Cinco de Mayo will be more somber this year, in light of the swine flu epidemic and shutdowns of public places across Mexico. But celebrations for the Mexican holiday are planned in many places elsewhere. Kate Krader, editor of FOOD & WINE Cocktails 2009 (on sale today), and Jim Meehan, deputy editor and master mixologist, share the best places to have a margarita.
Tommy'sSan Francisco For the best margaritas in the country, Krader and Meehan suggest a stop at this West Coast bar, where bartender Julio Bermejo makes a classic concoction with tequila, lime juice and agave nectar. "The bar is nothing fancy, but their tequila selection is incredible," Krader says. "Not surprising, since Bermejo is one of the country's most respected experts on the subject." Bermejo also guides legendary trips down to Jalisco, Mexico, to tour the home of Tequila. tommystequila.com, 415-387-4747
Jimmy's BarAspen, Colo. "Jimmy's, hidden in a fancy mall in the middle of glitzy Aspen, has a huge selection of tequilas and agave spirits (105 in all), and they make terrific margaritas." Our experts suggest either order the Jimmy's margarita made with Herradura Anejo, Grand Marnier and lime juice or adding a splash of cranberry and mescal to add smokiness to the drink. jimmysaspen.com, 970-925-6020
OyamelWashington, D.C. You've seen him on Top Chef, so it's time to turn the tables and judge the gastronomical genius of Jose Andrés. His D.C. eatery serves up a traditional margarita, but "it comes with an Andrés avant-garde twist: a topping of salt-air foam," Krader says. "If you are hungry, try some of Andrés' Mexican street food, including his handmade corn tortillas stuffed with baby-pig confit, tender braised oxtail or, for the adventurous, sautéed grasshoppers on a bed of guacamole." oyamel.com, 202-628-1005
RiveraLos Angeles "In the late 1980s, John Sedlar put haute Mexican food on the map in the United States," Meehan says. "Now he's back with a new Los Angeles pan-Latin restaurant, where they have a mix of premium and seasonal tequilas on tap." For some serious royal treatment, take a turn in the bronze and leather chairs dedicated to tequila tastings — the chairs have special holders for tequila flights. riverarestaurant.com, 213-749-1460
Petrossian Bar at the BellagioLas Vegas Sin City is rarely referred to has the home to anything purist, but Vegas bartenders know their stuff. "The best margaritas around the country are often found at purist cocktail establishments," Krader says. "Petrossian Bar, the swank cocktail bar at Las Vegas' Bellagio, is one of those establishments." Meehan suggests doing like the cocktail experts do and ordering the classic margarita at this spot. bellagio.com, 888-987-6667
Nacional 27Chicago "Drink master Adam Seger makes super-fresh cocktails (both frozen and otherwise) at this Latin-inspired salsa club and restaurant," Krader says. "Like all the drinks here, the margaritas are hyper-seasonal and fresh-ingredient driven." The seemingly endless menu here can confuse a novice, so Meehan suggests trying one of their regular margaritas, like the breakfast margarita or luxe margarita, or picking a seasonal creation such as smoky passion-fruit margarita. n27chicago.com, 312-664-2727