We've all had them. Those neon-green frozen things, reeking of cheap tequila and tasting like chemicals. That, dear friends, is not a margarita. The real drink is elegant and perfectly balanced.
There are conflicting stories about the margarita's genesis, but many claim that the drink -- made with fresh lime, tequila, and a touch of sweetness -- was named for a beautiful woman. Some say that woman was the daughter of a German ambassador, some say a socialite, some say a Ziegfeld girl. None of those stories has anything to do with downing an overly sweet concoction made from artificial food coloring and corn syrup.
You can get a beautiful margarita, and we found ten innovative examples, none of which come with a Corona floater. Oh, and this Cinco de Mayo, do what we do: Ask your bartender if he uses a mix in his margaritas. If he says yes, opt for the cerveza.
See also: Five Best Mexican Restaurants in Miami
Huahua's frozen margaritas are made with fresh fruit puréed with agave wine. Sure, it's not tequila, but if we didn't tell you, you could probably never tell the difference -- except for the fact that they're less expensive than your typical Lincoln Road margarita. For the record, we still got a buzz from it. Huahua's also offers traditional lime and then changes up fruit flavors based on seasonality -- right now they're serving passionfruit (tip: ask for a swirl of both flavors). At $6 for the regular size and $9 for a large (complete with a collectible color-changing stadium cup), they're a budget-friendly, alcohol-fueled brain freeze.
If you want to feel the burn, the Peppery Pepino ($13) is your kind of cocktail. This blend of Zignum Reposado mezcal, King's Ginger liqueur, red pepper, and cayenne pepper might start out too intense, but fresh lime and cucumber cool it off into a more manageable heat.
8. Cantina Beach at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne
So you're stressed out but have no time (or money) to stay at a luxury Caribbean resort. Hop over to Cantina Beach at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne for one of the hotel's fancy margaritas, made with fresh fruit, lime juice, and premium tequila. We like the Gold Brick, which mimics the colors of the sunset ($15). With a gorgeous view of the beach and sand in your toes, consider yourself on vacation -- if only for an hour.
Rosa Mexicano's frozen pomegranate margarita ($10) is what we crave when Miami's heat index rises through the roof. The salt rim replenishes lost electrolytes, while the sweet pink slush instantly cools your internal core.
6. Lure Fishbar
Lure Fishbar's Robert Ferrara has come up with a refreshing play on the classic margarita. The Oceanfront ($14) is made with Avion Silver tequila, fresh pineapple, cilantro, lime, Chesapeake Bay bitters, Cel Ray soda, and cracked black pepper. Mexico meets New England in a glass!
5. Toro Toro
Here's a cocktail with a side of show. Toro Toro's molecular creation is prepared tableside on a cart that contains an alchemist's array of tools -- mixing bowls, Don Julio tequila, fresh lime juice, agave nectar, and liquid nitrogen. Your bartender, with a great deal of pomp and smoke, will prepare you this beyond-freezing libation while you (along with the rest of the restaurant) stare in awe ($20).
The Broken Shaker's Agave Garden ($9) starts with muddled red bell pepper for sweetness and freshness and then layers in Herradura tequila, fresh lime, and a house-made spicy agave syrup. Spicy, fresh, addictive -- a new classic.
3. The Corner
Once again, less is more. The Corner's margarita ($10) is a real drink. Heavy on the citrus, light on the agave, this resembles a frozen blender margarita the same way a real cowboy resembles Howdy Doody. Nothing pink about this drink.
Chef Jamie DeRosa and bartender Sarah Welch have come up with a purple creation sure to make you cry with joy. The Blackberry Molecular Margarita mixes a full four ounces of Milagro Silver tequila with blackberry simple syrup, grapefruit juice, orange juice, and lime and then blasts it with liquid nitrogen in a decanter. Then it's topped with nitro-frozen blackberries. Best idea of all: This cocktail also doubles as the booziest frozen dessert you'll ever experience ($22).
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
1. Naked Taco at the Dream South Beach Hotel
Chef Ralph Pagano's new Ocean Drive taco joint has a bevy of interesting freshly shaken margaritas, but when you want to spice things up, order the Some Like It Hot. Siete Leguas Reposado tequila plays well with passionfruit purée, jalapeño, and lime. It's sweet and spicy, naughty and nice in a glass. You can also customize your level of heat, from a slight tingle on your lips to a full-out assault on your senses. The margarita costs ten bucks, but throw caution to the wind and get an entire pitcher for $39. Don't forget to ask for a "rim job" for your margarita -- a custom rim for your glass in your choice of house-curated sugars or salts. Most popular options: the Himalayan pink, the Maldon smoked sea salt, and the 100 percent cane sugar.