Margaritas

The Marvelous Margarita

Margaritas.

Margaritas.
Photography by Getty Images.

Santa Fe's signature cocktail stands out from the crowd.

By Ashley M. Biggers

Natalie Bovis, aka The Liquid Muse (theliquidmuse.com), knows a thing or two about margaritas. She teaches cocktail classes, consults, and founded the NM Cocktails & Culture Culinary Festival. She says the beginnings of Santa Fe's must-order drink are murky. It's been linked to a Ciudad Juárez bartender, a Texas socialite, and a cocktail called the Picador at a bar in London. "Basically, we know that tequila was popularized in the U.S. during Prohibition, from 1920 to 1933, when whiskies and gin from the East Coast were harder to get. Folks along the border started sneaking in mezcal and tequila from Mexico," she says of the rise of the margarita.

Best of the Best

Bovis' three favorite Santa Fe margaritas are: the Silver Coin Margarita at the Inn of the Anasazi (rosewoodhotels.com), the Salty Señorita at Coyote Café (coyotecafe.com), and the Beachside Margarita at Eloisa (eloisasantafe.com). For more margs, follow the Santa Fe Margarita Trail, with more than 30 stops across The City Different.

Margarita ingredients

Margarita ingredients.
Photograph by Sergio Salvador.

Anatomy of the Cocktail

The margarita (meaning "daisy" in Spanish) is a deceptively simple drink. The basic recipe is a mixture of a mezcal spirit, citrus, sweetness, and orange liqueur. It's served shaken with ice, blended with or without ice, often with the option of a salt-rimmed glass. The quality of the spirits and minor variations in the hands of inventive mixologists make all the difference.

Tequila
This is the essential margarita spirit. Tequila is a variety of mezcal, an agave spirit. To be labeled tequila, the spirit must be purely made from blue agave. Only five regions in Mexico make tequila: Jalisco, Nayarit, Michoacán, Guanajuato, and Tamaulipas. "Tequila, typically, is not smoky, the way we think of mezcal, because it is baked in an oven," says spirits expert Natalie Bovis.

Orange Liqueur
This can be either triple sec or curaçao, depending on the bartender's preference. Cointreau and Grand Marnier are two of the best-known brands.

Agave Nectar
This sweet addition balances the citrus.

Lime Juice
This citrus hit highlights the tequila's flavor and makes the drink oh-so refreshing. Many mixologists vary this citrus component, such as using pineapple or blood orange instead of lime.