UPDATE: It's national tequila day, y'all! So, to celebrate, we're brining you the best margs in all of NYC. Bottom's up. This story was originally published on May 2, 2013.
The sun’s no longer setting before 6 p.m., our winter clothes have gone into storage, and Cinco de Mayo has crept up outta nowhere. The year may be flying by, but at least it means one incredible thing: It’s margarita time! Given that we live in a city stocked with endless tequila-and-lime-based options, we’ve narrowed down a list of our absolute favorites. Beet juice concoctions, watermelon infusions, and a top-of-the-line variety worthy of busting out a corporate card for. It’s all here, like a sippable fiesta waiting to be conquered. So break out those spring dresses and get your margarita-swillin’ on already. Arriba!
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The compelling cocktail menu at this Murray Hill hot spot can overwhelm indecisive diners, so we’ll make it easy on you: The Salvation Margarita, a standard agave-triple-sec lime mix done right with high-end spirits and a guajillo chili salt rim, is the perfect drink for round one. Meaning, of course, that you won’t want to leave this lively April Bloomfield spot without trying as many things as you can. We recommend asking the bartender to serve your marg in a pineapple or parrot glass to instantly add more fiesta appeal to whatever concoction you settle on, too. Bonus: It's an easy conversation starter with the many, many gentlemen swarming the bar.
Salvation Taco, 145 East 39th Street (between Third and Lexington avenues); 212-865-5800.
Photos: Courtesy of Salvation Taco (Drink); Courtesy of Daniel Krieger/Salvation Taco (Location)
We’re all for fresh-squeezed fruit juices and Greenmarket-sourced ingredients, but sometimes you just want to dive into a frozen margarita and pretend, for an hour or two, that you’re in Cozumel instead of a concrete jungle. Arriba Arriba is just the spot for vacation daydreaming, and with its Goldilocks-reminiscent sizing of Bebe, Papa, and Mama Margaritas, won’t break your Spring Break fund, either. Its frozens are everything you’d hope for — cold, sweetly refreshing, and above all, strong — and just the thing for soaking up those relaxing beachside vibes, even if it’s only within restaurant walls.
Arriba Arriba, 762 9th Avenue (between 52nd and 53rd streets); 212-489-0810.
Photographed by Erin Yamagata
Agave prides itself on being a place to party at with friends, so naturally, its menu includes a ton of crowdpleasers. With its mixture of jalapeno-infused tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice, the Acapulco Spice is our choice concoction for its ability to sting in the best of ways. There's no mango, pineapple, or passion fruit to save you, either — this is all jalapeño, down to the ones floating in the glass. Pair it with chips and guac, an inventive Mexican salad, or a bodega sandwich from next door, it doesn’t matter — when you’re sipping on something this amazingly spicy, you won’t be concerned with whatever else you’re consuming.
Agave, 140 7th Avenue South (between West 10th and Charles streets); 212-989-2100.
Photographed by Erin Yamagata
This gussied-up Mexican restaurant is endlessly stylish with its retro decor and ultra-hip clientele, but with an emphasis on best-of-the-best ingredients that trickles down to its spirit selection, El Toro Blanco’s agave delights are fit for all tequila enthusiasts. We can’t get enough of the Chili-Rubbed Mango iteration, a cilantro, habanero, and fruit-infused mixture that’s like a sippable version of our favorite street snack. (Unsurprisingly, it's a fitting compliment to ETB's addictively fresh guacamole, too.)
El Toro Blanco, 257 Avenue of the Americas (between Bleecker and Houston streets); 212-645-0193.
Photo: Courtesy of El Toro Blanco (Drink); Courtesy of Daniel Krieger/ El Toro Blanco (Location)
Don't let the hand-scrawled drink menu fool you — the cocktails at this in-the-know LES restaurant are far from amateur hour. Barrio Chino's tequila-laden concoctions are constantly referenced as the best in the city, but the Habanero Grapefruit Margarita in particular, a spicy-sweet pairing of chile pepper-infused Sauza Hornitos reposado tequila and fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, will wow you to the last sip. We like to pair ours with some antojitos and, of course, a couple of friends ready to take down the night.
Barrio Chino, 253 Broome Street (at Orchard Street); 212-228-6710.
Photographed by Erin Yamagata
There are few spots in town that are perfect for a first date, but Empellon Cocina is one of the best. As the sisterly offshoot of Empellon Taqueria, this East Village restaurant’s melding of unexpected ingredients is similarly well-executed, but in an environment more befitting of an early romantic rendezvous. With a spot-on margarita menu that’s tricky to whittle down, we’ve found the Por Que No?, packed with pineapple, cliantro and green chile, to be a no-fail crowd-pleaser. Saddle up to the half-circle bar, order a round of pistachio guacamole, and we promise, even if your date’s a snooze, you’ll have a blast.
