February 20 – Margarita Day
Isn’t it surprising that Margarita Day is in the middle of February? With its history and pedigree, you would think it would land on Cinco de Mayo, or at least sometime warm and reminiscent of the Mexican climate from which this drink hails. But instead we get to enjoy this drink in the middle of winter, haha. Sometimes I just don’t get why they assigned certain foods to certain days 😛
Everyone knows a margarita. According to Wikipedia, it’s the most popular drink containing tequila in the United States, and I completely believe it. There are so many different varieties and ways to make a “signature” margarita, and every Mexican-themed bar and restaurant–not to mention most of the bars and restaurants in the country that aren’t Mexican-themed–have their own special version. Although the International Bartenders Association says that a margarita involves tequila, orange liqueur, and lime or lemon juice, the ingredients in a margarita vary wildly, almost every one different from the last. You can omit the liqueur or replace it with triple sec; blend it with ice to make it frozen; exchange the lime juice for another citrus; add whatever the hell flavors you like. What they all require is basically the tequila and the daring personality to try something bold, fruity, and strong. You can’t go too wrong with all of that. 😉
There are a number of bars and restaurants in New York that make their own unique style of margarita and have been lauded for their efforts. You can make a “classic” lime margarita and rim the glass with salt, and it’ll be tasty, but it may not stand up to the flavor combinations found in these signature drinks. I’ve compiled only a few of the standouts, because to list all of the best and most unique margaritas in town would take all day, and you (and I) have got to get out on the road and do some taste-testing!
Hecho En Dumbo may no longer actually be in Dumbo–they moved to the East Village but kept their recognizable name–but they still keep their diamond-in-the-rough atmosphere and high-quality tapas and drink specials. Their take on the margarita falls in the sweet and spicy categories with the Margarita Tamarindo. Made with authentic agave tequila and sweet homemade tamarind juice, the glass is rimmed with salt and piquin powder, a cousin of the paprika pepper that gives it a nice kick. The use of real Mexican ingredients in this blend makes for a great imbibing experience, and reveals Hecho En Dumbo’s quest for an extra layer of authenticity to their dining profile. The restaurant, and the tamarindo in particular, is the darling of the blogging world, getting rave reviews from Brooklynites and foodies all over the Internet, and even catching the eye of bigwigs Serious Eats and The New Yorker.
Hecho en Dumbo
354 Bowery (between 3rd St & Great Jones St)
“Strong margaritas, salt on the rim, suit the crowd, though the occasional iconoclast sips a Michelada cubana, a concoction that could be described as a beer-infused Bloody Mary.”–The New Yorker
“For dessert, you can do what I did, and have another margarita. Try the Margarita Tamarindo ($12), Herradura Tequila Blanco, house-made Tamarind juice, and a dash of cane sugar, served on the rocks with a spicy Chile Piquin rim. You’ll feel good, real good.”–NYC Foodie
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“I was already pretty inebriated, but I could never pass up a tamarindo margarita. If you put tamarind or sorrel in front of me, I could be completely wasted and still say “yes” to more alcohol. It was an excellent margarita and I really like the chile salt on the rim.”–Vivian H.
“The cocktails at Hecho en Dumbo are superb. No, the margaritas do not come cheap at $10+ each, but they go down so smoothly and do not have the harsh sour taste that many margaritas leave you feeling. The tamarindo is an interesting blend of tamarind juice with cane sugar, and piquin (a cousin of paprika) on the rim.”–Dana F.
If you’re looking for something a little more on the safe side, check out the familiar and trendy flavors in the pomegranate margarita at Rosa Mexicano. A chain of upscale Mexican restaurants that began in New York, Jonathan Waxman now has over a dozen locations around the world, three of which are still in the city. Some people prefer the pomegranate margarita because of the sweet and tart combination the pomegranate and lime play in the drink; others like it just because here they make it unusually strong. With the recent popularity surge in all things pom, these blends of margaritas can be found all over the city, but here, they did it first. The place to head for this lively, trendsetting cocktail, hands down, is Rosa Mexicano.
61 Columbus Ave (between 62nd St & 63rd St)
1063 1st Ave (between 57th St & 58th St)
9 E 18th St (between 5th Ave & Broadway)
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“The most potent margaritas in the city — tried and tested by NY Mag. I can think of no better way to spend an afternoon than to sit at the outdoor tables, drink a frozen pomegranate margarita, and stuff myself silly with guacamole.”–Olga G.
“We made good use of the wait time by having some of the famous pomegranate margaritas ($10 each, and they are some of the cheaper drinks at this establishment). I always have salt with my margarita! The drinks were so tasty and quite strong.”–Krista J.
But maybe you’re not into “fruity” drinks, and the idea of a sweet tequila cocktail gets you turning your nose up at trendy establishments. South Williamsburg has the drink for you. At the homey Taco Chulo you can order their signature drink, the Margarita de Pepino, which has a spicy chili de arbol kick to the flavor, but its cucumber-infused tequila base quickly and easily cools it down. It’s perfect for someone who’s looking for a different and unique taste in their margarita, but shies away from the syrupy sweet concoctions and yearns for a spicier, more savory flavor.
318 Grand St (between Havemeyer St & Marcy Ave), Brooklyn
“This Williamsburg hipster haven is a great watering hole in general, but skip the regular drinks and have a margarita de pepino ($10). The cucumber-infused tequila and spicy chile de arbol is a delicious hot/cold sensation that is refreshingly drinkable.”–Refinery 29
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Plus: flavored margaritas, festive cocktails, and a tequila menu longer than the food one. What could go wrong?”–Finlay L.
“Stop in for weekend brunch (try the Mexican Coffee with the Avacado Breakfast) or one of their late-night DJ nights (suggested drink: Margarita de Pepino – cucumber infused tequila, Cointreau, chili pequin, and a cucumber and lime…can’t get it anywhere else!).”–Ruthy E.
Are there different margarita varieties I’ve left out here and you’ve found you absolutely cannot live without? Know of a place that makes the “best” classic lime margarita in town? Let me know about it in the comments!