07.22.2016 | posted 1 year, 9 months ago
Ready for National Tequila Day?
The answer is always yes. With National Tequila Day coming up on July 24th, it’s time to brush up on your knowledge of everyone’s favorite agave concoction: the margarita. From its first appearance, the standard margarita—the name translates to “daisy” in Spanish—consists of lime juice, triple sec, salt, and naturally, tequila. While the original formula is certainly still enjoyed nationwide, various bartenders have mixed watermelons, crushed ice, jalapenos, and other ingredients into the recipe to create exotic takes on the adored cocktail. And whether you prefer fruity flavors or the straight-up original, there’s no better place to find a margarita than downtown New York City. Below, you’ll find the seven best places to grab one for yourself.
Tijuana Picnic may be a relative newcomer in the Lower East Side, but it’s the result of time-tested experience. The Mexican restaurant was opened in late 2014 by the veterans behind upscale fusion hotspots Acme and Indochine. By comparison, Tijuana Picnic is a more focused affair—and by that, we mean it’s faithful to straight-up Mexican fare. So naturally, the cocktail menu is based around agave drinks— which includes the Mi Casa Margarita: an earthy twist on the traditional marg involving mezcal and a smoked salt rim.
151 Essex Street, New York, NY 10002. (212) 219-2000
If you took a survey of locals around downtown on where to eat, you might think that La Esquina is the only restaurant in SoHo. Yes, it benefits from being conveniently planted at the very bottom of the neighborhood; yes, it’s the perfect vantage point to scout downtown’s prettiest passersby, but what really makes the place so popular is, well, the top-notch food and drink. With summer in full effect, there’s no better place to catch a margarita than an outdoor table at La Esquina’s brasserie—if you’re lucky enough to nab one. The extensive selection of tequila makes picking one for your margarita tricky at best, but the unparalleled street-level view of New York City is well worth the time you’ll spend there.
114 Kenmare St, New York, NY 10012. (646) 613-7100
You’ll be happily surprised to find there’s no catch to Barrio Chino’s unassuming, rustic interior: the focus here is all on the food. The name is similarly straightforward: it translates to “Chinese Neighborhood” from Spanish, which makes sense given the restaurant’s location at the convex of Chinese and Spanish-speaking neighborhoods. It’s a crash course in authenticity from both sides of the spectrum—and for your first lesson, try one of Barrio Chino’s infused tequilas. Our suggestion is one of the jalapeno or habanero-infused options, which are sure to add a kick to your weekday night. Or afternoon, if you need a kick earlier.
253 Broome St, New York, NY 10002. (212) 228-6710
If you’re looking for something a bit more refined, TriBeCa’s Añejo is the first place to stop for Mexican food downtown. The same culinary prowess that made the original Añejo in Hell’s Kitchen such a success has been successfully duplicated just steps away from our own SoHo Grand. The airy interior is a chic combination of reclaimed wood, oversized glass panes, and brick—and the Lemonita margarita is the perfect pairing for such a spot. Lightweight on the palate, the drink is combines premium tequila with lemon and the finest of triple secs, Cointreau, to make a refreshing, citrusy twist to the standard combo.
301 Church Street, New York, NY 10013. (212) 920-6270
Mayahuel doesn’t have a margarita listed on its menu, but that’s not to say the restaurant doesn’t know it’s way around tequilas and mezcals. Actually, the cocktail bar was conceived by star mixologist Philip Ward—who helped open bartender favorite Death & Co.—so you’re in good hands at this low-key East Village lounge. Really, Ward and his bar staff are simply too creative to concoct your standard tequila fare. Instead, you’ll find complicated takes such as the Division Bell, which fuses mezcal, aperol, maraschino, lime, and grapefruit zest—meant as a boozy interpretation of Mexican agua frescas. And really, that’s just the tip of the rocky ice cube, too, so prepare your palate for a long night of funky flavors that you won’t find anywhere else.
304 E 6th St, New York, NY 10003. (212) 253-5888
Like the great modernists did in literature, hotshot downtown chef Danny Bowien specializes in warping the very fibers of familiar cuisine. His Mexican restaurant, Mission Cantina, is a prime example of that style. The interior is like a seedy Chinese cafeteria as it would appear on Saved by the Bell—that is, there’s no shortage of neon colors, plexiglass, or trendy funseekers lining the chamber. In terms of drinks too, Mission Cantina offers surprisingly relatable, yet innovative infusions. Start with the frozen margarita, which abandons triple sec in favor of desert-y pomegranate and prickly pear—sweet ingredients you didn’t know you liked until you saw them on the menu.
172 Orchard Street, New York, NY 10002. (212) 254-2233
Gilligan’s, at our very own SoHo Grand hotel, isn’t a Mexican restaurant. But restauranteurs Nick Hatsatouris and Lincoln Pilcher understand the power of seasonal ingredients—and what’s more seasonal than watermelon and tequila? The Watermelon Margarita has been a staple in the menu since the eatery first popped up in 2012—and has kept the after-work crowd and perpetual weekenders coming back for four seasons. Seriously, they’re that good. This year, the watermelon is ripe, and the mason jars are still perfectly frozen, meaning you’ll be stirring one (or a couple) of these delicious concoctions long after the hot sun goes sets.
Words by Josh Davis