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And the winners are: Top Taco margarita and taco throwdown at Sculpture Park

Squeaky Bean's braised beef and shrimp taco, topped with alcheto, yuzu and salsa verde.
Squeaky Bean's braised beef and shrimp taco, topped with alcheto, yuzu and salsa verde.
Kevin Galaba

"We're the biggest tequila bar in the city -- we should be winning margarita contests," saysLa Biblioteca bartender Ben Carrington of his double-win in the margarita category at Top Taco. The taco and margarita competition, which took place Thursday, June 26 at Sculpture Park, pitted area restaurants against each other to win both people's choice and judges' trophies; proceeds from the event benefitted the Colorado Restaurant Association's Education ProStart scholarship program.

Keep reading for more information on Carrington's winning margarita, and photos of the event --- including the tasty tacos...

See also: Richard Sandoval's La Biblioteca opens

La Biblioteca's Ben Carrington's winning margarita: tequila, avocado puree, chili-spiced syrup, blueberry-infused tapioca pearls.
La Biblioteca's Ben Carrington's winning margarita: tequila, avocado puree, chili-spiced syrup, blueberry-infused tapioca pearls.
Kevin Galaba

"I wanted to do something outside the box," Carrington says of his R.D.A., or Recommended Daily Allowance. Carrington's margarita won not only the popular vote cast by event attendees, but also the critical judges' vote.

Carrington combined Dulce Vida reposada tequila, a chile-spiced syrup and avocado puree to make his cocktail. His clever garnish took the drink to the next level: Tapioca pearls were boiled down with blueberry juice and sugar to create small, purple spheres. Those spheres rested at the bottom of the drink to create a surprising textural finish.

"There's a lot of great people that do tequila in the city, but we want to be the standout," Carrington says of La Biblioteca, the restaurant at 1610 Little Raven Street where he's a bartender. "We want to be the quintessential establishment to go to for tequila."

Carrington recently relocated here from Ohio. "I've bartended for a very long time," he notes. "Denver definitely has an understanding of the spirits world. I think I have an easy job because I focus on one spirit -- tequila. I have a ton of them, and I have to know a lot about all of them. "

Carrington admires Denver's close-knit bartending community. "If you go to places like Williams & Graham, they're trying to teach people," he says. "If you go to Squeaky Bean, Colt and Gray , Ste. Ellie, Green Russell -- they're all trying to teach people more about spirits. I've worked with a lot of these guys. I go see them all the time. It's great to have that camaraderie.

"Personally, I don't see Top Taco as a competition," Carrington adds. "I see it as everybody trying to elevate each other. That's what Denver is about. The first thing I did today when the competition was over, was go and get a margarita from Machete."

Keep reading to find out which tacos came out on top at Top Taco...

The "Callo de Hacha" taco from Machete: bay scallops, pineapple butter, achiote-guajillo adobo, jicama tortilla.
The "Callo de Hacha" taco from Machete: bay scallops, pineapple butter, achiote-guajillo adobo, jicama tortilla.
Kevin Galaba

Two dozen restaurants participated in the taco competition, and a panel of judges, as well as votes cast by event guests, determined Top Taco's winners: Comida Cantina, for the Best Traditional Taco, and Machete for Most Creative Taco.

"I never won anything, so this is awesome," says Machete chef Jose Avila. "I'm speechless."

Avila grew up in Mexico, where he regularly ate roasted crickets -- a main ingredient in his winning taco recipe. His housemade hibiscus-corn tortilla was topped with avocado puree, roasted crickets, lime juice, roasted tomatillo salsa, salt and dried chipotle pepper.

Machete Tequila + Tacos won "Most Creative Taco" with this roasted cricket and avocado puree taco, topped with a roasted tomatillo salsa.
Machete Tequila + Tacos won "Most Creative Taco" with this roasted cricket and avocado puree taco, topped with a roasted tomatillo salsa.
Kevin Galaba

Chef Rayme Rossello's griddled pork taco, served out of her pink food truck, was a taste of what guests can enjoy at Comida Cantina, her Mexican restaurant inside The Source.

"We do that every day at the Cantina," she says. "It's Tenderbelly pork shoulder, slow-cooked in Stella Artois. There are three cheeses in it: smoked gouda, cotija and asadero cheese. We griddle it and then we top it with out salsa verde and house-made crema."

Rossello was tired at the end of the competition, but happy. "I'm really pleased with my staff," she say. "It was a great experience, a great opportunity."

The best taco winners:

Most Creative Taco

1st Place: Machete

2nd Place: Los Chingones

3rd Place: Squeaky Bean

People's Choice

1st Place: Moontower Tacos

2nd Place: Comida

3rd Place: Zengo

Best Traditional Taco

1st Place: Pinche Tacos

2nd Place: Billy's Inn

3rd Place: Highland Tap and Burger

People's Choice

1st Place: Comida

2nd Place: Pinche Tacos

3rd Place: Billy's Inn

Keep reading for the winning margarita recipes.

Over twenty restaurants competed in Top Taco.
Over twenty restaurants competed in Top Taco.
Kevin Galaba

Megan Vickery of Billy's Inn, pouring her margaritas for the masses.
Megan Vickery of Billy's Inn, pouring her margaritas for the masses.
Kevin Galaba

Best Margarita

1st Place: La Biblioteca

2nd Place: Comida

3rd Place: Adelitas

People's Choice

1st Place: La Biblioteca

2nd Place: Machete

3rd Place: Adelitas

R.D.A.

Ben Carrington of La Biblioteca

Dulce Vida reposado tequila

Chili-spiced syrup

Avocado puree

Blueberry-tapioca pearls

Spicy Pepi

Sheree Browne of Adelitas

Centenario plata tequila

Triple Sec

Jalapeno-agave syrup

Prickly pear puree

Cucumber puree

Spicy Rico

Danielle Scott of Machete

Jose Cuervo Tradicional tequila

Jalapeño

Agave

Cilantro

Lime juice

Rio Grande Margarita

(Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant house margarita)

Jose Cuervo Gold tequila

Triple sec

Rio Grande house-made margarita mix

Zi Marg

John Pratt of Zi South

Suavecito Silver tequila

Triple sec

Zi South house-made sweet and sour mix

Pineapple-Jalapeno Margarita

Steve Mohler of Uno Mas

Proximus blanco tequila

Cointreau

Agave

Jalapeno-pineapple juice

Billy's Coin

Megan Vickery of Billy's Inn

Herradura silver tequila

Triple sec

Agave

Lime juice

Strawberry Margarita Snow Cono

Brian Smith of Squeaky Bean

Pueblo Viejo blanco tequila

Country time lemonade

Gum arabic

Strawberries

Crushed Ice


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