It may seem weird that a drink with only three-ish ingredients can taste so fantastic in one place and so not-at-all-fantastic in another, but weird is what this town does best. So without further ado (and leaving aside old familiar spots like Curra’s, Maudie’s, and Polvos), here's where to get the finest margaritas in town...
The Don Carlos
Alcomar (address and info)
The South First seafood-focused spot is getting a lot of attention for its fresh and creative cuisine, but its cocktail program should not be overlooked. Its Don Carlos margarita is a classic, and definitely not boring, example of a perfect margarita. It’s a blend of Don Julio Blanco, Cointreau, fresh lime juice, and a Bolivian pink salt rim.
Mango Habanero Margarita
Takoba (address and info)
Bust out your sunnies and grab a seat on Takoba’s patio. Order its Mango Habanero Margarita (El Jimador Reposado, Patrón Citronge, fresh mango, habanero syrup, lime juice), its fruit-meets-spicy kick is jussst right.
Watermelon Jalapeño Margarita
Licha’s Cantina (address and info)
The little casita on East Sixth known for its legit interior Mexican food has a pink and powerful margarita made with watermelon-infused Espolón tequila, lime, Combier (orange liqueur), and a spicy chili rim. Pro tip: these are only $5 during the 4-7pm happy hour.
Margarita La Clásica
La Condesa (address and info)
A see-and-be-seen hotspot, La Condesa serves up a perfectly balanced margarita made with El Jimador Silver, Patrón Citrónge, lime juice, agave nectar, and a super-fun cactus lemongrass-infused salt rim.
El Chile Cafe y Cantina (address and info)
While all of its cocteles are as tasty as they are boozy -- we particularly like the La Tuna. It’s a dark pink frozen margarita infused with tequila-marinated prickly pear. It's fit for even the most professional of Sunday Funday-ers.
Taco Flats (address and info)
The recently revamped Taco Flats has a serious cocktail program thanks to the always inventive Justin Mork (also of East Side Showroom). We love its Oaxacan Wipeout, a modern twist on the traditional margarita: mezcal, pineapple juice, cinnamon habanero syrup, absinthe, and hand-squeezed lime juice.
Fixe (address and info)
"Austin’s Southern House" does a twist on the margarita using a Louisiana favorite to mix things up (Abita). The Abita-Rita uses Avion Silver, Grand Marnier, lime, orange, and Abita Amber.
Searsucker (address and info)
Enjoy a twist on the classic margarita at celebrity chef Brian Malarkey’s (Top Chef: Miami finalist and co-host of The Taste) Searsucker with the Jale Berry. The drink features house-infused strawberry jalapeño tequila with lime, agave, and salt.
El Naranjo (address and info)
This Mexican restaurant on Rainey St features a great selection of tequila and mezcal, and it also has margaritas. Go figure. Its bestselling is the Mezcaliña, made with Agave de Cortes Silver mezcal, muddled serranos, basil agave nectar, lime juice, and pineapple juice.
W Hotel Austin (address and info)
The W recently updated its Living Room bar menu with a new and refreshing take on a margarita. Its version includes Casamigos Blanco tequila, crème de violette, agave, lime, and grapes. Don’t miss it during Primetime Happy Hour, which take places seven days a week from 7-10pm.
Jacoby’s (address and info)
East Cesar Chavez
Although Jacoby’s is known for its high-quality cuts of meat and Southern hospitality, its cocktail menu is on point. The Mezcal Margarita is a smoky version of a classic ‘rita that comes rimmed with tangy Trechas.
El Alma (address and info)
Barton Springs Road
The Margarita Chilanga is a local favorite for a reason. It is a slushy, ice-cold frozen margarita infused with a spicy chili powder mix and fresh-squeezed orange and lime juice and served with an El Chile rim. Pro tip: The Margarita Chilanga is only $7 during happy hour, every day from 3-6pm.
Rio Rita (address and info)
The quiet coffee shop by day just happens to be a solid drinks destination by 5pm. Try its jalapeño-infused margarita, made with 100% agave tequila, Paula’s Texas Orange liqueur, fresh lime juice, and agave nectar -- its spicy kick will wake you up.
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1. Alcomar1816 S 1st St, Austin
2. Takoba1411 E 7th St, Austin
3. Licha's Cantina1306 East 6th St, Austin
4. La Condesa400 W 2nd St, Austin
5. El Chile Cafe y Cantina1809 Manor Rd, Austin
6. The W Hotel200 Lavaca St, Austin
7. Fixe500 W 5th St, Austin
8. Searsucker Austin415 Colorado St, Austin
9. El Naranjo85 Rainey St., Austin
10. Taco Flats5520 Burnet Rd #101, Austin
11. Jacoby's Restaurant & Mercantile3235 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin
12. El Alma1025 Barton Springs Rd, Austin
13. Rio Rita1203 Chicon, Austin
From the same restaurant group as El Chile and El Alma, Alcomar specializes in what's been dubbed a "Latin-inspired seafood concept." Set in a beachy and bright open space, it serves up ceviche, Gulf oysters, and fusion concepts like lobster enchiladas and octopus tostadas. Expect a variety of margaritas, served by the glass or pitcher, and a notable Bloody Mary served a single oyster.
