Cuidado Denver, you're getting a second Cinco de Mayo this summer: tomorrow is National Tequila Day. Americans drank a little over 13 million gallons of tequila last year -- and that number will be surpassed this year. There are a lot of great places in Denver to consume the spirit of the agave; we've distilled it down to a few must-drink locations for this festive occasion (although we don't need anyone to tell us that every day is a good day for tequila). Whether it's in a margarita, as slow sipper, or in a shot with lime and salt, tequila is the drink of the day, and this list (in no particular order) of local restaurants will help you find the tequila destination that's right for you.
See also: Richard Sandoval's La Biblioteca opens
7) La Biblioteca 1610 Little Raven Street
With 378 tequilas, La Biblioteca is the first place that comes to mind when thinking about enjoying the agave-based spirit. "Anything you call out, we can put together," says bartender Kevin McCorriston. "Sweet, sour, whatever you like." With that many tequilas to choose from, the possibilities are nearly endless. Our favorites are the house infusions, which include serrano, blueberry and lemon, green apple, grilled pineapple, cilantro, cranberry and orange, and cucumber. Those flavors are $8 per pour, or get a flight of three for $16.
Try a horizontal flight of any three tequilas from the same aging category (blanco, reposed or añejo), for $18 to $32. Or, get a flight of tequilas aged in used barrels (Bordeaux, Cognac or new French oak), which lends unique characteristics to the spirits as they age. If the smokiness of Mezcal is more your flavor, La Biblioteca has 56 to choose from.
National Tequila Day hours: 4:00 p.m. to midnight. Happy Hour: 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.
6) Tamayo 1400 Larimer Street
Owner Richard Sandoval loves tequila so much, that he purchases his own barrel of Herradura reposado every year, which is available at Tamayo half price on Thursday. Normally, this private reserve is $14, but will be offered at $7 for National Tequila Day.
The Pepino is the cocktail of choice at Tamayo. Featuring house-infused serrano tequila, cucumber and lime, it's one of the house best sellers. Our favorite, though, is the Smoked Pear Martini, made smoky with Dos Gusanos mezcal. It's shaken up with pear puree, burnt honey and lime.
During happy hour, five bucks will get you one of four house margaritas (the traditional is served frozen, or on the rocks), house red or white wines, or sangria. Beers are $4, and tapas plates from the kitchen are also $4, while tacos are $3.
National Tequila Day hours: 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Happy hour: 2:00 to 7:00 p.m.
5) Lola 1575 Boulder Street
The flavors of the coasts of Mexico come alive at Lola, where it's always a treat to have guacamole prepared tableside while you sip a cocktail and wait for your entrees. Lola's tequila list tops 220, with an additional 25 mezcals. The big seller is the Drug Mule, made with barrel-aged tequila, fresh lime, sage-infused agave nectar, and a spritz of ginger beer ($10). If you haven't had the Q Coin, Tequila Day is the perfect introduction: it starts with muddled cucumber, then adds agave nectar, fresh lime, El Tesoro platinum tequila, an orange squeeze, and a cucumber twist. ($10).
Lola ages Corralejo blanco tequila in a bourbon barrel from Breckenridge Distillery. The barrel hangs precariously (don't worry -- it's secured by chains) above the bar, and is used in the Corralejo Coin cocktail, where the tequila is added to freshly muddled limes and triple sec ($9).
During happy hour, you can get the Paloma, with El Charro tequila, Fresca and lemonade for $5 or a shot of El Charro silver tequila and a can of Tecate for $7.
National Tequila Day hours: 4:00 to 11:00 p.m. Happy hour: 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.
Keep reading for more great places to enjoy tequila in Denver...
4) Mezcal 3230 East Colfax
It shouldn't be a mystery what a restaurant named Mezcal serves. A Mexican-food staple on Colfax, famous for its late-night crowds brought in by the nearby Bluebird Theatre, Mezcal's tequila list tops 300 different bottles. All margaritas are made with fresh-squeezed lime juice; the house marg, "La Original," is made with Exotico Blanco, triple sec, lime juice, orange juice and Sprite ($6).
