Food

The 10 Best Margaritas in NYC, 2015 Edition

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Margaritas spent a couple of decades in cocktail exile — they proliferated as a party drink, and most versions were candy-sweet, served in fishbowls, and strong enough to blow your face off. But the classic version of this drink is worth celebrating — it’s a nicely balanced mix of sweet, tart, and somewhat verdant flavors, a drink that makes nice sipping on a sun-bathed patio, or, hell, any other time you’d like. No matter how you like yours — frozen or on the rocks, with or without salt, flavor-infused or classic — New York rolls deep in worthy margaritas. Here are the ten best in the city.

Rosalita, Fonda (multiple locations)
Margaritas now come in a rainbow of variations. Some are great. Others are like the modern-day equivalent of a sour-apple martini — unbalanced and cloyingly sweet. Fonda offers the former, mixing a wide range of indigenous Mexican ingredients into its margaritas. The Rosalita, available frozen or on the rocks, blends the margarita and agua de jamaica (hibiscus tea); the drink is served in a glass with a hibiscus rim for an adult beverage that’s slightly sweet and refreshing, with a nice tequila bite. — Sara Ventiera

Margarita de Remolacha, Gran Electrica (5 Front Street, Brooklyn; 718-852-2700)
The bar at DUMBO’s Gran Electrica uses fresh beet juice in its margarita de remolacha ($13); the root vegetable dyes the cocktail a lustrous magenta and lends an earthy sweetness to the drink. It’s very easy to suck down three, despite the Pueblo Viejo blanco tequila and Combier. — Scarlett Lindeman

Fig margarita, Horchata (470 Avenue of the Americas, 212-243-8226)
The fig margarita at Horchata is a bright, rich, sweet-and-sour take on the beloved original. The drink combines fig syrup (basically black figs boiled down with sugar and water) with fresh lime, triple sec, and white tequila into a vigorously shaken mix that’s appropriately bracing with added depth. Pair it with an equally fresh guacamole speckled with green apples. Not into fig? Horchata has a list of margarita flavors that includes jalapeño cucumber, blood orange, pomegranate, and classic. — Jacqueline Raposo
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The Black Ant (60 Second Avenue, 212-598-0300)
This progressive Mexican restaurant from Ofrenda’s Jorge Guzman and chef Mario Hernandez has become a favorite of thrill-seeking food fans, who line up to crunch on grasshoppers and ants. Margaritas come by the glass or pitcher, traditional or mixed with fruits like mango, prickly pear, and cucumber. For spice lovers, there’s a version with jalapeño-infused tequila and a smoked salt rim. — Zachary Feldman

Smokey pomegranate margarita, Agave (140 Seventh Avenue South, 212-989-2100)
The search for exceptional Mexican cocktails can begin and end at Agave, the city’s premier tequila bar. It’s easy to get lost in the comprehensive list of tempting tipples, but the smoky pomegranate margarita merits immediate attention. Its distinctive allure begins with the tequila — a high-proof Joven from Casa Noble. The all-organic juice is a unique blend of triple-distilled blanco, with a barreled variety, aged in French oak. Into this base goes blood orange juice, agave nectar, pomegranate molasses, and Mandarine Napoléon — a citrus-laced cognac, on steroids. A rim of smoked gray salt is the coup de grâce, leaving all pedestrian margaritas dead to rights. — Brad Japhe

Rocking Horse Café (182 Eighth Avenue, 212-463-9511)
A Chelsea stalwart, Rocking Horse has been serving up killer margaritas to go with its ever-so-slightly refined Mexican food since the late Eighties. So cozy into a booth, order up some guac — which is served with warm, homemade tacos — and check out the list: blood orange and prickly pear get our vote, but the Don Caliente, made with orange-chile syrup, is a house favorite. Portions are generous and pours are deep. These cocktails are easy to drink and utterly lethal, but what a way to go. — Katherine Knowles

Avocado and cilantro, Javelina (119 East 18th Street, 212-539-0202)
Consider the margarita your consolation prize for enduring what could be a very long wait for a table at this Tex-Mex restaurant in Gramercy — all that tequila and lime should prime your palate for a little queso, anyway. More refined mixes come on the rocks (habanero peach, for example, or a margarita made from tomatillo), but the vibe of this spot suggests you should go with one of the half-dozen frozen flavors. We like the avocado and cilantro; the power food gives the drink a nice creamy texture while blunting the sharp edges of citrus and booze, while the herb adds a nice verdant pick-me-up to the end of the sip. This is as classy as a frozen margarita can be. — Laura Shunk
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Cosme (35 East 21st Street, 212-913-9659)
For the first few months of Enrique Olvera’s stateside debut, most folks clamoring for a table became well acquainted with the restaurant’s bar area, which initially only served an abbreviated menu. Luckily, the buzzy spot’s cocktails were a relative consolation, not just for the more freewheeling creations, but for its beautifully executed standards. Cosme’s margarita builds on a base of Siete Leguas tequila and a mix of Cointreau and Pierre Ferrand Curaçao. Smooth and refreshing, it’s a refined classic in the same vein as much of Olvera’s cooking. — Zachary Feldman

#steadytheship – happy #sunday #bloodymary #margarita #elcentronyc @nbenovitz @ellingram

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El Centro (824 Ninth Avenue, 646-763-6585)
Settle into dinner at Hell’s Kitchen classic El Centro, where you’ll be surrounded by a colorful collection of milagros (miniature aluminum decorations in a range of shapes, from cacti to parrots). Two drinks in, you’ll swear the parrots are winking at you. Margaritas pack a nice punch whether made with lime or infused with pomegranate, but stick with the classic frozen version for just the right kind of brain freeze to go with your chilaquiles. Plus, El Centro serves $5 “brunch” drinks all day till 4 p.m. — can’t go wrong there. — Katherine Knowles

Bronx Cheer, Lafayette (380 Lafayette Street, 212-533-3000)
A Mexican-inspired cocktail from a French-infused café is a bit of a head-scratcher, but Lafayette bends genres with finesse in the Bronx Cheer. The restaurant’s riff on a margarita is built around the vegetal, agave-forward notes of Maestro Dobel’s blanco tequila. The supporting cast supplants lime with lemon, with a touch of raspberry liqueur and Campari added for good measure. The end result maintains the familiarity of Mexico’s classic cocktail but delivers intrigue in the form of a bittersweet finish. — Brad Japhe



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