Empellon Cocina, 105 1st Avenue (between 6th and 7th streets); 212-780-0999.
Photo: Courtesy of Daniel Krieger (Location)/ Empellon Cocina; Photographed by Erin Yamagata (Drink)
If there's ever been a chance to tell yourself, “It's got kale in it, it's healthy!", this is it. Packed with Blue Agave Blanco Tequila, lime juice, agave nectar, fresh ginger, and kale juice and topped off with candied ginger and a smoked sea salt rim, The Wayland’s most well-known drink is the perfect dose of margarita ingenuity, as well as Vitamin K. With flavors blending together perfectly — trust, it’s the furthest thing from a V8 on the rocks — in a buzzing atmosphere that's endlessly hip, you’ll be rethinking your entire approach to juicing.
The Wayland, 700 E 9th Street (at Avenue C); 212-777-7022.
Photos: Courtesy of Melissa Hom/ The Wayland
As a gold standard when it comes to traditional upscale Mexican dining in New York City, the reliable mini-chain has a huge place in our tableside guac-loving hearts. We adore that we're guaranteed to be served a solid drink, plate-lickingly good food and a roomy table no matter which location we swing by, but even more so that Rosa Mexicano lets us up the tequila-swillin' ante with the over-the-top La Suprema Margarita. Partida reposado tequila and Grand Marnier highlight this perfectly balanced lime-y concoction, and the let’s-hope-we’re-expensing-this price tag allows us to guarantee it'll be one of the best Cadillac margaritas you've ever had. Best part? It'll serve as a viable excuse for why you'll keep sneaking bites off everyone else's plates.
Rosa Mexicano, 9 East 18th Street (between Broadway and 5th Avenue); 212-533-3350.
Photos: Courtesy of Noah Fecks (Drink)/ Rosa Mexicano; Courtesy of Rosa Mexicano (location)x`
If you're freaked out by how frozen drinks are actually made — what the heck is in that mystery bag of mix?! — we assure you Brooklyn Bowl’s unbelievable version is nothing of the sort. Made with Sauza Hornitos Plata Tequila, triple sec, and four different types of lime juice, this glass of oh-my-god will ruin all other frozens for you. Pro tip: Add real strawberry at no extra charge for a dose of Spring Break vibes while at a show, or as an easy way to cheer yourself up after bombing at a game of bowling.
Brooklyn Bowl, 61 Wythe Avenue (between 11th and 12th streets); Brooklyn; 718-963-3369.
Photos: Courtesy of Adam Macchia/ Brooklyn Bowl
This neighborhood-y joint is all about authenticity, which is why we adore its cucumber-infused ‘rita above all. While other restaurants might turn the mixture into a sugar-laden disaster, at Mesa Coyoacan, it’s a refreshingly crisp and spicy concoction worthy of a trip on the L train. Want it even spicier? Swap out Tequila Jimador for the house-made jalapeño-infused variety, which gives an extra kick of fire to parallel the Mexico City-inspired restaurant’s solid, classic dishes.
Mesa Coyoacan, 372 Graham Avenue (between Skillman Avenue and Conselyea Street); Brooklyn; 718-782-8171.
Photo: Courtesy of Atsushi Tomiok/Mesa Coyoacan (Drink); Courtesy of Mesa Coyoacan (Location)
Between its locally-centric menu and too-cute backyard garden, this in-the-know Dumbo haunt is a hit among foodies for its clean, light fare and unbelievable margarita offerings. Gran Electrica's got one of everything — an unbelievable spicy option, a perfectly-executed classic, and even a cucumber-lime infusion perfect for hot summer days — but the Margarita De Remolacha, made with fresh squeezed beet juice (what!) is one we simply can't get over. Kiss that AM juice habit goodbye and pair your fresh antioxidants with lowered inhibitions, and of course, some of that Spanish mackerel ceviche.
Gran Electrica, 5 Front Street (at Old Fulton Street); Brooklyn; 718-852-2789.
Photos: Courtesy of Noah Fecks/ Gran Electrica
This cuisine-melding foodie haunt is known for taking traditional Asian offerings and flipping them on their side — breakfast ramen, anyone? — so it’s no shocker that Talde’s finely tuned cocktail menu meets margaritas with the same inventive enthusiasm. Seemingly straightforward from the get-go, its watermelon variety is a sweet but strong mixture of Falva Gold tequila, triple sec, fresh fruit juices, and watermelon purée. Topped off with a wedge of the fresh summer-y treat, it’s a seasonal offering we’ve admittedly looked forward to all winter long.
Talde, 369 7th Avenue (between 11th and 12th streets); Brooklyn; 347-916-0031.
Photos: Courtesy of Anne Massoni/ Talde