People like to play with their food. So the classic ’rita has been subject to experiment, especially to celebrate Cinco De Mayo. Although purists wouldn’t call these margaritas, the basic drink invites both skilled and misguided bartenders to mess with the basics. Sometimes to good effect, sometimes to disaster. You decide. Celebrate Cinco De Mayo with 24 variations on the classic margarita.

celebrate cinco de mayoThe Good

Muddled grilled pineapple and jalapeño with cilantro

Rim glass with Tajin—hot pepper powder

Substitute half of the lime juice with pink grapefruit juice

Sub in blue Curacao for the triple sec

Mix crushed and strained watermelon with the usual ingredients

Substitute mezcal for the tequila and add a drip or two of agave syrup. Rim the glass in a mixture of salt and smoked paprika.

Add 2 ounces blood orange juice to basic recipe.

Muddle jalapeno slices in the bottom of the shaker, add rest of ingredients and strain.

Mix crushed and strained watermelon with the usual ingredients

The Bad

Swap out the lime juice for Godiva liqueur, use Hershey’s syrup and a crushed Oreo cookie rim on the glass.

A beer version: Use frozen limeade, 12 oz tequila, 12 oz water, 1 can of beer.

White wine margarita—really??—uses orange juice concentrate, fresh lemon and lime juices, sugar, triple sec and white wine.

Replace Cointreau with mango liqueur and a dash of hot sauce.

Ugly

“The Guinness” calls for 1 cup lemon gelato, 1 can Nitro IPA Guinness, with a salted rim; garnish with lemon slice

Add an ounce of kale juice and some orange juice to sweeten.

Add 2 oz. green tea liqueur and a teaspoon of Rose’s lime juice.

Hard and Fast Rules

1. Never use sweet and sour mix.

2. Always use decent tequila—good tequila means you don’t need agave or simple syrup.

3. Always use fresh-squeezed lime juice.

Local Favorites

For when you can’t stand to be your own bartender for one more night.

Lake Effect’s “El Salvador” mixes dry vermouth, cointreau, cucumber, lime and honey with blanco tequila.

Chimayo in Park City’s pomegranate version is a fave: Use pomegranate juice and garnish with seeds.

El Chihuahua’s famous “Death Star” ups the impact with a dose of Everclear added to the mix.

Mandarin in Bountiful makes a “Gingerita” to complement their Chinese food.

White Horse’s “Spicy Margarita” adds Creme de Cacao, lime, dry Curacao and habanero bitters.

At Water Witch, the bartenders can make a classic margarita or you can trust them to make their own idiosyncratic mix.

This article was originally published in our May 2019 issue and was updated in May 2021. See all of our food and drink coverage here.

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