Los Angeles Margarita Experience…

A typical margarita cocktail consists of tequila mixed with orange flavored liqueur and lime or lemon juice. Traditionally she is served with salt on the rim of a heavy, shapely glass which features the slight imperfections of authentic handblown Mexican glassware. According to Wikipedia, the margarita is the most common tequila-based cocktail in the United States. It can be easily ordered at virtually any bar anywhere in Los Angeles. This ever-popular cocktail has endless variations to its recipe and even how she is severed varies according to the drinker’s preference. Ask for her shaken with ice (on the rocks), blended with ice (a frozen margarita) or without ice (straight up). The recipe can be adjusted and combined with virtually any fruit such as mango, strawberry, or pomegranate. The more exotic the better. She is infused with agave nectar, various liqueurs, fruit juice concentrate, or muddled chilies to give her a kick. Given the myriad of ways this classic cocktail has been re-invented, it goes without saying that not all margaritas are created equally.

The approaching Cinco de Mayo holiday has me remembering some of my favorite margarita experiences in the city.

Before I go on, I’d like to take a moment of silence for all the good times…. Ok, thanks.

Unfortunately, more often than not, bars around LA serve a really suspicious pre-mixed bright green sugary concoction, with a shot of tequila. They combine the two, then pour this liquid over ice and call it a Margarita. It’s awful, and is not the drink I am reminiscing about.

Throughout the city you can find bars that have honed the art of a well-mixed libation. These spots serve up a crisp, refreshing, and flavorful margarita, using fresh top shelf ingredients, often adding their own Mexican flair or signature to the recipe. These are the margaritas that stand out, making the drink a memorable experience for the senses… Off the top of my head, I know you can order a fantastic margarita at Valet Margarita in Hollywood, Rush Street in Culver City, Mohawk Bend in Silver Lake, Mixology 101 at the Grove, or Las Perlas tequila bar in downtown LA. For an organic margarita experience go to Akasha in Culver City. Visit the Library Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood if you’d like something a little more glam, fresh or fruity in your tequila beverage. However, if I have to narrow it down to the top five places to get an amazing margarita in LA this Cinco de Mayo, these spots totally rock it:

El Carmen

8138 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Neighborhood: Mid-City West

The 1947 Tito La Brea paintings really give this place its unique ambiance by lending the playful Mexican wrestling or Lucha Libre theme throughout. El Carmen is dimly lit, alluring and cool and they obviously take tequila quite seriously here. Some of the margaritas offered on their extensive menu include the cucumber mint margarita, the cucumber cilantro margarita, the spicy jalapeño margarita (my favorite), the blood orange margarita, and the cucumber ginger margarita, just to name a few. El Carmen has a solid happy hour, a fun and trendy mixed crowd, and the food is fantastic too. It is one of my favorite bars in the city.

El Compadre Restaurant
7408 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Neighborhood: Hollywood
(323) 874-7924

This is a traditional old school Los Angeles Mexican restaurant. Here you will find classic Mexican restaurant decor complete with extremely dim lights, Diego Rivera paintings, dark iron accents and red leather booths. It’s cozy and a little romantic. The food is great and there are plenty of celebrity sightings in this place too given its location near the huge and famous Guitar Center on Sunset Blvd. Last time I was there, I spied the Kings of Leon. But what this place is really known for are their eye-catching beautiful flaming margaritas. On Cinco de Mayo, no doubt this place will be going off- live mariachi and all. Drop by and get your flame on.

Mission Cantina
5946 W Sunset Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90028
Neighborhood: Hollywood
(323) 469-3130

The lightless cantina, gorgeous stain-glass window behind the bar, and carved dark wood furnishings give Mission Cantina a gothic church feel, perfect for its Hollywood clientele, where the city is the church. Rock music usually plays loudly in this sexy spot where the bartenders are true mixologist. They have a vast tequila selection for the amazing margaritas and other tequila specialty cocktails that are created here. Mission Cantina has TV’s and seating at the bar, or if you prefer you can chill in a booth, or on their secluded little patio by the gas fire-place. If you can’t make it in this Cinco de Mayo, drop by on Taco Tuesday’s ($1 tacos) or on Thursdays for $4 margaritas. I love this place. It’s one of my favorite bars in Hollywood.

Mas Malo
515 W 7th St
Los Angeles, CA 90014
Neighborhood: Downtown
(213) 985-4332

The younger more attractive sister to Malo in Silver Lake, Mas Malo is found in a beautiful space right in downtown LA. Classic 1920’s architecture is seen in the ornate moldings on the grand ceiling which gives this place an elegant quality of an LA from days long past. The bartenders here are talkative, attentive, and give excellent service. They create luscious cocktails like the Piñata Smash made with tequila, Serrano Chile, cilantro, pineapple and house made sour. My pick from this bar is the spicy cucumber margarita. Mas Malo is perfect if you are in the mood for Mexican, a little more upscale.

Onyx Lounge
118 W 5th St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Neighborhood: Downtown
(213) 891-1144

Onyx Lounge is a stylish sexy little spot right in the heart of DTLA in the original Trust and Savings Bank building. This place is really known for its amazing food and cocktail menu, but its a beautiful place too. My favorite Onyx Lounge cocktail is a delicious take on a margarita made with Tequila, jalapeño, grapefruit and lime called The Olvera Heist. Great name for a drink in LA right? I love the scene, the music, the food and drinks, and the vibe at this spot. Come for happy hour, brunch on Sunday, and live music Thursdays & Fridays.

Those are my top 5 picks for a great margarita in the city. Hope you get a chance to experience these places for yourself! What is your favorite spot for a terrific margarita?

Whatever you end up doing this weekend, and wherever you find yourself, I hope you raise your glass in gratitude, hear my voice in your head and think of me kindly… wink.


3 thoughts on “Los Angeles Margarita Experience…

  1. Happy Drinko de Mayo, Dre!

    I can personally vouch for the Olvera Heist you mentioned from Onyx Lounge. And I’ve heard many good things about El Carmen now so I’m just gonna have to pay them a visit in the near future.

    For me, I’d go to Julian Cox at Rivera (or Playa, or Picca, etc.). And as far as how I like them…smokey. Mezcal please. =)

    • hi mem! happy cinco! i’ve been meaning to go to Picca for the longest. i’ll bookmark the other two spots you mentioned too. i like my margarita spicy, on the rocks, with salt 🙂 salud! and thanks for reading. xo

      • Ya, same here about Picca and Playa for that matter.

        And I like the salted rim as well…even better if it’s a chile-salted rim for that added kick. =)

        Hope you had a good one!

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