We don't really go for all the hoopla over the made-up holidays that have crept onto the calendar in recent times, thanks to clever marketers. You know, like Orange M&M Day and Brown Rice Tortilla Week. (We made those up, don't worry.) But there's one fabricated celebration we're more than happy to honor: National Margarita Day. Cheers, Phoenix. Here are 10 of our faves. What are yours?
10. Margarita at SideBar The classic combo of Jose Cuervo Gold, triple sec and fresh lime juice in SideBar's margarita might elicit a yawn - but not if you've ever had a cocktail at this wonderful bar tucked atop a Pei Wei/Starbucks combo just west of downtown Phoenix. And if you've ever had the margarita, well, forget about it, we know you're in love. For us, it's the little things - like the muddled half-lime at the bottom of our glass - that make life worth living, and make the narrow staircase at SideBar worth navigating, time and again.
9. Aguacate Margarita at The Mission
An avocado margarita may sound a little off, but we promise you it will be one of the best decisions you make at The Mission. Half an avocado is hand-hacked and added to a cocktail shaker, then topped with Cruz del Sol tequila, triple sec, a splash of simple syrup and sweet 'n' sour. A bit of fresh lime for brightness and a salted rim finish off this margarita. The result is a very green tasting cocktail. The avocado is fresh and earthy with a richness that contrasts the sharp bite of the tequila. You wouldn't think it works, but it totally does.
8. Jamaica Margarita at Barrio Cafe
At Barrio Cafe the menus advise that you, "Help conserve water, drink tequila." We couldn't agree more. With well over 250 types of tequila on hand, Barrio Cafe can shake, stir, or blend just about any margarita your little heart desires. The traditional house margarita is easily one of the best in the Valley, but we also really dig the Jamaica Margarita. Bright pink hibiscus flowers add a sweet, floral note to the traditional margarita base of Tesoro silver tequila, fresh lime juice and Grand Marnier.
7. Margarita Flight at Los Sombreros Last summer, Los Sombreros bartender Bruce Durack turned us on to the concept of the tequila flight - and we haven't had wine since. (Only a slight exaggeration.) We are hoping Los Sombreros brings this threesome back this summer - small glasses of Durack's passion fruit, lime and pomegranate margaritas, each made with a different delicious tequlia. For anyone who has trouble making up his mind, this is the margarita (trio) for you!
6. Frozen Margarita at Mucho Gusto Taqueria and Mexican Bistro Mucho Gusto used to serve a frozen tamarind margarita - it's been years, but we still have dreams about the tart-sweetness, the perfect consitency, the pleasure in knowing you're drinking an authentic flavor of Mexico (along with that tequlia). Alas, the tamarind's off the menu, but the perfect consistency of the frozen classic marg at Mucho Gusto - along with the comfy patio, homey atmosphere and much easier parking than on nearby Mill Avenue - keeps us coming back for more. And more. And more...
5. Blood Orange Margarita at Ticoz Resto-Bar Ticoz has elevated the humble margarita to new heights, with exotic flavors like lychee, passion fruit, and guava. Among the dozen or so flavors to choose from, our favorite is the blood orange. The colorful citrus lends a bit of excitement to the traditional margarita, and blends well with the base flavors of tequila and lime. Hit up happy hour for half-price margaritas from 3 to 6:30 daily, and order some of the achiote pulled pork if you're a bit peckish. The spiciness of the pork tacos goes very well with the bright citrus flavors of the blood orange margarita.
4. Prickly Pear Margarita at Gallo Blanco Cafe Gallo Blanco's margaritas should all make the cut because of their fresh squeezed citrus and premium tequilas. But of all the cocktails on the menu, the prickly pear margarita is where it's at. Sauza Blanco tequila is smooth and unassuming, adding potency to the fresh lime juice and prickly pear. The margarita is a perfect blend of strong tequila, tangy citrus, and sweet prickly pear that's almost kiwi-strawberry flavored. The salt on the rim is also a must, making the whole marg sweet, sour, salty, and the perfect cure for a hot summer day. (Or a balmy February here in the Valley.)
3, Chambord Margarita at Z'Tejas Grill Z'Tejas may serve wildly mediocre food, but the margaritas are the real reason you should saddle up to the bar. We're not sure how they pack so much tequila into the frozen chambord margarita and keep it in a frozen state, but we're happy to indluge anyway. The frozen chambord margarita is the perfectly balance between tart lime and smooth tequila, while the dark pink swirl of chambord adds a hint berry sweetness. One frozen chambord margarita will give you instant warm fuzzies. Two chambord margaritas will have you slurring declarations of love to your party. And three chambord margaritas? That's where they cut you off.
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2. Mango Serrano Margarita at Canteen Modern Tequila Bar Canteen's impressive selection of hundreds of tequilas is one reason to visit this chic tequileria on Mill Avenue, particularly when the top shelf tequilas are half price on happy hour. If you need further convincing, we have three words for you: Mango Serrano Margarita. It's sweet, sour, and salty, as all good margaritas should be, but it's also got a subtle spice that burns so good. Serrano-infused blanco tequila is paired with orange liqueur, mango puree, fresh lime juice and a splash of simple syrup to create a grown up margarita that tantalizes your taste buds with each sip.
1. Barrio Queen at Barrio Queen Celebrated Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza is, indeed, the queen - not just of our barrio (real and imagined) but of our hearts, our stomachs - and our livers. The margarita selection at her newest venture, Barrio Queen, in Old Town Scottsdale (you can often find the chef herself hanging around her tony new spot, giggling at all the North Scottsdale white folks who've come down to hang with the Mexicans) is to die for. If we must choose a favorite, let it be the namesake, the Barrio Queen, an irresistible combination of milagro reposado, house-made almond orgeat, lemon juice, angostura bitters and freshly grated nutmeg. We're tempted to order them two at a time, that's how easily they go down.
All of our favorites lists are also available on our Best of app; see it in action at http://bestof.voiceplaces.com/phoenix.