilled. The cocktail blends a savory taco mix with tequila, pineapple, coriander and chile.


  • 50 ml / 1 2/3 parts Altos Plata 
  • 20 ml / 2/3 part triple sec
  • 25 ml / 5/6 part lime juice
  • 30 ml / 1 part pineapple juice 
  • 10 ml / 1/3 agave syrup 
  • 2 spearmint leaves
  • 1 basil leaf
  • 1/4 cup cilantro (leaves & stalks)
  • 1 teaspoon cilantro and serrano chile salt, for rim


Shake vigorously in a shaker for 1 minute, strain into rocks glass with ice. Previously rimmed with cilantro and serrano salt. Garnish with pineapple triangle. 

Agave Paloma

In Mexico, we love to drink tequila or mezcal with a chaser of our favorite brew. All these flavors are part of this single drink that would pay homage to those times when you get together with friends for lunch but start with a round of refreshing, very Mexican drinks. The Agave Paloma is slightly smoky because of the Vida Mezcal Del Maguey has touches of bitterness from the beer and grapefruit and is decidedly refreshing. The perfect aperitif!


  • 40 ml / 1 1/2 parts Altos Plata infused with serrano chile
  • 15 ml / 1/2 part Vida Mezcal Del Maguey 
  • 45 ml / 1 1/2 parts fresh grapefruit juice 
  • 20 ml / 2/3 part lime juice 
  • 15 ml/ 1/2 part agave syrup 
  • 2 dashes of Angostura bitters 
  • Light beer, to top


Build ingredients in an ice-filled shaker and shake. Serve with crushed ice in a julep cup or clay “jarrito.” 

Sweet Drinks

Spiced Old Fashioned 

The old fashioned is one of my favorite drinks. I have tried different ways of making it, and using Altos is the one I enjoy most. To spice it up and enhance its Mexican flavors, I replace the traditional bitters with smoked chile or mole bitters, as they contrast beautifully with the cooked agave flavor in Altos tequila. The grapefruit twist will give a lovely citrus aroma that I find very desirable in an old fashioned. A classic American cocktail, with a modern Mexican twist. Enjoy!

Carlos Andrés Ramírez, Global Advocacy Manager Altos Tequila


  • 60 ml / 2 parts Altos Reposado
  • 5 ml / 1/6 part agave syrup
  • 2 dashes of chipotle bitters or any smoked chile or a mix of half smoked chile and half chocolate mole bitters 


In an old fashioned glass, stir the agave syrup and the bitters. Add Altos Reposado and fill with ice. Stir. Squeeze a grapefruit twist on top. 

You can also prepare it using a stirring glass. Dissolve the bitters with the agave syrup and half the measure of tequila. Add ice, stir. Then add the remaining ounce of tequila and stir again. Serve in an old fashioned glass and squeeze a grapefruit twist on top.

Jasmine Tea Margarita


  • 50 ml / 2 parts Altos Plata
  • 25 ml / 1 part lime juice
  • 20 ml / 2 teaspoons agave syrup 
  • 75 ml/ 2 ½ parts chilled jasmine tea 


Build all ingredients in mason jar glass over ice and stir. Garnish with a lime twist and jasmine flower.