Tequila is special. Instead of being made from a plentiful commodity like other liquors (wheat, rye, potatoes, corn) it’s distilled from the agave, an unusual desert plant that takes seven years to reach maturity. Fresh-juice margaritas are a great showcase for the spirit, but it’s also very versatile and plays well in a variety of mixes. In honor of Taco Tuesday, here's our roundup of 10 must-try tequila drinks in Philadelphia.
Cucumber-Jalapeño Margarita at Lolita
Marcie Turney is making great use of the new liquor license at this 13th Street Mexican, exemplified in this drink from the “jardin” series, in which Camarena tequila mixes with a purée of cukes, chiles, jicama, cilantro and lemonade. Spicy and refreshing ($10).
106 S. 13th St.; 215-546-7100
Rosa Margarita at Xochitl
If you’re lucky, this Headhouse Square Mexican parlor will have the very limited Grand Marnier cherry in stock, because mixed with Don Julio blanco, fresh lime and a cherry garnish, it’s an earthy take on the margarita you don’t want to miss ($13).
408 S. Second St.; 215-238-7280
Poncho’s Lament at Petruce et al.
If you’re feeling as melancholy as Tom Waits’ song by the same name, George Costa’s drink at this Walnut Street dining room will pick you right up with its mix of chile-infused reposado, Ramazzotti amaro, cold-brew coffee and mole bitters ($11).
1121 Walnut St.; 267-255-8232
Mango Margarita at Sancho Pistola’s
Fresh-fruit margarita offerings change often at this Fishtown taberna, and none are a bad idea. Mango sweetens serrano-infused silver tequila, but the drink gets another spicy kick from the dark chile powder in the sugar-and-salt rim ($7).
19 W. Girard Ave.; 267-324-3530
El Escorpion at Pub & Kitchen
Tequila’s smoky cousin mezcal joins forces for a double-agave punch in Donnie Galvano’s creation at this Rittenhouse tavern, only slightly tamed by the addition of fresh lemon and honey to the mix ($10).
1946 Lombard St.; 215-545-0350
Pink Cadillac Margarita at El Vez
Indulge your Mexican Elvis at Stephen Starr’s Midtown Village fiesta bar with this tweak of a classic Jose Cuervo marg - fresh lime, orange and cranberry juices create a lively color and an livelier taste ($14).
121 S. 13th St.; 215-928-9800
Ramble on Rose at La Calaca Feliz
Hard to go wrong with the inexpensive tequila sips at this Fairmount cantina, but blood orange and Art in the Age rhubarb liqueur give this creation a welcome complexity ($9).
2321 Fairmount Ave.; 215-787-9930
Juice Diet at Crow & the Pitcher
Juicing to stay healthy? Just add Bess Gulliver’s take on the trend at this Rittenhouse lounge, which adds the spark of reposado tequila to kale and lemon juice, with housemade honey-ginger syrup to make it go down easy ($11).
267 S. 19th St.; 267-702-0059
Andalé at Distrito
Escape in West Philly with this tropical combo at Jose Garces’ Mexican casa de celebración, which matches tequila with coconut rum and orange juice, with a cherry on top ($8).
3945 Chestnut St.; 215-222-1657
Alma Blanca at Tequilas
David Suro-Piñera not only runs this elegant Rittenhouse Mexican, he also founded the Siembra Azul tequila label in his native Mexico. In this creation designed by Junior Merino, habanero-infused blanco meets muddled corn and pineapple for a spirited meal in a glass ($10).
1602 Locust St.; 215-546-0181