The owners of Takoba know what they're doing with Mexican food -- they grew up in a rural area in central Mexico before relocating to Austin. They're dedicated to fresh, local ingredients and the menu reflects this philosophy, offering a great selection of standard favorites like quesadillas and more authentic, lesser-known dishes like a traditional Mexican pork stew. Best of all may be the outdoor patio-cum-sandbox that's filled with multicolored lounge chairs.
Licha’s Cantina is a neighborhood casita known for it's authentic interior Mexican food. The menu is inspired by the soul food the owner was raised with (and the restaurant is named after his mother) featuring modern takes on traditional dishes that retain the heart and history of their Mexican origins. Expect blue corn huitlacoche quesadillas, lengua sopecitos (in house-made masa cups), and bone marrow huaraches, as well as a slew of tequila- and mezcal-based cocktails. All this in an intimate, welcoming space in the heart of East 6th Street.
La Condesa is the place to go if you're looking for traditional Mexican flavor with modern Austin flair. The menu, offering up handfuls of tortas, taquitos, combos, and a few other staples, is shorter than most, but there's an obvious preference for quality over quantity at this Downtown restaurant. Tacos strewn with red pickled onion, cilantro, and guacamole make the ideal warm-up round before hitting the bar, where tequila and mezcal reign supreme in customizable flights.
El Chile's Oaxacan red mole has won the Austin Chronicle's Hot Sauce Contest and their unique Tex-Mex has been given acclaim all over the country. So grab yourself a La Tuna margarita, a dark pink frozen margarita infused with tequila-marinated prickly pear, and mingle with both locals and out-of-towners all looking for a good meal.
Just a few blocks from the mansion where another famous W rested his head as governor, the W's Austin branch has helped define the downtown 2nd St District, serving as a magnet for more youthful out-of-towners. Their WET Bar offers poolside sips and its Living Room Bar and TRACE has a menu that is updated frequently with new cocktails.
Fixe, with its very experienced chef/management team, is doing upscale-Southern with a dedicated grits menu and a barrel-aged craft cocktail program.
A steakhouse from San Diego's Chef Brian Malarkey (of Top Chef and The Taste), Searsucker'll have you sucking on bone marrow and gnawing on Tomahawk ribeyes.
Unless you're already aware of what's inside, you'll likely mistake this little yellow house in Rainey Street District for... well, a house. The sneaky, unlabeled spot is actually El Naranjo, owned and operated by renowned chefs and power couple Iliana and Ernesto de la Vega. These two whip up some of Austin's most authentic and traditional Mexican fare, like flank steak tacos and Oaxacan mole, with ease and always keep more than a few bottles of mezcal on hand. opened El Naranjo to bring traditional Mexican cuisine to Austin. El Naranjo makes their own salsas, moles, breads, and corn tortillas with fresh and seasonal ingredients.
Despite the name, Taco Flats is much more of a bar than a taco joint -- though it would serve you well to arrive hungry and thirsty. This famous hippie hangout of the 1970s shuttered almost 30 years ago, and has now been revived in its original Burnet Rd location. The dive bar has received a facelift and has a sleek sports bar look, over 30 craft beers on tap, six wines on tap, and a cocktail program helmed by veterans from Midnight Cowboy and Eastside Showroom. Must-tries include the Agave Old Fashioned (reposado tequila, mezcal, honey, mole bitters), El Chuco (Sotol Blanco, fresh lime, orgeat, mole bitters) and the No-mah-mes (espadin mezcal, green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, fresh lime, spicy bitters). True to old-school Austin, their menu runs the gamut from carnitas tortas to hemp seed burgers and "hippie tacos" with grilled Oaxaca cheese, refried black beans, and house pickled escabeche -- all on delicate, house-made tortillas, of course.
Boasting a number of Southern-inspired menu items -- such as shrimp and grits, family-style braised greens, and pork confit fritters -- Jacoby's Mercantile is the perfect spot for al fresco with friends, offering a view of the Colorado River most people have never seen. Must-try items include the Muskoka Smash (Bulleit Rye, blackberry, basil, & lemon), and for "supper" a Bone-In Ribeye with a side of Mac-n-Cheese (made with sour cream and Roggenbier).
Do you know where to go when you’re in the mood for margaritas and chips and salsa (and queso and ceviche... )? El Alma is the answer. In addition to a generous happy hour, the Barton Springs restaurant has a shady rooftop with views of Austin’s skyline. Pro-tip: order the The Margarita Chilanga, an ice-cold frozen margarita infused with a spicy chili powder, for the ultimate local's wind-down experience.
Coffee joint by day and cocktail lounge/dive by night, Rio Rita is a cozy couch-filled respite on East 12th that's great for grabbing a drink and a snack at any time. Try its jalapeño-infused margarita, made with 100% agave tequila, Paula’s Texas Orange liqueur, fresh lime juice, and agave nectar -- its spicy kick will wake you up. Bar bites include pizza (from East Side Pies), and homemade salsa and hummus with chips.