Cinco de Mayo festivities are right around the corner, and that means it’s time to prepare your liver for a marathon of tequila shots and sweet margarita sipping. To simplify your search on the big day, we rounded up the best restaurants and bars for margaritas in San Diego.
You can’t mess with a Jalapeño Cilantro Margarita at El Agave Tequileria, and you can’t call yourself a true San Diegan until you’ve thrown back a big daddy Cadillac Margarita from Casa Guadalajara. Outside Old Town, the tequila-chasing continues at En Fuego in Del Mar, El Callejon in Encinitas, La Puerta in the Gaslamp, and Ponce’s in Kensington. But don’t count out the trendy craft cocktail havens just yet. We discovered some tasty takes on margaritas at El Dorado, Gingham and Saltbox, just to name a few.
Discover the best spots for margaritas in San Diego.
El Agave Tequileria in Old Town
Serious tequila connoisseurs need look no further than El Agave, an Old Town staple that is home to a tequila museum with thousands of varieties. El Agave’s tequila menu features everything from 1800 Reposado, to 1810 Blanco, 4 Copas Blanco and 1810 Aged. For those who speak margarita, the El Agave pros have you covered with five unique concoctions, including a Chocolate Margarita. Our top picks are the Jalapeño Cilantro Margarita, made with El Agave Artesanal Silver tequila, lime juice, agave nectar, fresh jalapeño pepper, orange liqueur and cilantro leaves; and the Ginger Peace Margarita, made with El Agave Artesanal Reposado tequila, fresh pureed peaches, ginger syrup, lime juice, peace juice and lime wedges.
En Fuego Cantina & Grill in Del Mar
Del Mar’s go-to Mexican cantina by the beach, En Fuego offers 13 different types of margaritas, from superfruit-infused, to “skinny” varieties and even a marg made with Orange Bang. The signature En Fuego Margarita is a tangy mix of Herradura Double Barrel Reposado, fresh squeezed lime juice and Cointreau -- a simple yet trusted recipe. Or spice things up with The Mexican Burro, En Fuego’s take on the Moscow Mule, but made with Corralejo Blanco tequila, ginger ale and mint.
La Puerta in Downtown San Diego
A tequila tavern in the Gaslamp Quarter, La Puerta is known for a long list of delicious margaritas, best enjoyed during happy hour. There are over 12 varieties to try, including the margarita-sangria Purple Haze and the Angel of Harlem with hibiscus tequila and muddled strawberries. You can’t go wrong with the classic Whole Lotta Love, made with Milagro Reposado, agave nectar and fresh squeezed lime juice on the rocks with a salt rim. Upgrade to the Low Rider Cadillac Margarita, made with Gran Centenario Anejo, agave nectar, fresh squeezed lime juice and a float of Grand Marnier, served on the rocks with a salt rim.
Casa Guadalajara in Old Town
San Diegans swear by Casa Guadalajara, a Mexican food and spirits staple in Old Town. Guadalajara’s best selling margaritas are La Natural, made with Hornitos Reposado, fresh lime juice, lemon juice, agave nectar and triple sec; and the big daddy Cadillac Margarita, made with Sauza Hornitos, triple sec premium, sweet & sour and a floater of Grand Mariner served on the side.
Ponce’s Mexican Restaurant in Kensington
An unassuming neighborhood eatery with Mexican flair, Ponce’s serves one mean margarita. This Kensington spot boasts over 13 different types of margaritas, including the most extravagant, the Rio Grande made with Don Julio 1942 for $28 a pop. Mix it up with El Diablito, the little devil, made with Sauza Blanco tequila, Triple Sec, 100% pure pomegranate juice, fresh squeezed lime juice and sweet & sour. And you can’t go wrong with El Perfecto, made with Corralejo Reposado, equal parts Cointreau, Grand Mariner and sweet & sour, topped off with fresh squeezed lime juice and a splash of orange juice.
El Callejon in Encinitas
This festive North County restaurant serves traditional Mexican cuisine in downtown Encinitas, just blocks from the beach. But Enc locals love it most for the big bar menu of strong and spicy margaritas, served by the glass or the pitcher. Try the Crazy Horse Margarita, described as Mexico’s ultimate revenge of France, with Herradura Reposado tequila and Grand Mariner. Or upgrade to the 24 Karat Margarita, made with Peligroso Reposado tequila and a splash of sweet pomegranate liqueur.
El Dorado Cocktail Loungein East Village
El Dorado puts a sophisticated craft spin on its margarita-style cocktail. El Pepino is a tequila gimlet with muddled cucumber, simple syrup and cracked salt. You won’t find this summer 2011 cocktail on the menu this year, but bartenders will always make the popular marg for in-the-know patrons, as long as the goods are in stock. Check back for details on El Dorado’s annual Cinco de Mayo bash, the must-hit party for hipster society.
Beaumont’s in La Jolla
Our favorite Bird Rock neighborhood eatery, Beaumont’s is known for a sweet and spicy pineapple margarita named after the establishment’s bartender Jr. David, not to be confused with Big David, the owner. Jr.’s Spicy Pineapple Margarita is made with habanero infused reposado tequila, fresh squeezed lime juice and fresh pineapple. More traditional drinkers can also order the Cadillac Margarita, served with a side shot of Grand Mariner to add at your leisure.
Indigo Grillin Little Italy
Chef Deborah Scott’s Indigo Grill is known for creative cuisine in super-size portions. But it’s time to pay attention to Indigo’s serious cocktail menu. Try the Blueberry Pomegranate Margarita, made with tequila, triple sec, lime and blueberry-pomegranate juice. For a classic taste, order Dos Ojos, a mix of Herradura Reposado, Citronge, sweet & sour, muddled lime and a salt rim. Or, dare to drink Oaxaca Fire -- tequila and triple sec with Thai chili, lime, sweet & sour and a salt and pepper rim.
Gingham in La Mesa
Leave it to the Snake Oil Cocktail Co. crew to mix up the traditional margarita blend. And we’re not complaining. Now served at Gingham, Brian Malarkey and James Brennan’s hot new La Mesa restaurant, the Popcorn Margarita is made with 100% blue agave tequila infused with freshly popped popcorn done in house, mixed with pressed lime and agave nectar.
Saltbox in Downtown San Diego
The face of dining and drinking at the Palomar Hotel, Saltbox boasts a constantly-changing cocktail menu crafted by mixologist Erin Williams. You may get lost on the massive menu, so let us lead you to the Pimientos Dulces, made with Herradura silver tequila, Cointreau, lime, muddled yellow peppers and cucumbers.
Obviously, there are more great spots for margaritas in San Diego. Comment with your top picks!