13 Margaritas You Should Be Sipping Right Now

Nacional 27's El Corazon (Photos courtesy of each restaurant.)

In its purest form, the Margarita is the perfect blend of tequila, lime juice and triple sec, but of course, there’s room for interpretation. For the purposes of this particular article, I’m expanding the parameters to include tequila drinks with a citrus element, be it orange, lime, lemon, grapefruit or any of the myriad liqueurs derived from the citrus family. Why? Because deliciousness. And inclusivity. And you know what will never make the cut? Any place that uses bottled sour mix in place of fresh citrus juice (shudder). That will simply never fly.

Here are some of our favorite margaritas around the Chicago area.

Antique Taco

As if their inventive tacos weren’t reason enough to visit, the House Rosemary Margarita ($16/pint, $30/quart), made with Camarena Silver tequila, fresh lime juice, orange juice, rosemary simple syrup and fresh rosemary, seals the deal. Herbaceous and quenching. 1360 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, 773-687-8697

Bar Takito

Do you like living on the edge? This is a good test of your mettle. Bar Takito’s Peruvian Margarita ($11) combines Corazon Blanco, Combier, aji amarillo (spicy yellow pepper) paste and lime, then it’s sweetened a bit with agaveto to take the edge off the spice. 201 N. Morgan St., Chicago, 312-888-9485

Big Star

Superstar chef/owner Paul Kahan learned from the best, aka Rick Bayless, when he worked at Frontera Grill many years ago. His outstanding Big Star Margarita ($10, $40/pitcher), made with Lunazul Blanco, Vida Mezcal, fresh lime juice and Marie Brizard Orange Curaçao, makes its own statement. 1531 N. Damen Ave., Chicago, 773-235-4039

De Cero 

I’m not much for fruity margaritas, but I make an exception here, where the Spicy Mango Habañero Margarita ($10.75) is made with 100 percent Blue Agave Jimador Reposado tequila, fresh mango purée, habanero syrup and fresh lime juice. The kicker (and I mean that literally)? The chile-salt rim. 816 W. Randolph St., Chicago, 312-455-8114

Depot Nuevo 

Sure, you could go Pomegranate. But the Cucumber Avocado Margarita ($10), concocted with Calle 23 Blanco tequila, Patrón Citrónge, fresh limonada and freshly muddled cucumber and avocado, is beautifully green and filled with herbaceous grace notes. 1139 Wilmette Ave., Wilmette, 847-251-3111

Frontera Grill 

Everyone seems to write about the Splurge Margarita ($35), which incorporates rare Riazul añejo tequila that’s been aged in Cognac barrels and topped with gold leaf. But for $14, you can still get that luxe feel with the Champagne Margarita, concocted from Herradura Añejo tequila, Torres orange liqueur, fresh lime, and bubbles courtesy of Piper-Heidsieck Brut. 449 N. Clark St., Chicago, 312-334-1434

Frontera Grill

Pictured: Frontera Grill’s Topolo Margarita

La Principal

The La Principal Margarita ($9), made with El Destilador Blanco Tequila, Mandarine Napoleon, agave syrup and fresh lime juice, just calls out for a side of chips and salsa. And another margarita. 700 Main St., Evanston, 224-307-2444

Libertad

Many of Libertad’s terrific drinks include Hum liqueur, an unusual — and delicious — botanical spirit infused with hibiscus, ginger root, green cardamom and kaffir lime. It’s especially effective in the Margarita Roja ($10), where it shares space in the glass with Zapopan tequila, house-made syrup and fresh lime juice. 7931 Lincoln Ave., Skokie, 847-674-8100

Mercadito

A little tart, a little herby, a bit vegetal … and pretty darn boozy. Try the Pepino el Pyu ($12.50), made with Hornitos blanco tequila, cucumber, lemon and hoja santa, finished with a cumin-salt rim. 108 W. Kinzie St., Chicago, 312-329-9555

Nacional 27

Here, they specialize in all manner of Latin cocktails, from mojitos to sangria. But the El Corazon ($12) has my heart: Avion reposado tequila mixes with tart pomegranate, passion fruit and blood orange juices. It’s a beautiful, deeply hued cocktail that’s surprisingly refreshing. 325 W. Huron St., Chicago, 312-664-2727

Nacional 27

Pictured: Nacional 27’s margarita

Nick’s Wilmette

I’m a fan of their Blood Orange Margarita ($10), made with Milagro tequila, Solerno blood orange liqueur, fresh lime juice and ruby red grapefruit juices, and just a touch of simple syrup. It really hits the spot, and the second one doesn’t feel too indulgent. At least that’s what I tell myself. 1168 Wilmette Ave., Wilmette, 847-251-3262

Summer House 

What better place to day-drink? The glass roof fills the room with sunshine, all the better to enjoy the Bonfire ($12), a slightly spicy blend of tequila, fresh pink grapefruit juice, spice, honey and Peychaud’s bitters. 1954 N. Halsted St., Chicago, 773-634-4100

Summer House

Pictured: Summer House’s Bonfire


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