Cinco de Mayo lands on Thursday this week, which is a perfect time to present my updated “Top 5 Margaritas of Laguna Beach” list.
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 arrives 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 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.
BONUS ROUND: 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 your own home.
#5 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 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.
Posthumous Award: Lumberyard’s Signature Margarita
This shaken and poured margarita was a local favorite at Lumberyard for years, but Owner Cary Redfearn IS one of the more creatives in this town, and his cocktails are ever-changing. If you know the right people, though, you might be able to politely beg for this old-time classic.