Buzzed: The Great Margarita Hunt

From the August 2014 edition

Limepocalypse 2014 has at last abated, meaning it’s time to enjoy fresh lime juice and garnishes in the quintessential summer cocktail. Margaritas are amiable, to say the least, so grab a salt shaker and let our guide steer you to the right riff.

If you like a kick, try the jalapeno-infused Margarita at M ($12).

Head bartender Cris Dehlavi cooks jalapeno slices and agave nectar over low heat, which she strains and mixes with blanco tequila, lime juice and smoked sea salt. The end result is like barbecue in a glass. “When it gets to the back of your tongue, you get heat, but it’s not blinding,” she says.

If you’re a whiskey drinker, try the White Whiskey Margarita at El Camino Inn ($7).

No tequila here. Instead, general manager Brooke Gerig mixes Cointreau and citrus juices with Death’s Door white whiskey. (The spirit is double-distilled, then finished in uncharred oak barrels.) “It kind of has a sweet, agave-like taste,” she says of the whiskey. “Kind of like moonshine.”

If you like fruit-forward cocktails, try the Scioto Margarita at Strongwater Food and Spirits ($8).

Strawberry-infused blanco tequila, house-made lemon syrup and a dash of orange juice make for a tongue-in-cheek cocktail that’s more refreshing than sweet, says bar manager Tim Bartels. “All our drinks are inspired by the area,” he says. “Instead of enjoying a margarita by the beach, you’re enjoying it by the Scioto [River].”

If you like smokiness, try the barrel-aged Margarita at The Pearl ($10).

After 60 days in an oak barrel, blanco tequila and Cointreau develop entirely new character, says general manager Amberlyn Heiney. “Barrel-aging lends a beautiful, smooth, smoky flavor to the tequila,” she says. Add an ounce of lime juice, and “it becomes a simple, elegant drink.”