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6 Earthy Raicilla Variations on Classic Cocktails

Discover the funky, earthy Mexican spirit raicilla with six fun variations on classic cocktails! These raicilla-based cocktails showcase its unique flavor profile and are a perfect introduction to the up-and-coming spirit that will bring some new excitement to your cocktail repertoire!

An artistic image of a bottle of raicilla with a black label and a blurred reflection of the same bottle against a grey background.

Move over tequila and mezcal — there’s a new agave-based spirit in town called raicilla! Well, it might not have made it to your town yet specifically, but if you’re lucky enough to live in a state where raicilla is widely distributed, prepare to fall in love with this unique Mexican spirit! I was able to find a bottle in South Carolina and have had a ton of fun making cocktails with it. From the margarita to the Negroni, raicilla can add a complex, earthy twist to many of the classic cocktails you know and love!

What is raicilla?

Raicilla (rye-see-ya) is an agave-based spirit from the Mexican state of Jalisco, where tequila originated. It’s been around for over three centuries, and for most of its existence it’s been considered Mexican moonshine due to its “homegrown”, less regulated methods of production. But over the recent years, it’s started to be appreciated as a unique, diverse spirit on the same level as tequila and mezcal.

Typically, it’s served straight up as a slow-sipping spirit in order to fully appreciate the complex flavor. It’s also a really fun spirit to use in cocktails though, and more and more bartenders are starting to experiment with it, using it in both classic cocktails and inventive original cocktails.

Some compare the flavor of raicilla to that of mezcal, tequila, or even gin, and while it shares similarities with all three, its nuanced, vegetal flavor truly sets it apart from the rest.

What does raicilla taste like?

Many say raicilla tastes somewhere between mezcal and tequila, but I think that’s an oversimplification of the spirit. The taste of raicilla is ultimately a result of the region, agave species, and production techniques used, making each batch and brand unique and a reflection of its specific terroir.

Most raicilla though has a complex, earthy flavor profile with notes of herbs and citrus. Compared to tequila and mezcal, it’s often more sharply acidic, fruity, and floral. It has smoky undertones as well since the agave is roasted during production, which is also what gives mezcal its distinct smokiness, instead of steamed like it is when making tequila.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s jump right into these raicilla cocktail recipes!

6 Earthy Raicilla Variations on Classic Cocktails

1. Raicilla Margarita

Using raicilla in place of tequila is a fun way to spice up the classic margarita! The raicilla makes the drink more smoky and herbal, resulting in an equally refreshing, but slightly more complex flavor profile.


  • 2 oz raicilla
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 oz agave nectar
  • Salt, for the rim
  • Ice
  • Lime wheel, for garnish


  1. Rim a rocks glass with salt and fill it with ice.
  2. Add the raicilla, lime juice, and agave nectar to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
  3. Strain into the prepared rocks glass and garnish with a lime wheel.

2. Raicilla Paloma

Here's another refreshing and easy-to-make cocktail that combines the unique flavor of raicilla with citrusy and bittersweet grapefruit juice. The agave syrup adds a touch of sweetness to balance out the tartness of the citrus, while the salt rim on the glass adds a savory touch.


  • 2 oz raicilla
  • 1 oz fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 oz agave syrup
  • 2 oz club soda
  • Salt, for the rim
  • Ice
  • Grapefruit wedge, for garnish


  1. Rim a highball glass with salt and fill with ice.
  2. Add the raicilla, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and agave syrup to the glass and stir well.
  3. Top with club soda and garnish with a grapefruit wedge.

3. Raicilla Sunrise

This is my own very loose riff on a tequila sunrise that's just as delicious and fruity, but with a lot more depth of flavor! I use Campari in place of grenadine to give it a pretty reddish orange hue and bite of bitterness, which works like a dream with the earthy raicilla, along with tart orange juice and lime juice to give it a bright, tropical flair.


  • 2 oz raicilla
  • 1/2 oz Campari
  • 1/2 oz fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • Ice
  • Orange slice, for garnish


  1. Add the raicilla, Campari, orange juice, lime juice, and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake until well-chilled.
  2. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice and garnish with an orange slice.

4. Raicilla Pineapple Smash

This recipe is a variation on a Smash, which is a flexible cocktail that essentially just calls for a spirit, sugar, mint, and seasonal fruit. My take on the Smash uses raicilla as the base spirit, along with freshly muddled mint and sweet, juicy pineapple for a refreshing and tropical drink that highlights the vegetal, nuanced flavor of raicilla, while still being approachable for those new to the spirit.


  • 2 oz raicilla
  • 1 oz pineapple juice
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 1/2 oz honey syrup*
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh mint
  • Ice
  • Pineapple wedge for garnish


  1. Muddle the mint in a cocktail shaker.
  2. Add the raicilla, pineapple juice, lime juice, honey syrup, and ice to the shaker and shake until well-chilled.
  3. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and garnish with a pineapple wedge and sprig of mint.

*To make honey syrup, mix equal parts honey and hot water and stir until the honey is completely dissolved.

5. Raicilla Negroni

The Negroni is one of the most popular cocktails in the world and has one of the easiest templates to experiment with! The classic recipe is equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. In this twist, you substitute gin for raicilla for an earthy, subtly smoky Negroni riff.


  • 1 oz raicilla
  • 1 oz Campari
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1 large ice cube
  • Orange peel, for garnish


  1. Add the raicilla, Campari, and sweet vermouth to a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled.
  2. Strain into a rocks glass with one large ice cube and garnish with an orange peel.

6. Verde Mary with Raicilla

The Verde Mary is simply a Bloody Mary made with green tomatillos instead of red tomatoes. In this recipe, the vegetal, bright flavor of the tomatillos and aromatic cilantro enhance and perfectly complement the earthy notes of the raicilla. Pair it with a big plate of chilaquiles for an amazingly delicious brunch!

*This recipe yields roughly 4 servings.


  • 6 oz raicilla
  • 5 tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and chopped
  • 1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 tbsp horseradish
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Green hot sauce to taste
  • Ice


  1. Add all of the ingredients other than the raicilla and ice to a food processor and blend until smooth. If it's too thick, add water until it reaches your desired consistency.
  2. Pour the mixture into a pitcher, add the raicilla, and stir until combined.
  3. Rim a serving glass with salt and fill with ice, pour in the cocktail, and top off with your favorite Bloody Mary garnishes (i.e. celery stalk, lime wedge, olives).