Celebrating Cinco de Mayo: Tweaking the Margarita

Sol

Image: Sol Cantina Margaritas

It’s hard to argue with the dominance of the Margarita as America’s favorite cocktail. Now that Cinco de Mayo is coming around, numerous bars and restaurants are taking a more creative approach to the iconic beverage. Inspiration comes from anywhere, and it’s important these days to offer new options to keep guests interested.

At Sol Cocina in Playa Vista, California, the classic citrus-based tequila cocktail gets way more than the standard treatment by way of the skills of beverage director Colin Pflugradt. There is the popular Blackberry Ginger Margarita crafted with fresh blackberries and ginger muddled together with Partida blanco tequila, fresh lime juice and agave nectar, the Mango Con Chile Frozen Margarita made with mango puree and served with a dried chile-mango garnish, the Cucumber Jalapeño Margarita, and the Pineapple Serrano Margarita. In addition, a rotational Farmer’s Market Margarita is always mixed with local produce. The April selection features strawberry and mint, and raspberry and peach are around the corner for May.

In Washington, DC, the two El Centro D.F. restaurant locations were inspired by the annual cherry blossom craze. The result was the Cherry Blossom Margarita, made from a combination of Gran Centenario Rosangel tequila, cherry simple syrup, house-made sour mix and fresh lime, garnished with pink Himalayan salt.

Margarita variants certainly reign at the 127 AMC Theatres serving beverage alcohol.

“Margaritas account for 34% of all our spirits sales, and it’s the top selling drink year round, with the top tier accounting for about half of our total Margarita revenue,” says Frank Lewis, director of alcohol food and beverage for AMC. “It’s always been a strong category for us, and lately we’ve really focused on giving guests choice to have option to go premium.”

Lewis recently shifted from blender-made Margaritas to frozen machines, with the house Margarita made with Cuervo and two higher end versions made with either Patrón or Avión Añejo. All get fresh squeezed lime juice and agave nectar, with the premium Margaritas only offered on the rocks. In the house tier, strawberry and mango Margaritas are available, but the ultra-premium Watermelon Mist Margarita outsells the strawberry almost 2 to 1, says Lewis.

Cinco de Mayo isn’t all about Margaritas, and the specialty michelada served at Succotash by beverage director Brook Vandecar is off the charts intriguing. Called the fiery Gochujang Michelada, the namesake is a fermented red chili sauce common in Korean cuisine that’s traditionally used in rice dishes or melted into soups and stews. Vandecar combines bourbon (in homage to Chef Edward Lee’s Southern style), Gochujang sauce, lime juice, orange juice, Worcestershire sauce and honey in a base that’s mixed with a Belgian style Tripel.