I’m all for drink specials, but there’s a time and place for dollar margaritas. Today is not one of them. The craft cocktail revolution is charging ahead full force, and the best bartenders are serving up everything from five-star, classic lime margaritas to more inventive takes on the traditional favorite. I drank my way through McAllen in search of creative concoctions that make a play on the day drinking mainstay.
INFUSIONS EATS & DRINKS – 701 N. Main
The always inventive bar staff at Infusions doesn’t disappoint with its margarita. From its vibrant orange Carrot Margarita to the herb-infused Rosemary Pepperita, Infusions reinvents the classic cocktail while still keeping it true to its roots. Its popular Carrot Margarita is made with fresh-juiced carrot, lime, agave nectar, tequila, triple sec and finished off with a chamoy and Trechas laced rim. If you want to reward your taste buds with something a little more fiery, try the Rosemary Pepperita made with its house-infused jalapeno cilantro tequila, triple sec, rosemary-infused agave nectar with a salted rim and sprig of rosemary garnish. Infusions may have the best marg selection in the city, so don’t be surprised with the number of margaritas you will inevitably consume, and by consume I mean obliterate…and by obliterate I mean drink like a responsible adult.
Inside Info: The rosemary is sourced from Infusion’s on-site herb garden.
EUROPA CUISINE & ENTERTAINMENT – 5112 W. Exp 83
Since opening late 2016, this newcomer has been a beacon for upscale eats and entertainment, but don’t sleep on Europa as a solid drinks destination. The Passion Beach Margarita is a local favorite for a reason, and it’s made with tequila, house made pineapple syrup, triple sec and passion fruit nectar with a Trechas-salted rim. It’s mouthwateringly good, and it’s the perfect balance of sweet, tangy and tequila. For a more citrusy bite, opt for the Berry Paloma that comes with tequila, lime, grapefruit and house made strawberry syrup. The name says berry, but make no mistake, grapefruit takes center stage in this symphony of flavors.
BOKA 400 – 400 W. Nolana Ave
Boka 400 is another newcomer in the food and drink biz. It offers upscale eats in a casual dining environment, but its cocktail program should not be overlooked. Boka makes the margarita its own with the Margarita la Negra Tomasa, a secret house recipe served in what can only be described as a giant martini glass and has a purple tint so dark it almost looks black. I opted for the Taman Rita instead, which combines the savory flavor of fresh tamarind syrup to the traditional suspects in a margarita recipe lineup and is surprisingly a very good sipper. If you’re looking for a marg spin-off, go for the Paloma de Mercado made with mezcal, lime, and house made tajin soda. It’s equally tasty as it is boozy.
BODEGA TAVERN & KITCHEN – 2901 N. 10th
If you’re a fan of craft cocktails and you haven’t bellied up to the bar at Bodega, you’ve been living a lie. There’s a reason why the world “tavern” precedes “kitchen” in the name of this social gathering watering hole/restaurant. The bar staff at Bodega knows what it’s doing, and it takes tequila and mezcal as serious as most bartenders do bourbon. In the famous Oaxacan Rose, Bodega trades out tequila for mezcal and adds prickly pear, fresh lime juice and simple syrup to the mix. This may not be the purist’s definition of a margarita, but you’d be doing yourself and your country a disservice if you pass on this powerful cocktail. The pink-hued drink is sweet and sour, strong and drinkable; the way a margarita is meant to be. Try or die.
Pro Tip: Bodega has all day happy hour every Tuesday with drink specials and fresh Gulf oysters for a dollar, making it the perfect chaser for a hybrid margarita.
COSTA MESSA – 5248 N. 10th St
A blog about the best margaritas would not be complete without including a Mexican restaurant on the list, and it’s hard to beat the cocteles at Costa Messa. It serves its margs with pride and variety and enough tequila to knock out a small burro. The Diablita Margarita is the best of the bunch, but don’t let its diabolical moniker scare you away. The spiciness in this frozen favorite with a Trechas-laced rim comes from chamoy and tamarindo, and when combined with a traditional lime margarita, the specialty cocktail is balanced but boisterous.
Pro-Tip: Try the $8 margarita paddle, where you can try four different flavors and make your move from there.
When summer begins to unleash its unforgiving fury, head to one of these watering holes and cool off with an innovative take on the traditional day-drinking favorite.