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Mix Masters

Local bars put their own spin on the margarita

Historically in Texas, it's been the Mexican restaurants staking claim on the most-loved margaritas. But these days local bars of all stripes are serving up unique versions of the classic cocktail.

Mix Masters
Salt Bar frozen margarita

Owned and operated by a group of self-proclaimed "cocktail freaks," Anvil Bar & Refuge is a local institution known for its artfully-prepared libations made with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. Housed in a 1950s tire store, Anvil's concept emphasizes a by-gone era, where elegant simplicity and craftsmanship rein supreme - evident in everything from the house-made bitters and infusions to the vintage stemware. But the real question? How does it take on the margarita? Simple. Orange liquor, 100 percent blue agave tequila, and lime. Served up. No salt. But true to form, Anvil raises the bar - with ice. Crushed is no good. It dilutes a cocktail in the shaking. Rather, these mixologists use hard, cubed, slow-melting ice, that, when shaken, holds up. Double-strained into a champagne coupe, this is one rita that doesn't disappoint.

Silver tequila, lemon and lime juice, a little cucumber and mint and the all-important agave. It's a simple recipe for a great tasting cucumber mint margarita at El Big Bad. This newish Downtown Mexican eatery is known for its wide selection of tequilas. Sip the cucumber mint or the blueberry jalapeno cilantro on upstairs balcony overlooking the Theater District.

For authentic regional Mexican cuisine, head to Montrose’s Hugo’s. The award-winning spot is known for its refined Mexico City classics, Latin-inspired interior and expansive margarita selection. With more than 40 tequilas on offer, Hugo’s is serious about its cocktails. Revelers can’t go wrong with sommelier Sean Beck’s El Sueno Profundo (“the big sleep”) made with smoky mescal or the Hugorita. The latter, made tableside, shines with freshly-squeeze lime juice, Sauza silver tequila, Hiram Walker triple sec and simple syrup. 

The Original Ninfa's is a storied establishment in Houston, the spot where Mama Ninfa popularized fajitas and launched a restaurant empire. The original location on Navigation Boulevard in East Houston retains much of the charm that Mama Ninfa instilled more than four decades ago. We recommend you try the Ninfarita, the restaurant's own proprietary recipe using 100% agave tequila blanco. Those looking for something a little different can order the jalapeno habanero version of the classic concoction.

The Pastry War is itself a bar dedicated to tequila and mezcal. What better place than this to get a specialty margarita? Try the strawberry balsamic version for a taste you'll only find here. All of the drinks at Pastry War are made with fresh juices and the best tequila and mezcal from South of the Border. Curious about the name? The Pastry War was actual a Franco-Mexican conflict in the 1800s stemming from what the French thought was unfair treatment of its citizens in Mexico. You'll find no conflict here though, just a mellow, Mexico City-inspired space with a Dia de los Muertos motif.

Bellaire’s Pico’s Mex-Mexhas been serving up regional cuisine to the masses since 1984. There, Chef Arnaldo Richards offers the same food he grew up eating—dishes likefresh seafood enchiladas and pollo pibil (marinated chicken wrapped in and baked in banana leaves), though the fare isn’t the only thing keeping regulars returning. Insiders know the old-school spot is the place to go for Texas-sized PicoRitas. The 48-ounce drink is made with your choice of 100% Agave Silver or Reposado Tequila and comes served frozen or on the rocks for a cool $15.

Its name pays homage to one of the world's fastest growing spirits-and the base ingredient for any margarita worth its salt. TQLA is gaining a rep on Washington Avenue as a celebration spot with its tequila bottle tiki torches and Coastal Mexican menu. Mixologists here know a thing or two about crafting the right infusions for cocktails, martinis and of course margaritas. There are several variations on the classic here, but TQLA's original margarita is a thing of unpretentious beauty. Alteno Reposado, orange liqueur and fresh lime juice combine for a simple, yet exquisite taste.

 

By Natalie Bogan Morgan