Best Margarita 2013 | Margarita Especial Sierra Bonita Grill | La Vida | Phoenix

How did we know we'd likely stumbled upon a winner in the Best Margarita category? The name, silly. A high-class joint like Sierra Bonita Grill was hardly going to call a margarita special if it wasn't. And, oh, this one is. The not-so-secret ingredient that pushes it over the edge is brandy, but from top to bottom, this drink is all good: shaken orange juice, Cointreau, reposado tequila, and homemade sweet and sour. Be sure to bring your designated driver; this drink is a strong one.

It used to be a private, friends-and-family-only, small-batch tequila going back three generations in the town of Tequila, Jalisco. Today this smooth premium tequila is a gift resulting from the reunion of an estranged father and daughter, bringing an elegant tequila to the American market. Stone oven-cooked blue agave hearts are the foundation of a spirit that's double-distilled and shipped from Jalisco to Queen Creek, where Debbie Medina of Jalisco International Imports Inc. and her partner, Jonathan Gach, bottle the family secret. At $50 for the French white oak barrel-aged Reposado, it isn't a bargain, but this light amber liquid isn't a shooting tequila — it's a tequila for sipping neat while sharing your own family secrets.

Ever spend an hour trying to pick out a tequila from a list of 100 bottles? We don't like our tequila-sipping time being wasted by bottom-shelf tequila. We want to get to the good stuff and get to it fast. Give us a tequila list with an opinion and some editing or give us gin.

Hold the gin bottle, though; Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails has done the editing for us and put together a thoughtful list of fewer than 25 tequilas, all sip-worthy, no salt, lime, or sour mix required. Not being a Mexican restaurant may give the sleek Blue Hound a leg up in the tequila competition by allowing it to be more selective. If you still can't figure out what to sip, chat with Steph the bartender and let her help you decide.

According to Miguel Morales, he isn't much into twerking. And he felt that way long, long before Miley Cyrus made the notorious booty-shaking maneuver even more infamous (and earning worldwide scorn as a result) on the VMAs earlier this month. The 31-year-old, who's also known as DJ Kyko, says he leaves that to the ladies to handle. "I'm a dude," Morales quips. "And dudes shouldn't ever twerk."

He's happy to bring that about by dropping Latin songs with some serious tempo and bounce, like maybe "Wiggle Wiggle" by Fulanito, during his Friday night main room hip-hop and reggaeton set at Monarch Theatre or up at Q-Lounge when he's there on Tuesdays and Saturdays slinging more Latin sets filled with merengues. But only, he says, when the time is right. After DJing professionally for more than a decade, like any ace selector, Morales has learned to read a room properly and pick the perfect songs for the particular mood and crowd. "If it's a majority of ladies, they're gonna want more of a Latin feel," he says. "Dudes want more machismo so I go with reggaeton or hip-hop." Both sexes, however, really dig it when he cues up super-popular tracks like "Echa Pa'lla (Manos Pa'rriba)" by Pitbull, which has resulted in one giant sing-along at Monarch. "I can shut off the music and have 600 people at once singing an entire hook of a song by themselves, and I mean they'll go word for word," he says. "It's amazing." But not nearly as astounding as when he saw 15 girls twerking together in unison. "That was fun to watch," Morales says. It's just one of the many perks of being a DJ.

Latin dance fans who can't get their culos into Q-Lounge by midnight on a Saturday might as well stay at home. ¿Porqué? Because you missed out on the best moment of the weekly Sabados Latinos night, wey, and it's a quite a spectacle. Allow us to set the scene: Adjacent rooms inside the barbecue joint/dance club are packed to capacity with hundreds, each wielding balloons and glowsticks as uptempo Latin dance music blasts out. The high-energy soundtrack builds to a crescendo, confetti cannons fire away, the bouncing and dancing increases, and buxom beer girls hold aloft signs urging everyone to go even harder (as if that were possible). It's an epic conflagration of sound and movement that's truly a sight to behold. If only you could've been there. We suggest arriving earlier in order to enjoy the whole night, which includes R&B and Top 40 mixed in with reggaeton that echoes through the main room while salsa, cumbia, and bachata dominate next door. Both options require fast moves and quick feet, especially if wanna keep up with the chica next to you, cabrón.

When it comes down to it, getting into Sky Lounge on Friday and Saturday nights is pretty easy. You just dress nicely (read: no caps or sportswear), wait patiently, and don't be a dick to security. Really, it's getting out that's the hard part. And not just because it gets really busy on weekends. Sky Lounge features the enticing combination of cheap drinks (including the ever-popular Adios Motherfuckers for $3 until midnight) and two levels filled with hot sounds and even hotter women. However, most of the crowd that comes to this longtime downtown Phoenix discoteca (which has been around since 1992) come to dance. And the DJs are glad to oblige. One floor typically is the domain of Latin genres such as salsa and bachata, while the other is hip to the Top 40 and R&B tip. Another reason to stay inside Sky Lounge is its 3 a.m. closing time, which allows you to avoid the usual chaos of the Washington Street club scene that ensues when neighboring clubs kick their patrons out onto the sidewalk at closing time.

Since 2002, 14 ladies — gilded botonadura shining down the sides of their long charro skirts, hair and makeup perfectly in place — have been taking the stage throughout Arizona, bringing grace and delicacy to the classic mariachi songs of love, loss, betrayal, and revenge.

Female mariachi musicians are nothing new, but Mariachi Pasion is believed to be the first all-female mariachi in Arizona, with its members brought together by a shared musical passion while enrolled in non-musical studies at ASU. With a recent performance at Crescent Ballroom's Los Dias de la Crescent, there is nothing stopping these ladies from singing nothing but songs of joy.

Sweet Leaf is a labor of love for Fernando Moreno of Avondale. It wasn't his first Impala — the first one was stolen before he had a chance to turn it into the lowrider of his dreams — but this one is his sweet convertible ride. Moreno and Sweet Leaf are members of the Imperials Car Club, a local chapter affiliated with the Imperials of Los Angeles — a car club with a rich history and a blue Monte Carlo featured in the film Boulevard Nights. Moreno grew up in a family of lowrider enthusiasts, including cousins. And his dad taught him to work on cars when he was younger — it was a natural fit. Moreno gets Sweet Leaf on the road every chance he gets. But with fewer places ideal for cruising, he usually meets up with other lowrider owners in the parking lots of local restaurants. It's a blast for them, and an amazing impromptu car show for passersby.

Maritza Lizeth Felix won this award last year, but you gotta know Felix to understand that she doesn't just win awards for her reporting — she sweeps entire categories year after year. And that's exactly what happened during the Arizona Press Club's 2013 awards reception: She snagged just about all the awards among Spanish-language reporters. It's a recognition she's earned through her deep understanding of the immigration issues and Latino community she covers. But her work goes beyond reporting about the Latino vote or telling the stories of immigrants and their struggles. She covers local events and breaking news that would be relevant in any community but reports them in a way that matters to her Spanish-speaking audience.

Chandler resident Carmen Cornejo is steadfast in her support of the DREAMers, those kids brought to this country when they were young, through no fault of their own, and who have grown up, for all intents and purposes, as American citizens. All they lack is that little piece of paper. President Obama has given the DREAMers a path to near-normalcy with his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. But long before that, Cornejo was going to bat for these DREAMers, working with groups like CADENA and the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition, helping them when they got caught up in the legal system and trying to advance the idea of a national DREAM Act. Now that DACA's a reality, she's helping these teens and 20-somethings raise the funds to pay for the fees associated with application. She strives for justice for these intelligent young men and women, so they can stay with us and help fulfill the promise that America should offer to all.

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