A good margarita begins with the right tequila. We asked the people behind some of NYC’s most unique margaritas what they use in their cocktails, and why.
For Don Sofer of local Mexican restaurant chainBlockheads, tequila is a nostalgic flavor. “I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t equate margaritas with a good time and a smile,” he says. The frozen margarita base for his Bulldogs is made in-house withSuaza Silver(it’s smooth and less smoky) and fresh agave, then “garnished” with the drinker’s choice of beer. “A customer came in early on, in the ’90s, and he tipped his beer into his margarita a little bit at a time,” Sofer recalls. The Canadian man was replicating a margarita he knew as the Bulldog, “so I perfected it.”
Downstairs at Rosa Mexicano’s new Tribeca location isMasa Y Agave, a basement bar with over 400 bottles of agave-based spirits. Bar director John McCarthy makes another herbaceous take on the cocktail withPatrón Reposado— the aged tequila can stand up to assertive ingredients like Yellow Chartreuse, basil, ginger and celery bitters. He also uses lemon instead of lime for the citrus component. “I use Patrónin particular for its grassy notes,” he says. “Overall, it creates a complex and herbaceous cocktail.”
Though beet is the ingredient that jumps out from Brian Smith’s margarita, it’s not the most vital part of the drink. “Once you have chosen your tequila, the single most important part is fresh lime juice,” says Smith, beverage director at DUMBO’sGran Electricarestaurant. He usesPueblo Viejo Blancofor its clean flavor but “assertive agave profile that makes it excellent for mixing.” Simple syrup lends brightness to offset the earthy beets, then Combier for a not-too-sweet orange kick. “The earthy sweetness that the beets provide enhance the sweet and sour play that already exists in a well-made margarita,” he says. “The beets are also brilliant for highlighting the slight vegetal quality that exists in 100% agave blanco tequila.”
Cucumber purée is a common enough cocktail ingredient these days, but paired with a jalapeño-infused tequila? “We wanted to do a balance of spicy yet refreshing that kept you wanting more,” says Adam Baca, beverage manager at longtime East Village taqueriaLa Esquina. He usesTanteo Jalapeño Blanco Tequilafor consistency, and adds only fresh lime juice and a splash of agave nectar.
Living in New York City means being surrounded by inspiration for Laura Newman at Cienfuegos and Mother of Pearl, where she works to incorporate global flavors into her cocktails. This savory margarita is made with two kinds of Patrón tequila (Roca Patrón Silver and the coffee-infused XO Cafe) as well as the brand’s Citrónge orange liqueur, a squeeze of lemon juice and an Asian fusion twist with the addition of toasted sesame oil — “because mixing flavors and cultures is what New York is all about!”