Tamayo
Matt Ritscher
When the margarita was invented, it was an elegant drink -- an exquisite combination of great tequila and native juices that was as refreshing as the breeze blowing off the Mexican coast. But when it headed north -- no doubt brought back by those spring-breakers as a souvenir, like a social disease -- it morphed into a grain-alcohol, apple-juice orgy, with ingredient combinations that made your teeth squeak and your head hurt. Over the last several years, though, bars and restaurants have started restoring the margarita to its rightful recipe and place in the drink pantheon. And nowhere does a margarita reach the heights that it does at Tamayo, where the house marg is made with El Jimador and fresh lime and lemon juices in a simple syrup made on site. When ordered on the rooftop patio, those heights include a terrific view of the mountains, but you'll want to stick close to your bartender, who, when asked, will bring out fresh chips and two terrific salsas -- a green tomatilla and a red cruda -- sharing the same pewter bowl.

When the margarita was invented, it was an elegant drink -- an exquisite combination of great tequila and native juices that was as refreshing as the breeze blowing off the Mexican coast. But when it headed north -- no doubt brought back by those spring-breakers as a souvenir, like a social disease -- it morphed into a grain-alcohol, apple-juice orgy, with ingredient combinations that made your teeth squeak and your head hurt. Over the last several years, though, bars and restaurants have started restoring the margarita to its rightful recipe and place in the drink pantheon. And nowhere does a margarita reach the heights that it does at Tamayo, where the house marg is made with El Jimador and fresh lime and lemon juices in a simple syrup made on site. When ordered on the rooftop patio, those heights include a terrific view of the mountains, but you'll want to stick close to your bartender, who, when asked, will bring out fresh chips and two terrific salsas -- a green tomatilla and a red cruda -- sharing the same pewter bowl.


Can't afford a trip to Mexico this year? No problem. Aztec Sol is the next best thing to being there -- and an evening at this bar is so cheap you'll be able to drown your sorrows often. The brainchild of Jose Lara, whose family makes tequila back in the old country, Aztec Sol serves a grande selection of 200-plus tequilas, including wood-aged brands and boutique breeds, that will make you swear off Cuervo for good. Extra points for the authentic atmosphere -- love the cement floors -- and street-vendor-style food, including two kinds of "pork lining" tacos.

Can't afford a trip to Mexico this year? No problem. Aztec Sol is the next best thing to being there -- and an evening at this bar is so cheap you'll be able to drown your sorrows often. The brainchild of Jose Lara, whose family makes tequila back in the old country, Aztec Sol serves a grande selection of 200-plus tequilas, including wood-aged brands and boutique breeds, that will make you swear off Cuervo for good. Extra points for the authentic atmosphere -- love the cement floors -- and street-vendor-style food, including two kinds of "pork lining" tacos.


Mezcal
Danielle Lirette
Fine-dining restaurants and wine bars have sommeliers -- the in-house experts and professional drinkers paid to know more than their customers about all things grape-ish. And while the character of sommeliers has changed somewhat in recent years (going from crepe-soled and tuxedoed experts on the elder vintages to young turks prouder of their cellar's boutique bottles than some dusty old Lafite), so has the job. There are now whiskey experts, Scotch specialists and, at Mezcal, Pablo, the master of tequilas. With a sommelier's expansive knowledge and the passion of a true believer, Pablo keeps tabs (and copious notes) on the bar's sixty-some varieties of tequila. He can discuss soil composition and Mexican microclimatology like the most effete wine snob, tell you which villages produce which bottles and, in some cases, which families in those villages are in charge of the distilling, bottling and labeling. Mezcal may not have the broadest or the deepest tequila and mescal list -- but it has the best tequila ambassador in Pablo.

Fine-dining restaurants and wine bars have sommeliers -- the in-house experts and professional drinkers paid to know more than their customers about all things grape-ish. And while the character of sommeliers has changed somewhat in recent years (going from crepe-soled and tuxedoed experts on the elder vintages to young turks prouder of their cellar's boutique bottles than some dusty old Lafite), so has the job. There are now whiskey experts, Scotch specialists and, at Mezcal, Pablo, the master of tequilas. With a sommelier's expansive knowledge and the passion of a true believer, Pablo keeps tabs (and copious notes) on the bar's sixty-some varieties of tequila. He can discuss soil composition and Mexican microclimatology like the most effete wine snob, tell you which villages produce which bottles and, in some cases, which families in those villages are in charge of the distilling, bottling and labeling. Mezcal may not have the broadest or the deepest tequila and mescal list -- but it has the best tequila ambassador in Pablo.


Cuba Cuba Cafe & Bar
One of our proudest possessions is a smeared napkin that survived a very long night at Monarck. In a space that once held a crunchy coffeehouse, Francois Safieddine put the smoothest of upscale clubs, whose specialty cocktails include the mojito. While the mojito has become so ubiquitous in recent years that there's bound to be a Mojitos R Us store opening any day, Monarck does mojitos right. And we have scientific proof, tallied on a napkin as a cranky member of our crew went through Monarck's half-dozen-strong -- emphasis on strong -- mojito list and emerged with a great love for everyone in the land. There's magic in these mojitos...but might we suggest you limit yourself to no more than you can count on one hand?

One of our proudest possessions is a smeared napkin that survived a very long night at Monarck. In a space that once held a crunchy coffeehouse, Francois Safieddine put the smoothest of upscale clubs, whose specialty cocktails include the mojito. While the mojito has become so ubiquitous in recent years that there's bound to be a Mojitos R Us store opening any day, Monarck does mojitos right. And we have scientific proof, tallied on a napkin as a cranky member of our crew went through Monarck's half-dozen-strong -- emphasis on strong -- mojito list and emerged with a great love for everyone in the land. There's magic in these mojitos...but might we suggest you limit yourself to no more than you can count on one hand?


Morton's the Steakhouse
Courtesy of Morton's
In honor of its 25th birthday last year, Morton's made the best even better: It came up with a cure for the common cold. By pouring its already splendid martinis into stainless-steel martini glasses, Morton's guaranteed that martini-lovers would be shaken, if not stirred. But the vessel surrounding your drink isn't the only surrounding that's important when you're drinking a martini (and frankly, Morton's martinis taste just fine out of regular glasses, too). You need an understanding bartender who'll stuff olives with blue cheese at the drop of a cocktail napkin. You need a clubby, comfortable bar to enjoy the drink in. And you need to know that just outside that bar, a dining room is ready to serve you one of the best steaks in town.

In honor of its 25th birthday last year, Morton's made the best even better: It came up with a cure for the common cold. By pouring its already splendid martinis into stainless-steel martini glasses, Morton's guaranteed that martini-lovers would be shaken, if not stirred. But the vessel surrounding your drink isn't the only surrounding that's important when you're drinking a martini (and frankly, Morton's martinis taste just fine out of regular glasses, too). You need an understanding bartender who'll stuff olives with blue cheese at the drop of a cocktail napkin. You need a clubby, comfortable bar to enjoy the drink in. And you need to know that just outside that bar, a dining room is ready to serve you one of the best steaks in town.


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