Fun fact: I named my daughter after my favorite all-time cocktail, the margarita. In English, Margarita translates to daisy, which to me means a simple, bright beauty, resembling a springtime freshness and comes with the ability to lighten my mood when coming across one. Just like the flower—and my daughter– the drink has this same ability.
Although there are probably 50 delicious margaritas in Orange County, three have completely blown me away this year with their mix of fresh lime aromatics, not too sweet, not too salty…just a simple mix of lime, tequila, and binding ingredients that don’t cloy or overcomplicate things. They’re simple, bright, and beautiful.
Arguably, there’s no better restaurant in Orange County to sample a modern margarita than downtown Santa Ana’s El Mercado Modern Cuisine. With all of the local ambience, bartender Cesar Carrudo’s booze program is wildly inspired and deep with worldly flavors, smoke, and herbs, yet his drinks are balanced. For Cinco de Mayo, I suggest going with his bold and spicy maggie called Calientame, which has tequila, muddled cucumbers, Chareau Aloe Vera Liquor, lime, and chile de arbol. The cone of crushed ice almost makes it taste like a spicy margarita snow cone. If heat isn’t your thing, try the strawberry version.
If you haven’t checked out Puesto in Irvine’s Los Olivos district, Cinco de Mayo is a great time to pop in and sample a mouth-watering Puesto Perfect Margarita which uses 100-percent blue agave reposado tequila, agave nectar, and fresh lime juice. Rimmed with flaky Kosher salt in a chubby glass, this drink makes me want to dance at their CincoTeca event happening Friday night, with live music and lots of booty shaken.’
In Costa Mesa, Water Grill’s Margarita Verde leans on the green side, yet is completely revitalizing, sort of like a couples spa day at a five-star resort in Mexico, complete with cucumbers, spice, and maybe a couple ounces of tequila to set the right mood. The cucumber in the drink has a way of taming the heat from the ancho chili salt rim, or perhaps it’s just a mental thing. Either way, I crave this drink every Friday around 4 p.m.