July 24 is National Tequila Day, a manufactured American holiday for a Mexican spirit. Bring on the margaritas!
Denver is full of bars and restaurants that specialize in all kinds of margaritas: sickly-sweet or clean and bright, made with mix or fresh-squeezed juice, purist or inventive, frozen or on the rocks, served on an intimate outdoor patio or in a boozy bar scene. The list goes on....and so will the hangovers from consuming too many of these cocktails tomorrow. Here, in no particular order, are the ten best places to drink margaritas (and not necessarily the best margaritas) in Denver.
10) Emilio's Super Chef 338 East Colfax Avenue This Colfax hole-in-the-wall pumps out epic-sized plates of Mexican food and has unparalleled people-watching. Most important, Emilio's Super Chef has a happy hour from 4 p.m. until close every day, with infamously stiff 16-ounce margaritas that are just $1.75 Thursday through Saturday. For a step up, you can go fruity with a variety of flavored margaritas -- everything from from peach and mango to melon and strawberry.
9) Benny's Restaurant & Tequila Bar 301 East Seventh Avenue A Capitol Hill staple for decades, Benny's is known for its homestyle Mexican food and fifteen kinds of margaritas. If you like your drinks bigger than your face, you can opt for a liter of the Jose Cuervo Gold house margarita for $15 on Tuesdays only. Benny's has other daily drink specials too, including the "executive margarita," a mini-version of its house margarita available Monday through Friday. Perfect for work lunches, if you're thinking what we're thinking.
8) Zengo 1610 Little Raven Street Richard Sandoval's modern Mexican eatery boasts over 100 tequilas -- and while you could have a field day tasting these alone, Zengo's cocktail program offers several takes on the margarita that celebrate the traditional Mexican spirit. You can drink simply with the "Margarita Tradicional," a blend of Exotico Reposado, orange liqueur and lime, or turn up the heat with "El Diablo," which contains El Zarco tequila, habanero mango and lime. Happy hour is daily from 5-7 p.m., and includes a $5 house margarita.
7) Mezcal 3230 East Colfax Avenue Mezcal has an impressive 270 tequilas and mezcals, as well as over a dozen varieties of margaritas, including "Especial Tambien," a simple, delicious blend of Zappopan Blanco Tequila, agave nectar and fresh lime juice; or the smoky "Mezcalito" made with mezcal, lime, and orange liqueur. Enjoy them with a plate of tacos or outside on the patio, with free people-watching along Colfax Avenue.
6) The Rio Grande 1525 Blake Street 1101 Walnut Street, Boulder 9535 Park Meadows Drive, Lone Tree The Rio, a homegrown chain, continues to be a favorite place for hangover-inducing margaritas and boisterous company -- in fact, the house margarita is so potent, a three-drink limit is imposed on anyone who decides to take the plunge. At the flagship downtown store, Margaritas can be enjoyed on the Rio's sprawling patio or its answer to the street-food campground, Black Crow, a taco trailer and drinking oasis located right next door. The happy hour deal Monday through Friday from 3-6 p.m. -- a buck off any margarita -- will make your hangover that much worse.
5) Hacienda Colorado 1400 East Mexico Avenue and four more metro locations Suburbanites deserve great spots to drink margs, too. And Hacienda Colorado, the "Mountain Mex" chain founded by Tim Schmidt, has the ideal setup: big patios complete with firepits, and even bigger menus of margs, including that most adult of slurpies: a frozen margarita. Popular in other parts of the country, they're a rarity in Colorado (probably because the heated stares of margarita purists are enough to melt them into syrup) but a specialty at Hacienda Colorado. Schmidt is even the namesake of one: the Timmer, which has a Grand Marnier floater. But we prefer Hacienda Colorado's frozen house marg, made with nothing more than Margaritaville Gold Tequila and fresh-squeezed lime juice. Cool!
4) El Camino 3628 West 32nd Avenue This fun Highland neighborhood joint has more margarita options than you can shake a stick at. There's something for every taste: For example, the "Bam-Bam" muddles fresh jalapenos or habaneros, and "Histeria" blends silver tequila with fresh lime and agave nectar. As a bonus, there are two happy hours daily -- one from 3-6 p.m., and a second from 10 p.m. to close -- with three marg options on that menu.
3) Pinche Tacos 1514 Marion Street 3300 West 32nd Avenue Aside from their award-winning street tacos and a block-party atmosphere, the two Pinche Tacos locations feature a perfect, back-to-basics house margarita. The "House Casa Crib Coin Margarita" uses Exotico Blanco Tequila, cointreau, house simple syrup, and lime -- complete with a salted rim and plenty of attitude There's a daily happy hour from 3-6 p.m., with a not-to-be-missed happy hour all night on Mondays at the York Street and Highland outposts.
2) Tamayo 1400 Larimer Street Tamayo thinks out of the box with its creative collection of margaritas, blending unexpected ingredients with rooted tradition. While it does offer a simple house margarita, it's also worth trying one (or three) of the other offerings. The "Mercado" blends serrano-infused tequila with passion fruit puree, citrus and a hibiscus rosemary foam; the "Tamayo" mixes tequila blanco, tamarind and citrus with chile pequin rim -- made frozen or on the rocks. Margaritas are only $5 each during the daily happy hour, from 2-7 p.m.
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1) Lola 1575 Boulder Street Lola (and its sister Centro in Boulder) knows its tequila -- and has over 200 tequilas to educate you, too. It often hosts dinners and seminars that are based around the celebration of the spirit. If you can fit a margarita in between tequila tastings, order a coin-style margarita based on your flavor and age preference -- or try one of the specialty cocktails like the "Q Coin," a refreshing coin-style margarita made with el tesoro platinum, muddled cucumber, agave nectar and fresh lime, finished with a squeeze of orange and a cucumber twist. Happy hour specials run daily, with specials all night Monday, Tuesday through Friday 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.