Growing up in South Florida, citrus and fruity cocktails were a way of life: Dare I admit this, but in that part of the country, only old men drank whiskey, and instead of my current go-to whiskey-based cocktails of choice, I once solely imbibed sugary frozen daiquiris made of tequila or rum. (There was a framed margarita recipe with a picture of the cocktail hung on my Aunt Margie’s apartment wall.)
And, so, I feel no remorse in my confession that I still adore a good margarita, frozen or on the rocks, particularly when there’s an excuse to do so. Cinco de Mayo, here I come!
Everyone remembers that first beloved Mexican bar where we discovered our love for frozen margaritas (and, subsequently, brain freezes and hangovers). For me, Mexican Radio in NoLita is uncannily reminiscent of such place, which its frozen margaritas poured from large, Slurpee-style machines. Got lots of friends helping to celebrate the fiesta? The spot’s own margaritas are offered by the pitcher and serve seven glasses. Frozen margaritas come in seven flavors, including a three-layered Cinco de Mayo (made with raspberry/black cherry, lime, and blue curaçao mixed with mango) to resemble the Mexican flag. Olé!
Whenever I’m in the Bowery, there’s a mandatory stop into Hecho en Dumbo. Sure, it has traditional margaritas (and they’re pretty tasty, mind you), but why not shake things up with the Pantera Rosa? Translated to "Pink Panther," this margarita spin-off is prepared with serrano-infused tequila, fresh grapefruit juice, and St. Germain. It’s perfected this beautiful balance of spice to invoke heat without ruining those taste buds for other cocktails. For Cinco de Mayo, the spot is offering its $7 margarita happy hour, a $35 bottomless brunch that includes one hour of open bar, and a mariachi band starting at 2 p.m.
At Barrio Chino, a small Mexican bar and eatery in the Lower East Side, there’s almost always a wait, but only because the margaritas here truly are worth it. It boasts a dozen, made-to-order margarita flavors — hand-written on cut-outs of used cardboard boxes — ranging from traditional or crowd-pleasers varieties (top-shelf, fresh grapefruit, elderflower) to more unusual ones (habanero-infused tequila mixed with fresh grapefruit, strawberry-infused vanilla). So what if there’s an hour-plus wait at 7 p.m. on a Tuesday? One sip of that first margarita is patience well rewarded.
Located on Franklin Avenue in the heart of the up-and-coming area of Crown Heights, Chavela’s gorgeous bar is covered in colorful, Mexican-style tiles and makes you want to stay for hours, especially when the spot offers its traditional and fresh fruit margaritas (served on draft) by the pitcher, as well as by the glass. My personal favorite is the Don Pepino, made with cucumber, cilantro, and tajin (Mexican seasoning with chiles, lime and salt). Delicious!
Once spring hits, one of my favorite go-to bars in Brooklyn is Habana Outpost. This seasonal locale in Fort Greene has just reopened for the warm weather, and though it now offers an indoor space next door, the real attraction here is drinking outdoors, basking in the sunshine on its spacious picnic seating area. Frozen margaritas here are solid, but if you want a real treat, try its morita, a refreshing marriage of a frozen lime margarita and minty mojito. Hungry? Don’t miss the elote — a Mexican version of corn on the cob covered in mayo, cotija cheese, chili powder, and lime.