Buzzed: The Great Margarita Hunt

Anthony Dominic
White Whiskey Margarita at El Camino Inn

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.

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.

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."

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]."

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."