The Ten Best House Margaritas in Denver

Is there a more widely riffed-on classic cocktail than the margarita? Or, perhaps more accurately, is there a classic cocktail for which variations are more widely accepted and embraced? What started as a simple drink mixed with tequila, lime and sweetener has morphed into a canvas on which bartenders play out elaborate, booze-fueled fantasies. Cocktail menus at trendy Mexican restaurants often list a half-dozen variations on the margarita theme, adulterating the drink with everything from beer to jalapeños to prickly pear to frozen strawberries — sometimes all at the same time.

Some of those variations are quite good; others are merely drinkable. But those aren't what we're celebrating here, as we set the table for today's celebration of National Margarita Day (possibly the most underappreciated of all the national food and beverage days). Here we're paying homage to the more classic versions of the margarita on menus around town, the house pours of citrus and tequila and maybe a little agave syrup or orange liqueur. We're honoring the margaritas you want to drink all afternoon long, while you polish off a bushel of chips and a vat of salsa, and a taco or two, to boot. The prospect of that food pairing was essential to making our list, and the reason this list doesn't include any of Denver's venerable classic cocktail bars, even though they often make excellent house margaritas. Also essential was using tequila (hey, the ’70s and ’80s really did a number on the margarita — including the fact that tequila was optional back then), and not using bottled sweet-and-sour mix. Even controlling for those factors, house margs still saw wide variation. Each one on this list is a worthy centerpiece for a lingering conversation, a round too many and another basket of chips.

Without further ado: Denver's ten best house margaritas, in alphabetical order.

The house margarita at Adelitas.
The house margarita at Adelitas.
Danielle Lirette

1. Adelitas Cocina y Cantina
1294 South Broadway

"Use a good brand" of all-natural tequila in your margarita, recommends Adelitas proprietor Brian Rossi. After all, "how many things can you do to a traditional margarita? It's about the materials that go into it." We'll vouch for that simple approach; it's landed Adelitas our Best House Margarita in our Best of Denver edition for three years running, even as the bar staff has switched tequila brands, tweaking this drink's backbone. The restaurant is currently working with Arette tequila, which comes from one of the oldest tequila-producing families in Jalisco. Married to triple sec and lime, it results in a cocktail that's smooth and balanced with a decidedly tart finish — nice for patrons who favor less sweet versions of this drink.

Orange juice makes Comida's house margarita extra-drinkable.EXPAND
Orange juice makes Comida's house margarita extra-drinkable.
Laura Shunk

2. Comida Cantina
3550 Brighton Boulevard, 303-296-2747
2501 Dallas Street, Aurora, 303-484-1632
721 Confidence Drive, Longmont, 720-204-6455
Comida's house margarita starts with Monte Alban Plata tequila, which gets mixed with sweet agave syrup, lemon, lime and orange juice. That last ingredient trumps up the orange note that's usually just background music in this cocktail, and it makes the drink easily one of the most poundable in this roundup. Luckily, you can order this margarita by the glass or by the massive jar-full; as long as you're not drinking alone, you ought to opt for the latter.

The Tommy's house margarita at Dos Santos.EXPAND
The Tommy's house margarita at Dos Santos.
Laura Shunk

3. Dos Santos
1475 East 17th Avenue

We are absolute suckers for a good Tommy's margarita, so named for the San Francisco restaurant that made famous the blend of tequila, lime and simple syrup: it's sweeter than your triple-sec-spiked version, but it sure does go down easily, and come warm weather, it's all we want to drink. And so Dos Santos, which serves a Tommy's house margarita, had us — hook, lime and sinker — from first sip. To its simple blend of lime and agave, Dos Santos adds high-quality Arette tequila, a complex and verdant showcase in a drink otherwise simply presented in a jar with a wedge of lime and a bit of salt.

El Chingon's coin-style namesake margarita.EXPAND
El Chingon's coin-style namesake margarita.
Laura Shunk

4. El Chingon
4326 Tennyson Street

Our entreaty to Coin-style margarita enthusiasts: Get thee to El Chingon, which serves up one of the best Coin-style quaffers in this town as its namesake margarita. Fortaleza Blanco tequila, Cointreau and fresh-squeezed citrus blend here for a well-balanced drink unadulterated with excess sugar, and a fine-salt rim provides a nice alternative to the coarse version you normally encounter.

El Jefe's house margarita comes with a salt-sugar rim.EXPAND
El Jefe's house margarita comes with a salt-sugar rim.
Laura Shunk

5. El Jefe
2450 West 44th Avenue

When first your lips touch El Jefe's La Casa marg, they meet sweet; a sugar-salt rim halos this rocks glass, and it serves as a refreshing surprise. As for the margarita itself, the bar adds a touch of agave to its Centinela Clasico tequila, triple sec and lime, a flourish that doesn't so much candify this cocktail as it does smooth it out, making it easy to gulp and follow with a second round.

Keep reading for five more delicious house margaritas...

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