For margarita purists, there are only 2 questions: Frozen or on the rocks? And salt or no salt? But what about on fire, with “salt air,” or shaken tableside? These are just a few of the options offered at the country’s best margarita bars.
El Compadre Restaurant (Los Angeles)
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Longtime customers and celebs alike stream into the original Hollywood location of this LA staple for a night of revelry in its festive, hacienda-inspired dining room, fueled by mariachi music and flaming margaritas. While the blue flame that hovers over the lemon in your drink is flavorless, you can certainly taste the tequila (and added coconut juice, if you so desire).
Lonesome Dove Western Bistro (Fort Worth, TX)
We’ve come to expect a lot out of the meat and margaritas in Texas, and at the Lonesome Dove, you’ll find inventive takes on both. Larger-than-life celebrity chef Tim Love’s wild-game dishes, including elk and foie gras sliders and kangaroo nachos, create a 1-2 punch with his legendary jalapeno cucumber margaritas.
After a particularly harsh Chicago winter, you’ll find there’s no better retreat than the packed sunny patio of this Wicker Park taqueria, which is housed in a defunct 1940s gas station and is known for blasting country music. We suggest you slide up to the cash-only to-go window and order a pitcher of particularly strong Big Star margaritas and a round of fish tacos to soak up the mescal.
An apres-ski Smokey margarita with cranberry and Del Maguey Chichicapa may sound like an unlikely combination, but it has helped make Jimmy’s an Aspen institution. Well, that and its infamous Saturday night salsa parties, aided by more than 120 top-shelf tequilas. In the summer and fall months, the mescal- or agave-infused cocktails are best enjoyed beneath lights strung up on the open-air patio.
At Hugo’s, an upscale Mexican restaurant in Montrose, it’s more white tablecloths than Tex-Mex. Its classic Hugo Rita is next-level, too, made with Sauza Silver, Hiram Walker triple sec, simple syrup and fresh lime juice, shaken and served tableside — all for only $8.50. Picture this: dining alfresco, house band playing in the background, and indulging in an eclectic brunch buffet of regional Mexican cuisine — yep, that pretty much sums up our perfect Sunday.
A DC institution from the city’s most beloved avant-garde chef, Jose Andres, Oyamel prides itself on elevated Mexican cuisine. Its signature margarita (the chef’s favorite) consists of Milagro blanco tequila, Combier L’Original, fresh lime juice and “salt air,” a salty foam topping made with a powdered emulsifier.
Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant (San Francisco)
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Tommy’s famous margaritas are no muss, no fuss, just the good stuff: pure agave tequila, hand-squeezed lime juice and no triple sec. Julio Bermejo, co-owner of the 50-year-old dive on the outskirts of San Francisco, favors agave syrup as a sweetener over triple sec to strike the perfect balance between sweet and tart.
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Inside Philip Ward’s 2-level East Village tequila and mescal bar, you won’t find one of the renowned mixologist’s best cocktails on the menu: a classic margarita with blanco tequila, Cointreau and lime juice. Or sink into a sleek leather booth upstairs for conversation over a $15 cerveza cocktail such as the Afternoon Delight, made with a strawberry- and jalepeno-infused blanco, mango shrub, lime, salt and cerveza.