Kate Krader (@kkrader on Twitter) is Food & Wine's restaurant editor. When she tells us where to find our culinary heart's desire, we listen up.
For those with a big commitment to Cinco de Mayo, the question is this: Do you wait for Sunday, the actual holiday, to start the celebration, or should you begin Saturday, the cuatro de Mayo?
Tough question that you’ll have to answer yourself. What I’ve got are seven places around the country where you can find a phenomenal margarita and plenty of tequila to toast the holiday, whenever you start the party.
Fonda (New York City)
Chef Roberto Santibañez has branches of his terrific restaurant in Manhattan and Brooklyn. One difference between the two is that he offers six different margaritas in Brooklyn and seven at the Manhattan location. The signature margarita, which is sensational, is the Rosalita, made with hibiscus. The Pepino is made with jalapeño-infused Tanteo tropical tequila and a cucumber-ginger infusion. The guacamole is made to order (duh) and served with hand-pressed tortillas.
Mercadito (Chicago, with locations in New York and Miami)
This cevicheria and taqueria from chef Patricio Sandoval boasts an astonishing 67 tequilas and 20 mezcals on its bar list, developed by Tippling Bros. cocktail consultants Paul Tanguay and Tad Carducci. The Margarita Tradicional is made with blanco tequila and agave nectar; for $3 you can add “smoke,” which means a floater of mezcal. If you want to drink more agave-based spirits in a different setting, head downstairs to the tequila-focused lounge Double A, located beneath Mercadito. After dinner service ends at 10 p.m., the place goes into bottle service, at which point, “Things get weird,” according to Mercadito mixologist Paul Sauter. The margarita to drink there is the reposado-based Double Daaisy (not a typo).
Anvil (Houston, Texas)
If you’re committed to drinking a margarita on Cinco de Mayo, Bobby Heugel (one of the country’s best mixologists) has got you covered. He makes his with blanco tequila, lime, Curaçao and agave. But it’s just one on "The 100 List," which is broken up into categories like "Tropical & Tiki" and "Boozy & Alluring." If you’re more daring, consider the Mexican Firing Squad Special - blanco tequila, lime, grenadine and Angostura bitters. Heugel knows a ton about tequila and mezcal; in fact, he’s currently at work on a tequila bar scheduled to open later this year at 310 Main Street and tentatively called Bobby and Alba’s Tequila Emporium.
Bar Centro at The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel (Beverly Hills, California)
At the cocktail bar at his hotel restaurant, star chef José Andrés has dispensed with the eternal question of salt or no salt on a margarita. His specialty is the Salt Air Margarita: a classic margarita topped with genius, frothy “salt air,” made from water, lime juice, kosher salt and lecithin.
Jimmy’s (Aspen, Colorado)
This terrific upstairs bar in Aspen has more than 100 tequilas and mezcals on its list. They offer a basic margarita - either The House version, with El Tesoro blanco tequila, or The Jimmy’s version, with Cabo Reposado - as well as The Smokey, which is a basic margarita plus cranberry and mezcal. The 21st Century Margarita is made with Don Julio 1942 tequila, and costs $30.
Masa 14 (Washington, D.C.)
Of course, Richard Sandoval’s Latin-Asian small plate spot has a traditional margarita, as well as a great spicy cucumber margarita, made with cucumber and Fresno chile-infused blanco tequila. Masa 14 also offers a light cocktail menu. Those drinks are light on sugar, not necessarily light on booze: the Margarita Modesta has less than half the sugar of the Margarita Traditional. For even less sugar, go for a tequila flight, or choose from 89 different tequilas, all with great tasting notes.
Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant (San Francisco, California)
The Bay Area’s definitive tequila destination, Tommy’s, in fact, claims to have “the best selection of tequila on Earth" - a total of 311 tequilas, plus six additional “young and adulterated” ones that they offer “for display and education only.” You can join Tommy’s Blue Agave Club, a tequila tasting club with more than 7,000 members who, for $10 “tuition,” can go through a tasting program. Once you taste 35 different tequilas, you receive a diploma designating you are a Tequila Master (you score a Tequila Master T-shirt, too). You can go on to get your Tequila PhD after passing a 70-question written exam on fermentation, distillation, tequila regions and brands. If all you want is a margarita, Tommy’s is legendary, made with agave nectar instead of triple sec.
More from Food & Wine:
Best Taco Spots in the U.S.
America’s Best Margarita Bars
America’s Best Bars
Best Cinco de Mayo Recipes
© 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.
As a bald, middle-aged handicapped man, I welcome any and all holidays that encourage drinking. Even someone like me starts to look fabulous after a pitcher (or two). Buying drinks for hot girls is a lot cheaper than hiring a hooker. And drunk girls don't ask me if I'm gay or bisexual the way that sober ones do! It's a win/win situation for me.
What did the Giraffe say to the Texas Bartender?? I'll have a Long Neck,Plz. Decisions,Decisions, Should I celebrate Derby Day with a Mint Julep or go for broke with a Margarita? Maybe Both?
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