National Margarita Day is Tuesday, Feb. 22nd, an as far as I’m concerned, this is the love holiday we really need to be paying attention to this month. So, it’s time to roll out (once again), Diane’s updated Annual “Best Margaritas of Laguna Beach.”
Here’s how my search for the best margaritas in Laguna Beach began … For 14 years now, I’ve been polling my readers and faithfully donating my gall bladder to science in an effort to taste test their votes. One caveat: If I’ve missed your favorite margarita, I’m sorry. Please don’t hurl names at me when you see me in the Laguna Beach hood. I’ve discovered that margaritas are quite susceptible to individual taste. I’ve confirmed that all of these margaritas are also available for take-out and delivery.
Reigning Champion: The Lagniappe Margarita, Starfish
Sorry, folks. but it’s going to take a Herculean effort to displace this reigning champion.
I’m a dyed-in-the-wool fan of bartender Neil Skewe; his Starfish Lagniappe Margarita could be the primary reason. “Lagniappe” is defined as a bonus or extra gift and, though few can properly pronounce it, Neil knows what you mean when you say, “That Lanny-yappy drink, please.” And, oh my, it is indeed a lovely gift.
This margarita drinks more like a mojito with Silver Tequila poured over a fresh muddle of mandarin orange, fresh mint, lime and a splash of soda, then shaken for that love connection. It is sheer awesomeness.
Fortunately, the Lagniappe is also served in super-size for take-out.
#2 South of Nick’s: Punta Nizuc
]While I’m an ardent Paloma fan (tequila with fresh grapefruit juice), I always opt for the South of Nick’s margarita – Punta Nizuc – one of many in a long line of Margarita Specialties the menu boasts. Simply done, it’s reposado tequila, fresh lime, organic agave nectar and Grand Marnier. Sort of a “skinny” margarita if you don’t consider that float of Grand Marnier, which makes it even better. Topped with a candied orange slice and a chirpy mint sprig, this margarita arrived perfectly balanced with just enough (but not too much) ice.
#3 Carmelita’s: The Partida Margarita
All of the margaritas at Carmelita’s are basically “skinny” as Carmelita’s only uses agave and fresh juices. While the Carmelita’s Grilled Pineapple Margarita is a crowd favorite, I would recommend the Partida Cucumber Marg with Partida blanco premium tequila, organic lime juice, fresh agave and muddled cucumbers with cilantro. It’s so spectacularly simple, refreshing and sublime that I’ve had difficulty choosing any other on the Carmelita’s list.
#4 La Sirena Grill South: The Cadillac Margarita
Although every margarita at La Sirena is above par, when the real shutdown happened last year, the team decided to focus only on its house margarita as a take-out option. This was a bummer for me as there’s absolutely no one in town who can make a “caddy” like La Sirena’s Solag location. Fortunately, our MIA beverage is making a resurgence now with outdoor dining back in play.
Their lofty Cadillac is one smooth ride. More importantly, it’s always very consistent, regardless of the bartender behind the counter (though it always seemed to taste better at the bar than at one of the booths or outside tables. I don’t know why.) A mix of El Jimador Reposado, house-made sweet and sour, agave, lime juice, a splash of water (because everyone needs their hydration) and a float of Grand Marnier.
#5 Coyote Grill: Coyote House Marg
This is Coyote’s “house” margarita, but everyone knows that when you’re in this house, you’re getting a margarita that’s reserved for family.
The Coyote Marg (featured in the happy hour menu daily) is the classic margarita – simply, well tequila, house made sweet ‘n sour and Triple Sec, but when you have Stephen or Mark making and shaking, it brings the house down … even if that house is currently in their Astro Turf parking lot.
When Coyote Grill re-opened for take-out last spring, Owners Desirée and Steve decided to bottle up their house made sweet ‘n sour for your own DIY margaritas. It stays fresh and spritely for at least a couple weeks in your refrigerator and is an awesome answer to whisking up a classic solution in the confines of your own home.
Posthumous Award: Lumberyard’s Signature Margarita
This margarita has been off the Lumberyard menu for more than five years and I still dream about it. If you know to ask for it with cajoling eyes, you might just find yourself in luck.
It had to have been a Mercury in Retrograde kind of day when this delightful concoction, the Lumberyard Signature Margarita, was removed from the cocktail list. This was one margarita that defied every planet and star in the galaxy. A super skinny smooth blend of Milagro Blanco, Cointreau and lime juice, it was shaken vigorously and poured up (with the tiniest slivers of ice) into a salt-rimmed frosty martini glass. Crowned with a lime twist, too. Simply put, this margarita added true joy to an otherwise average day. This might be a petition we can all get behind.