If you're not in the mood for tequila (and who wouldn't be on National Tequila Day?), the menu of mojitos, mojadas and Mexican beers is extensive. When you come back to your senses and order more tequila, try a flight of four, called a 'rail' at Mezcal, which range from $23 to $35. The extra-aged añejo rail, featuring four deluxe tequilas aged at least three years, is $45.
If you're making the rounds, keep in mind Mezcal's late-night happy hour offer tacos -- four different kinds -- at $1.50 each. Beers start at $3 (Dos Equis, Tecate, Modelo Especial and Pabst Blue Ribbon).
National Tequila Day hours: 11:00 am to midnight. Happy Hour: 4:00 to 6:00 pm, and 10:00 to 11:00 p.m.
3) Machete 2817 East Third Avenue and 1730 Wynkoop
With two locations, one in Cherry Creek North, and one in LoDo, you can hit them both on National Tequila Day. Starting early is an option, as the happy hour begins at 11:00 a.m. The menus are the same at each location and everything's made from scratch -- no pre-packaged or bottled mixes go into your drinks. With over 70 brands of tequila, Machete is one of Denver's notable tequila destinations.
Infusions are popular here, with several flavors to choose from: strawberry, raspberry, pineapple, sun-dried tomato, and the legendary "hot mess" -- tequila infused with habanero, jalapeño, green pepper and serrano peppers. Be careful -- it's not for the meek.
On Thursday, Levi will be behind the bar, so ask for his special, off-menu cocktail, the Mint-Cucumber Margarita. He muddles cucumber, then adds Don Julio añejo tequila, mint, agave and lime juice. No triple sec is used, making the drink lower in calories (in case you're counting).
Our favorite was one of Machete's most popular tequila cocktails, the Kona, which contains house-infused pineapple and coconut tequila, fresh lime juice and Cointreau ($11).
During happy hour, enjoy $6 drinks, $3 beers (Negra Modelo, Dos Equis and Coors Light), as well as $2.50 tacos.
National Tequila Day hours: 11:00 a.m. to midnight. Happy Hour: 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
2) 100% de Agave 975 Lincoln Street
The name of this place says it all, since tequila is made from the blue agave plant and its purest form must be made from 100 percent agave, with no other sugars or grains. The menu highlights food with origins in Jalisco, the region of tequila's birth.
Sit at the round bar in the back of the restaurant and gaze upon the 150-plus bottles of tequila to choose from. For cocktails, we liked the Spicy Agave, made with El Jimador tequila, agave nectar, soda water, cilantro, jalapeño and fresh lime juice. For something a little more exotic, try the Cinnamon Tamarindo, which also contains El Jimador tequila, this time mixed with tamarind syrup, agave nectar, and fresh lime and orange juices. Both are served on the rocks, with salt.
For happy hour, enjoy drafts, bottled beer and wines for $3. Frozen margaritas and craft beers are two-for-one. Happy hour apps are $5.
Thursday is karaoke night at 100% de Agave, so it could be a fun place to settle into some margaritas and sing the night away.
National Tequila Day hours: kitchen: 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m (bar until 1:30 a.m.) Happy Hour: 3:00 to 6:00 p.m.
1) Los Chingones 2463 Larimer Street
Chef Troy Guard's new Mexican restaurant is lighting up Larimer Street, and while it doesn't have the biggest tequila list in the city, it makes up for it with flavor, style and attitude.
Specializing in unique tacos (white fish, beef tongue, octopus and goat), it's the drinks you want to enjoy on National Tequila Day. Most popular here is the Mexico City Mule ($8), with Cabrito tequila, lime juice and ginger beer. The Los Marg ($8) is the standard, and our favorite. It contains Cabrito tequila and Los Chingones' perfectly balanced, house-made sweet-and-sour mix.
All house cocktails can be transformed by the "Smoke and Mirrors Switch," which means that, for an extra $3, all tequilas can be substituted with Sombra mezcal.
Look for flights of tequila for National Tequila Day, which may feature a vertical tasting of three ages of the same tequila.
Happy hour really dials in the fun with $2 tacos, $5 nachos, $2 Brussels sprouts.
National Tequila Day hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Happy Hour: 3:00 to 6:00 p.m.
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