Those of you who followed our Vacation Drink Smackdown already know that the margarita is the reigning champ of the season. But who among the margaritas deserves a place in the great, boozy hall of fame? Which drinks from around the country offer the perfect balance of tequila, lime and triple sec? Which show imagination and innovation? We’ve rounded up a few MVPs from near and far, and trust us—these drinks are worth planning a trip around.
Frontera Grill, Chicago, Illinois
You might recognize chef Rick Bayless from PBS’s Mexico: One Plate at a Time. Or from his cookbooks. Or his supermarket packaged foods. The guy gets around, but that hasn’t stopped him from formulating a variety of innovative takes on our champion cocktail, including his Mezcal Margarita. It’s a smoky concoction of artisanal mescal from Oaxaca, a 10-year-old Torres brandy, Peychaud bitters and limonada—all shaken right at your table. Mmm, gracias, Rick. 445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL (312-661-1434, www.rickbayless.com). For Chicago hotel deals and travel info, click here.
Barrio Star, San Diego, California
This popular San Diego Mexican restaurant offers several unexpected twists on the classic margarita, but its Jalapeño Blackberry Margarita has a special place in our hearts. Spicy, sweet, warm and tart—all the flavors fuse together thanks to the mix of roasted jalapeño-infused tequila, muddled blackberry, fresh lime and agave. Que rico! 2706 5th Ave, San Diego, CA (619-501-7827, www.isabelscantina.com). For San Diego hotel deals and travel info, click here.
Mayahuel, New York, New York
This East Village spot’s cocktail recipes are as clever as their names (think Whoopsy Daisy and Sister Twisted). And while the culinary temptations at Mayahuel may be many, don’t leave without trying their version of the margarita, known as the Senorita. It’s a perfectly balanced mix of reposado tequila, orangerie, lime, agave nectar and grapefruit bitters. And good luck leaving without asking for un trago más. 304 E 6th St, New York, NY (212-253-5888, www.mayahuelny.com). For New York hotel deals and travel info, click here.
Las Perlas, Los Angeles, California
Good tequila is, of course, the foundation of any good margarita so Las Perlas’ monster collection of the stuff should be a good indicator that your cocktail’s off to a good start. A favorite here is the Spicy Margarita, which pleases the palate with a very unlikely list of ingredients: There’s the expected tequila, orange liqueur and lime, plus some cooling cucumber, some warming jalapeño, just a bit of cilantro—stay with us—and a garnish of spicy chili salt. Extrano y fantistico! 107 E 6th St, Los Angeles, CA (213-988-8355, www.lasperlas.la).
For Los Angeles hotel deals and travel info, click here.
Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, Fort Worth, Texas
Come on, you didn’t really expect the Texans not to make this list? Lonesome Dove chef Tim Love applies his talent for urban western cuisine to his cocktail menu, too: His Jalapeño Cucumber Margarita refreshes with its cool cuke flavor and entices with its pepper heat, both muddled in Cointreau and complimented with a blend of Love 303 Reposado Tequila and fresh lime juice. A salted rim and lime wedge finish the job. Viva la margarita! 2406 N Main St, Fort Worth, TX (817-740-8810, www.lonesomedovebistro.com). For Fort Worth hotel deals and travel info, click here.