Tequila Mockingbird: Making Sense of the Oft-Debated, Occasionally Hated Cocktail
When you order a margarita at the bar, you have a general idea of what to expect — tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice… maybe a salt rim. Other cocktails, best known by name alone, aren’t quite as lucky.
The Tequila Mockingbird, punnily named after Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird, has been making the rounds for decades. It’s been reinterpreted over the years into a handful of different recipes that have, understandably, provoked mixed reactions.
Today, we’re going to look at two interpretations that take the name in wildly different directions; one a glorious summer sipper and the other jolly-green retro throwback.
The original rendition is thought to have been created sometime in the 1960s, around when Lee’s novel was published. The concoction, which we’ll refer to as the “Mint Tequila Mockingbird,” bears a striking resemblance to a shot of mouthwash.
Its signature ingredient is Creme de Menthe, a sweet mint-flavored liqueur best known in cocktails like the Grasshopper and Stinger. With its neon-green tint and in-your-face flavor, Creme de Menthe is often filed alongside classic disco drinks like the Midori Sour, Blue Hawaiian and Harvey Wallbanger.
All of this is to say, it’s not something you’ll see at many modern cocktail bars. Sipping a Mint Tequila Mockingbird is like a trip to a bygone era; strong swashes of synthetic mint and lime juice coat the mouth, flavors which, at the time of the cocktail’s invention, were probably intended to cover up the bite of low-grade tequila.
If you know that you’re a fan of Creme de Menthe — or have the patience to DIY — here’s how to mix up the OG rendition:
Mint Tequila Mockingbird
- 2 oz Reposado Tequila
- 1/2 oz Creme de Menthe
- 1/2 oz Lime Juice
- 1/3 oz Simple Syrup
- Mint leaf, for garnish
- Pour all ingredients into a shaker with ice, shaking for 7-10 seconds.
- Strain into a previously chilled glass.
- Garnish with mint leaf and serve.
Today, the Tequila Mockingbird looks a little different.
Credited variously to bartenders Greg Seider and Jerry Pascua Miranda, the reinvented Watermelon Tequila Mockingbird has all the makings of a modern favorite, capitalizing on the popularity of alt-flavored margaritas and spicy infusions.
Depending on who you ask, this recipe combines watermelon with either muddled jalapeño or basil and black pepper. We’ve opted to highlight the latter version, as basil is a slightly rarer sight in the tequila cocktail scene (if interested, the jalapeño-based Mockingbird can be found here).
If you’re rummaging around the kitchen and have all its ingredients on hand, the Watermelon Tequila Mockingbird is a colorful crowd-pleaser that can easily be reformatted into a frozen cocktail. Versatile, summery and only slightly green, this is the version we’d opt for nine times of ten.
Watermelon Tequila Mockingbird
- 1.5oz Blanco Tequila
- 2 oz Watermelon Juice
- 4 Fresh Basil Leaves
- Fresh Black Pepper drops
- Watermelon Slice for garnish
- Simple Syrup, to taste
- Combine ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake with ice until chilled, 15-20 seconds.
- Strain into a glass over fresh ice.
- Garnish with watermelon slice.
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