Cinco de Mayo is a good a time to toast our neighbors to the south. Although this drink pairs better with warm weather, just imagine a little sand between the toes. Quality can be hard to find, so what makes a good margarita? The right tequila can make a huge difference between a memorable margarita and one better forgotten. The character of the tequila should match the margarita; citrus tequilas should be used for traditional margaritas and smoky tequilas will stand up nicely to a spicy jalapeño margarita. There are no shortages of hot spots in Denver for a top-notch margarita with overwhelming character.
Lola Coastal Mexican
1575 Boulder St.
Denver, CO 80211
Hours: Mon to Thurs – 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., Fri – 4 p.m. to 12 a.m., Sat – 10 a.m. to 12 a.m., Sun – 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Lola’s and downstairs bar, BeLoLa, are the next best thing to buying a plane ticket to Mexico for serious margarita drinking. Jimmy Zanon, Lola’s master mixologist, uses a 2:1:1 ratio of tequila, lime juice and orange liqueur, with a hint of agave. Lola specializes in Coin-Style Margaritas, made with silver tequila and Citronage liqueur. Zanon prefers El Tesoro, Casa Noble and Republic tequilas for their quality, flavor and maintenance behind the harvest and production process.
Margs Taco Bistro
1519 Wynkoop St.
Denver, CO 80202
Hours: Mon to Thurs – 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Fri – 11 a.m. to 12 a.m., Sat – 12 p.m. to 11 p.m., Sun – 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.
If you like margaritas with some fruit and global nuance, try Margs Taco Bistro in LoDo. Margs specializes in margaritas infused with flavors like peach, pomegranate, blueberry, habanero, prickly pear, vanilla coconut and kiwi-jalapeño. Any of these delicious margaritas can be paired with their expansive taco options including Italian inspired Caprese, Asian, Vietnamese Banh Mi, Moroccan, Calle, Ninja and Philly Steak.
Related: Top Mexican Food In Denver
1525 Blake St.
Denver, CO 80202
Hours: Open daily at 11 a.m., Sun to Thur – Last call varies, Fri and Sat – Last call is midnight
Say margarita, and most Coloradans will say Rio. Since 1986, the Rio has been serving potent schooners of margaritas up and down the front range and Steamboat Springs. While the margarita recipe is locked in the vaulted mind of its bartenders, the Rio’s margaritas are more about the tequila than the lime or orange liquor. They’ve mastered the ratio of a little lime juice with a lot of tequila, hence the Rio limit of 3 per customer. Their margaritas are big enough to wash down an ample platter of Rio’s Tex-Mex food, and the restaurant just added opened-faced tacos to its menu with adobo chicken, braised pork and tequila shrimp.
8919 Park Meadows Center Drive
Lone Tree, CO 80124
Hours: Sun to Thurs – 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fri and Sat – 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Happy hour is an all-night affair at La Sandia in Park Meadows, where $5 will get you a spicy orange margarita with chile-serrano infused tequila or a flight of three tequilas for $8. Manny Flores, La Sandia’s Director of Operations, uses freshly squeezed citrus juices and 100% blue agave tequila. Typically, two ounces of blue agave tequila with three ounces of freshly squeezed citrus juice is the perfect balance. The bar also features a Wednesday tequila night and $10 flight and drink specials. La Sandia offers bottomless guacamole on weekdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., $5 per table of four.
Zolo Southwestern Grill
2525 Arapahoe Ave
Boulder, CO 80302
Hours: Tues to Sat – 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sun and Mon – 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Zolo’s bar menu is a lesson in tequila. With a lengthy list of blancos, reposados and anejos, you will find the freshest selection of margaritas and tequila-based cocktails. Brian Selbitschka, Zolo’s bar manager, uses a two year Casa Noble Anejo for a caramel-vanilla, oak-aged margarita. Republic Tequila Blanco creates a bright citrus, peppery margarita. For an everyday margarita, Zolos uses Corrido Reposado for its oak aged flavors and herbaceous agave. Zolo’s signature cocktails let the imagination run wild with drinks like the Campfire, made with scorpion joven mezcal, Dos Manos blanco, agave, fresh lime and a smoked salt rim. The food menu is just as unique, so take your time when ordering.
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Kimberly Lord Stewart is a food author and journalist for CBS Denver local, Organic Food Reporter for Examiner.com, and the Food, Wine and Spirits editor for Denver Life magazine. Her book, “Eating Between the Lines” tells readers about the truth and myths of food labeling. Stewart is the recipient of two Association of Food Journalist awards for food news reporting and the Jessie Neal Business Journalism award. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.