One might think that National Margarita Day would fall sometime during the warmer months, but with the abnormal spike in temperatures lately, it almost seems fitting. Whether you’re an on-the-rocks type of person, or a fan of fancy tequila drinks garnished with chili flakes and pineapple wedges, the local bar scene offers plenty of ways to partake on February 22.
Among the city’s many margarita purveyors is Alma Cocina Latina, a Canton spot that pays homage to owner Irena Stein’s roots in Venezuela (which just received a rave review from The Washington Post's Tom Sietsema.) In addition to the decor and cuisine, the restaurant’s Latin American vibe also shines through in its cocktail list, which boasts a signature “La Isla” house margarita made with barrel-aged tequila, lime juice, fresh agave nectar, and orange liqueur.
“A better-end tequila is imperative when you’re working with a cocktail of such simplicity,” says Alma’s bar manager Alex Higdon. “Classic cocktails like margaritas have become so famous over the years that big corporations have kind of bastardized them. They’ve lost those quality ingredients that initially made them famous.”
In addition to the use of fresh ingredients, Higdon attributes the uniqueness of Alma’s margarita to its rim—a half-and-half dusting of salt and chipotle sodium seasoning.
“It gives it a nice spicy flavor that isn’t overwhelming,” he says. “That blended with the tequila and the tartness of the agave plant and lime juice turns it into something really beautiful.”
In celebration of the national holiday, spice up your average hump-day happy hour by heading to any one of these local watering holes.
Clavel: From the interior greenery to the house-made tortillas, everything about this Remington hangout is meant to mimic the atmosphere of owner Lane Harlan’s beloved Oaxaca, Mexico. The top-notch beverage program—which makes use of house-grown ingredients like hibiscus and squash flowers—features a collection of unique margaritas including a fresh cilantro honey version and the signature “Mezcalita” garnished with grasshopper salt. 225 W. 23rd St., 443-900-8983
Barcocina: Follow the Fells Point cobblestone to this waterfront hangout, which pairs its signature dips and tacos with a menu of refreshing cocktails. Aside from the house margaritas on tap, the bar crafts sips including “Rosemary’s Margarita” (crystal tequila, rhubarb liqueur, and agave nectar), and a smoky margarita that fuses mezcal, Cointreau triple sec, and house-made sour mix. 1629 Thames St., 410-563-8800
Blue Agave: This Federal Hill favorite is an ideal spot to catch up with friends over classic margaritas on the rocks and a basket of house-fried tortilla chips. To switch things up, sample flavors such as mango, prickly pear, pomegranate, red pepper, or the “Spicy Guavarita” mixed with guava syrup and a splash of pineapple juice. If you’re really feeling adventurous, go for the restaurant’s signature “Agave Shipwreck”—a 42-oz. frozen house margarita blended with blue Curaçao. 1032 Light St., 410-576-3938
Johnny Sanchez: Equipped with a tequila tasting room showcasing more than 45 varieties, this hangout inside Horseshoe Casino Baltimore has become a go-to for barflies in search of authentic margaritas. The brainchild of Food Network personalities John Besh and Aarón Sánchez features an impressive list of cocktails at the bar, including the “High-Roller Margarita” (Cazadores Añejo tequila, Grand Marnier, lime, orange, agave), the “Margarita de Jamaica” (Olmeca Altos tequila, sweet hibiscus purée, lime, lemon, and agave), and even a roasted-jalapeño iteration made with Cazadores Blanco tequila. 1525 Russell St., 443-931-4575
La Food Marketa: There’s no shortage of Spanglish fare at this Baltimore County newbie located in Pikesville’s Quarry Lake at Greenspring. Chef Chad Gauss’s spinoff of The Food Market in Hampden boasts a beverage list highlighting everything from draft beer and Mexican sodas to mojitos and sangrias. But the restaurant’s margarita menu—featuring classic, cranberry-orange, and spicy grilled pineapple varieties that can be ordered by the glass or pitcher—is the true claim to fame. 2620 Quarry Lake Drive, Pikesville, 410-415-0606
La Tolteca: With locations scattered everywhere from Canton to Bel Air, this casual cantina has become a go-to for diners across the state. Marvel at the Mexican murals while chowing down on cultural classics like nachos, burritos, and deluxe salads. Be sure to wash it all down with massive strawberry, raspberry, peach, mango, coconut, or lime-flavored margaritas. Multiple locations including 2324 Boston St., 410-617-0959
Nacho Mama’s: This Canton Square stalwart, which recently debuted a second location in Towson, has a longstanding reputation for putting its own Baltimore spin on the classic Mexican cantina. But aside from the crab quesadillas, Orange Crushes, and Natty Boh tallboys, the restaurant’s true specialty is its hubcap margarita. In keeping with the Elvis-themed interior, the drinks—served in actual hubcaps—come in varieties like the “Graceland” (house tequila, triple sec, lime margarita mix), the “Blue Suede Shoes” (El Jimador and blue Curaçao), the “Priscilla” (Don Julio Blanco, Cointreau triple sec, and lime juice), and the “Memphis Mafia” that combines Jose Cuervo and Grand Marnier. Multiple locations including 2907 O’Donnell St., 410-675-0898
Papi’s Tacos: There’s something for everyone at this Fells Point taco joint, which showcases a lengthy list of unique margarita flavors including passion fruit, watermelon, peach, cheesecake, and pineapple chili. A special “Margaritas Locos” menu lists drinks like a jalapeño-infused “Rita En Fuego,” and a “Cinnamon-Peach Rita” that combines cinnamon tequila and peach schnapps. 1703 Aliceanna St., 410-299-8480
Points South Latin Kitchen: Travel to South America by way of Fells Point at this festive destination, which offers plenty of beverages to pair with its flavorful dishes. In addition to a collection of pre-bottled house cocktails, the bar serves a signature Minas Margarita (El Jimador, agave, and Cedilla acai liqueur,) as well as a spicy chili version with chili flakes, Grand Marnier, and fresh lime. 1640 Thames St., 443-563-2018
Zen West: This York Road haunt, located just a stone’s throw away from Belvedere Square, is known for its strong sips and tasty Tex-Mex plates. Line your stomach with eats like Texas chili, fajitas, and quesadillas before downing a blood-orange margarita, cranberry-infused “Mamacita” margarita, or the bar’s signature “Sangrita”—a frozen house margarita swimming in sangria. 5916 York Road, 410-323-3368