The 5 Best Margaritas in San Francisco

By Virginia Miller  |  June 10, 2014
Credit: Virginia Miller

For agave spirits lovers, choosing a favorite margarita is like choosing a favorite child. You love them all. Especially when you're talking top margaritas in San Francisco proper. Not only has California been the country's motherland for tequila and fresh citrus cocktails for decades, San Francisco is home to the original, the one and only, Tommy's Mexican Restaurant, famed for Tommy's Margarita, which is served on cocktail menus around the world, and for the most extensive tequila selection in the country since way back in the '60s. It's no surprise Tommy's is our first choice for classic SF margaritas. But we have plenty of other favorites:

1. Tommy's

The one, the only, Tommy's. Open since 1965, this family-run, low-frills restaurant has set the standard on what an agave spirits collection should be, with over 300 brands of tequila alone and a long-popular Tommy's Agave Club. Their famed margarita is iconic and available by the pitcher. It's one we've spotted on cocktail menus the world over, from Amsterdam to Mexico City. Gracious tequila expert Julio Bermejo and his family exhibit true hospitality that transports you straight back to Mexico.
Alternative: There is no alternative to the great Tommy's Margarita—made with tequila, lime and agave nectar—unless, of course, you're sipping from the rare and out-of-production tequilas from the bar's amazing collection. 5929 Geary Blvd.; 415-387-4747

2. Padrecito

This airy cantina already kills it with delicious upscale Mexican food (Get the duck marmalade tacos!) and produce from the family farm in Sonoma. But it's the festive, super-cool bar that we want to linger in for bar manager David Ruiz' quality cocktails and broad tequila and mezcal selection. They perfect their margarita with a hint of mezcal mixed in with tequila, lime and agave nectar.
Alternative: Ruiz' brilliant La Copa Verde is a house favorite: vibrant green from cilantro and lime shaken with mezcal and chipotle powder. 901 Cole St.; 415-742-5505

3. Mosto

The ever-talented Danny Louie creates original tequila and mezcal drinks at Mosto, the partnering bar to Tacolicious in the Mission, including a sublime house margarita, El Mosto.
Alternative: We love The Green Hornet, evoking island breezes as Don Julio Reposado is mixed with coconut milk, Green Chartreuse, jalapeño and lime. 741 Valencia St.; 415-626-1344

4. Tres

An agave spirits mecca meets rowdy, cavernous Giants' game-day watering hole for over a decade, Tres knows how to craft a margarita, pure and simple, with lime juice, tequila and agave nectar, on the rocks.
Alternative: They offer a whole menu of margaritas featuring tequilas from different regions of Jalisco, Mexico, from the highlands to the lowlands. We love the Los Abuelos Margarita showcasing the fabulous Fortaleza blanco130 Townsend St.; 415-227-0500

5. Cantina

Cantina has been serving Central and South American spirits and cocktails since 2007 near Union Square, set to fun DJs with private parties in their basement. They know tequila and handle it expertly in their margaritas.
Alternative: Try their five-spice margarita, with an Asian slant from house five-spice agave nectar mixed with Tres Agaves tequila, lime and Combier orange liqueur. 580 Sutter St.; 415-398-0195

Honorable Mention SF: Beretta, Tacolicious, Tropisueno, Mamacita, La Urbana, Colibri, Velvet Cantina, Latin American Club

Honorable Mentions Bay Area: Comal in Berkeley, Nido in Oakland, Tamarindo Antojeria in Oakland, Copita in Sausalito, La Condesa in St. Helena