Margarita Madness

Sumptuous sipping, Taos-style

By Dena Miller

As one of the most popular – if not the most popular – cocktail on the planet, few adult beverages have the fan club the margarita has (cue: Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville”). The irresistible yet simple concoction of tequila, triple sec and fresh lime juice seems synonymous with sultry summer days and crisp autumn evenings, because, why not?   

The Gorge
Margaritas, a sweet pink prickly pear with lime wedge. and a tart grapefruit marg with jalapeño and grapefruit twists, both at the Gorge Bar & Grill on Taos Plaza. Morgan Timms/Taos News

So let’s agree there’s nothing like a perfect margarita to top off your day. And today’s bartenders are crafting it with fresh new ingredients and small-batch care that preserve the drink’s minimalist appeal, but with a twist – the sum becomes greater than its parts.

The Adobe Bar’s “Cowboy Buddha” at the Historic Taos Inn (125 Paseo del Pueblo Norte) is top-shelf, all the way. Besides being voted the Best Margarita by readers year after year, the “Cowboy Buddha” has an international fan base: Google it and see the five-star reviews from visitors around the world.

Taos Inn food and beverage director John O’Connor agrees, it’s the most requested cocktail on their menu.

“Herradura Silver tequila, Cointreau and fresh-squeezed lime is as classic as it gets,” O’Connor says. Salt or not is up to you.

But this year bartenders at the Inn have upped the game on their margarita menu with exciting new craft interpretations based on fresh house-made mixes. Try a Grateful Dead-inspired “I Need a Miracle” with pomegranate; or, if you’re feeling adventurous, “El Chupacabra” will wow your palate with the Inn’s house-infused pepper tequila.

“We believe in ‘keeping it local’ so we source only local honey and agáve, and like to stay with flavor profiles, like pr

The Lounge by Rolling Still Distillery (110 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, Ste. D) has a kickin’ “Root and Revel” offering composed of Tumbleroot Plata Agáve, serrano, habañero, poblano and papilla de Oaxaca peppers, lime and a salted rim. In door or out, in fine weather, the big patio offers great views of the main drag.ickly pear, that are synonymous with the Southwest,” O’Connor adds.

‘Root and Revel’ contains Tumbleroot Plata Agáve, serrano, habanero, poblano and pasilla de Oaxaca peppers, lime and a salt rim, all packaged up by The Lounge by Rolling Still Distillery (110 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, Suite d, opposite Historic Taos Inn).

Martyrs Steakhouse (146 Paseo del Pueblo Norte) has garnered a reputation for its “Signature Martyrs Margarita,” their own special riff on a Paloma. Instead of relying on grapefruit soda or sparkling water, Martyrs ups the ante with fresh-squeezed grapefruit and lime juice shaken with Espolon Blanca tequila, St. Germain elderflower liqueur and agáve nectar. It’s as refreshing – and potent – as it sounds.

Martyrs Steakhouse Morgan Timms/Taos News

If you’re torn between a margarita or a martini, try the “Honey Locust” margar-tini. Espolon Reposado, local honey simple syrup, fresh lemon and lime juice, and a honey-crystal chile salt rim make for an elegant presentation and an equally sumptuous sip.

The Gorge Bar & Grill (103 East Plaza), overlooking historic Taos Plaza, serves a variety of margaritas in addition to its “Original,” with Exotica Silver tequila, triple sec, house-made sweet and sour mix (featured in all their margaritas) and a splash of orange juice served in a tall glass with lots of ice.

Try one of their other popular selections including The Gorge’s house-infused Jimador Silver tequila with strawberries and triple sec, or the Jalapeño-Pineapple margarita made with Dano’s Jalapeno-Pineapple tequila. If you prefer a gold Reposado, order the “Grand Gold.” You won’t go wrong either way.

The Alley Cantina (121 Teresina Lane) at the northwest corner of the Plaza was just about to reopen off lockdown at press time and everyone is chomping at the bit for their speciality cocktails, like the “Tequila Crisp” cucumber-infused Espolon Tequila Blanco, St. Germain Elderflower liqeur, soda water and fresh lime; or “The Alley Speakeasy” with Taos Lightning rye, cognac, local absinthe, a splash of bitters, simple syrup and a twist of lemon.

The Alley Cantina
The Alley Cantina has a great selection of margaritas that will quench your thirst. Each one has its own unique taste that makes it hard to choose a favorite. Taos News file photo

Medley (100 State Road 150, El Prado) restaurant manager Summer Debue, says the signature “Medley Margarita” is gaining a loyal fan base since its introduction.

“Fresh lime and agáve make any margarita better,” Debue adds, but top-shelf spirits – in Medley’s case, Espolon Blanca and Grand Marnier – make for a memorable cocktail. So does the unexpected: a cumin-salted rim, adding a Southwestern punch to Medley’s favorite sip.

While at Medley, you may want to run into its adjacent wine shop, where you can find all the fixings to make your margarita at home.

Medley wine shop manager George Looms – who by his own count has “made hundreds of thousands of margaritas in my lifetime” – said there are two things he turns to for a perfect at-home cocktail.

Morgan Timms/Taos News

“I recommend a silver tequila and, most important, one that is 100 percent agáve,” Looms said. “Two parts of tequila and one part of an orange liqueur, plus a squeeze of both lemon and lime to top it off will be just right. If you like a sweeter profile, you may want to add a bit of simple syrup but the orange liqueur should give you enough sweetness.”

It’s been said that tequila’s popularity north of the border exploded during Prohibition, but its appeal has certainly never waned. Raise your glass, toast the sunset and revel in fact you’re one of the lucky souls to
be in Taos