Not to be confused with National Margarita Day. That's in February, and a bridge we'll cross when we come to it (though there will, of course, be a few margaritas on this list). But way too often, tequila finds itself relegated to the realm of shots, overly sweet margaritas, or something your friends will only drink on special occasions because "I just don't know, tequila always makes me act ca-raaazy."
This is an unfair mischaracterization. If you went apeshit and started throwing chairs or whatever, that's on you, not a specific, common strain of liquor. And anyway, a nice smoky tequila can be the perfect base for cocktails, when employed correctly. With that said, let's step down off this particular soapbox and start planning your day of festive themed drinking, yes?
Que Bonita, The Narrows
Of course, The Narrows is so good with cocktails, they could probably use Wild Irish Rose as their base and still
come up with something delicious. But their Que Bonita, which makes sparing use of jalapeño, lime, and cucumber, is everything a simple, slightly spicy tequila cocktail should be.
1037 Flushing Ave., Bushwick
Spicy 'Rita, Lucey's Lounge
Wisely, the good people at Lucey's understand that not every margarita needs to be a sickeningly sweet, Dallas BBQ-sized monstrosity. Instead, the the spicy version on their summer cocktail menu relies on agave and Orange Curcao to balance out the jalapeño and hard liquor. All of which makes us feel very adult about the whole thing.
479 3rd Ave., Gowanus
Fiery Dame, Donna
- Donna Tumblr via Brooklyn Exposed
Whether you're delighted or actually a little embarrassed to belly up to the bar and demand to be poured something called a "Fiery Dame," you should absolutely do it. Like a lot of the better tequila-based concoctions out there, this one includes Mezcal, but also mixes things up with the inclusion of Velvet Falernum and a splash of Cocchi Rosa. An added bonus? The whole thing is served over crushed ice, the ideal, under-utilized compromise in the age-old, margarita-focused debate between rocks and frozen. Genius.
27 Broadway, Williamsburg
Siesta, Fort Defiance
- Photo via Sebastian Saint
Among a list of excellent, vaguely nautical gin and rum-based cocktails on the menu at Fort Defiance (they are
based in Red Hook, after all), the Siesta always stands out as a nice, palate-cleansing change of pace, consisting solely of tequila, grapefruit, and Campari. Not too overbearing for a sweltering summer day, and fairly perfect for washing down a plate of their oysters.
365 Van Brunt St., Red Hook
Margarita de Toronja Picante, Gran Electrica
One of the better bars in all of Brooklyn for anyone who takes tequila seriously, just about every drink on Gran Electrica's menu will serve you well. If we had to pick just one, though, it'd be the ultra-spicy Margarita de Toronja Picante, which incorporates both habanero-infused tequila and spicy grapefruit salt. Not for the faint of heart, but then, who really wants to think of themselves as "faint of heart?"
5 Front St., DUMBO
General Zapata, Manhattan Inn
With tequila and spicy grenadine balance out by ginger beer, Manhattan Inn's General Zapata is one of the lighter, more refreshing options on this list. They've got an excellent house margarita on the menu, too, but this one feels particularly right for knocking back just before directing yourself to the back room for a perfectly sweaty night of dancing.
632 Manhattan Ave., Greenpoint
Tequila and Soda, Nostrand Avenue Pub
Not technically a cocktail, sure. But after a lot of prodding, a friend convinced me to try this in lieu of whiskey and soda, and I was converted. Best consumed in a place with a thoughtful liquor selection where you can really sit and enjoy yourself, like Crown Heights' newly opened Nostrand Avenue Pub.
658 Nostrand Ave., Crown Heights
Street King, Lavender Lake
If there's any drink better suited to leisurely, outdoor, summertime drinking than this light mix of tequila, Sriracha, ginger, and Tecate, I am happy to hear it, but deeply skeptical.
383 Carroll St., Gowanus
Bloody Maria, James
Granted, you can plunk down here any time of day and order yourself a superlative, tequila based cocktail. But come brunch hours, they serve up a particularly good, spicy Bloody Maria, which, for the uninitiated, is essentially a Bloody Mary, but with tequila swapped out for the vodka. If we're at a place where we're drinking hard liquor in the mornings anyway, why don't more people do this?
605 Carlton Ave., Prospect Heights
Margarita, The Turkey's Nest
I know what I said back there about not every margarita needing to be an enormous monstrosity. But they don't all have to not
be that. This one's a neighborhood classic, and anyway, no better way to honor tequila's place in your life than by drinking it in bulk. Specifically, out of the movie-theater-slushie-sized styrofoam cups they serve their margaritas in down at the Turkey's Nest. Sometimes, as on National Tequila Day, quantity really does equal quality.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.