Ask the average collegian or cocktail connoisseur, and chances are, every one of them will tell you about a bad drinking experience. Whether things went wrong in the mixology or the method, or the frequency of consumption is subject to debate, believe it or not: the most commonly bad booze bender involves (you guessed it, Jimmy Buffett) margaritas. The reason for that is very simple: they’re often mixed on the cheap, with bad fruit and low-end tequila. But in Philly, of all places, there’s an odd brand of redemption on the horizon for those who worship that frozen concoction that helps them hang on…if not waste away. -Kevin Byrne
Aptly named for the Nabokov’s notorious temptress, this restaurant has the fitting distinction of being a BYOT (that’s “Bring Your Own Tequila,” boys and girls), a prospect that might seem rather dicey to the non-professional, given how un-policed consumption of blue agave nectar can actually trigger a seriously bad brand of memory loss. Yet when blended just right – and especially with the wonderful margarita mix concocted at this cantina – the overall experience is not only affordable but unforgettable (just don’t drink too many, or your evening could become the opposite of that). And whether you prefer your salted rims intercut with Cuervo or padded by Patron Silver, it doesn’t matter. You are not only free to pick your own poison, but bring it along for the (hopefully not too wild) ride.
You don’t have to be an engineer educated in the Ivy League to know that size does indeed matter in this life. And if you’re one of the thousands of undergrads to have ever gotten a gander at the gargantuan margaritas made at this Mexican hotspot on a nightly basis, you’ll know why … particularly on the following morning, if you happen to overdo it. Headquartered quite close to the University of Pennsylvania campus at 34th and Walnut, college kids of all shapes and sizes belly up this bar for some of the biggest and tastiest of these libations. In most customer cases, one is more than enough. However, there’s nothing written that says you should go there just to get blitzkrieg bopped; the food menu is also excellent, and offers such delicious choices as their Nachos Grande and the Carnitas Burrito (assuming you love some delicious pulled pork). Also, be sure to also check out their wacky website, which stars an acerbic (and ample-chested) animated bartender, who sounds remarkably like Kathy Griffin. If she were a bull.
The Iron Chef’s West Philly cantina offers a stellar list of tasty margs, including signature styles like the Distrito (Sauza Hornitos Plata with orange and lime and fresh fruit) and the Paloma (Sauza Hornitos Plata with grapefruit soda, lime and salt). Stick around for happy hour, and you’ll find the drinks are strong and the crowd is large. And of course, save room for some of Garces’ awesome cuisine…just limit your drink intake or you might just see it again later.
According to a rather bizarre Mexican state law, “true” tequila can only be brewed in the state of Jalisco, and even then, only in a set of limited regions. Whether or not David Suro, the talented owner of Los Catrines (and a Guadalajara native who grew up near Jalisco), is familiar with this law is anyone’s guess. Either way, it doesn’t matter, because not only does his romantic Locust Street hot spot boast a most excellent homemade potion (which we can only assume isn’t brewed on the premises), they serve some of the finest margaritas on the East Coast. The utterly delicious drinks are only accentuated by L.C.’s authentic Mexican cuisine (not Tex-Mex), with is mouth-wateringly spicy and scrumptious.
Like the old saying goes, variety is the spice of life. And that’s exactly what you’ll get at El Vez, which is not only one of the Quaker City’s best high-end Mexican eateries, but home to one of the most astounding array of margaritas and mixers ever made on this side of the border (among its best are the Frozen Blood Red Orange, its namesake El Vez and – if you feel daring – the Pineapple Canella). Of course, if you want to get a more detailed look at what’s so rave-worthy, you can easily access the drinks menu on their website, which is also worth visiting just to hear the funky, eclectic music mix playing in the background.
When it comes to the quest for consumption of a renowned Mexican drink like the margarita, the very concept of endorsing a chain restaurant might, at first glance, seem questionable (sort of like trying to convince a food critic that The Olive Garden serves all-authentic Italian cuisine). The truth is Mexican Post, for all its accessibility (it has four locations in and around the city – three in Philly and one in Delaware), not only has excellent food, but a dazzling menu of “daisies” that actually rivals the aforementioned El Vez. So, if you happen to be near its HQ on Chestnut and are feeling chesty, try tickling their Sabroso Azul (Cuervo Classico, Blue Curaco, lime juice) or the Fantastico Patron, which is made with Patron Silver tequila, Chambord and raspberry juice.