The secret to a great margarita

Bartenders at La Cocina on Bouquet Canyon Road prepare the restaurant's Cadillac Margarita. February 18, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

Ever since the first classic margarita was poured with tequila, orange liqueur and lime juice on the rocks, different variations of the drink to include more sweet or spicy elements have been introduced. 

The beloved tequila-based cocktail is so popular, a day was dedicated to them. Of all the holidays in America, Margarita Day is one of the easier ones to figure out how to celebrate. 

Feb. 22 is National Margarita Day, a day dedicated to celebrating the popular beverage. Of course, the celebration can continue even when it’s not Margarita Day. 

Each year, Americans spend a total of $2.9 billion on margaritas, accounting for about 14% of overall cocktail sales, according to a study conducted by Bloomberg. 

Several local bartenders shared their own unique takes on this classic. 

Fresh ingredients 

Newhall Refinery bar manager Dylan Breen prepares an Invierno (Spanish for Winter) margarita – a seasonal drink that a adds the Refinery’s own spin on the classic cocktail with a touch of mint, pear, and Tajin Seasoning. February 18, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

Taking time to freshly squeeze ingredients into your cocktail will take your margarita to the next level. 

At Newhall Refinery, they freshly squeeze fruits to create their own in-house sweet and sour mix to use in their cocktails. By avoiding a store-bought mix, they ensure their customers the freshest flavors possible. 

“We freshly squeeze our lemons, limes and oranges for a fresh taste,” said Dylan Breen, bar manager at Newhall Refinery. “Sweet and sour is where all the flavor comes from.” 

Sweet and sour mix is a staple ingredient in cocktails. Additionally, the restaurant also creates its own simple syrup to sweeten its cocktails, Breen says. 

During the restaurant’s winter months, their Pear Margarita is a fan favorite. 

“It is made from pear puree and pear liqueur,” said Breen. “We top it off with a rim of Tajin for some spice.”

(Newhall Refinery is located at 24258 Main St., Newhall.) 

Crisp and clean tasting liquor 

In addition to creating their own house mix,  Solita Tacos and Margaritas also ensure customers they are getting the finest tequila on the market in their margaritas. 

According to Neil Davaro, manager at Solita Tacos and Margaritas, there’s a significant difference in taste between cheap and expensive tequila. 

“We have the finest tequila,” said Davaro. “Other tequilas are not as crisp, and not as true as distilled should taste.” 

Since expensive liquor is distilled more times than cheaper liquor, there are more impurities that can actually worsen hangovers. 

Solita Tacos and Margaritas use 100% blue agave tequila blanco in their margaritas, as well as fresh ingredients, he said. 

At this establishment, Davaro prides themselves on their variety of margaritas. 

“Our bartenders are knowledgeable and can get a feel of the guests and what they are looking for,” siad Davaro. 

Solita Tacos and Margaritas have frozen, fruity, spicy, classic and skinny margaritas, just to name a few.

(Solita is located at 24201 Valencia Blvd., Suite no. 3470, Valencia.)

Twist on the classic margarita

When tequila is made, it is distilled from a blue agave plant that creates the clear liquor famously used in margaritas. 

At Micheladas Mexican Grill, they use this plant in a different way for their margaritas. 

“Our margaritas are wine-based,” said Homer Paredes, manager at Micheladas Mexican Grill. “We use the same plant tequila is made from, except this one goes through the fermentation process.” 

Since it went through the fermentation process, the liquor is considered a wine; however, it is not your average wine, according to Paredes. 

The wine margarita is an alternative to using tequila because it offers a softer taste and lower alcohol level. This is also a great option for those who have had bad experiences with tequila in the past. 

Since it has such a low alcohol proof, many establishments with beer and wine licenses are able to use it in their margaritas to replace traditional tequila. 

“It tastes similar to tequila, but not as strong,” said Paredes. “It is 24-proof, but you can always add more to your liking.” 

At Micheladas Mexican Grill, their mango, watermelon and other fruit-based wine margaritas are their most popular.

(Micheladas is located at 18236 Soledad Canyon Road, Santa Clarita.)

Sticking to the basics

La Cocina is a family-run Mexican restaurant in the Santa Clarita Valley, that sticks to traditional recipes dating back to the 1970s. 

In Santa Clarita, La Cocina is a staple restaurant in the valley that has three locations throughout the city. Each restaurant is owned by a member of the Lopez family. 

“We have margarita recipes from the ’70s, when my father opened his first restaurant,” said Edgar Lopez, owner of the La Cocina on Bouquet Canyon. “Authentic and original recipes always remain classic.” 

Over the years, they have explored other margaritas but have continued to sell their traditional margaritas. Their popular margaritas, the Cadillac and House, remain top sellers no matter how long they’ve been around, according to Lopez.

“Our margaritas taste best with our chips and salsa,” said Lopez. 

The family atmosphere is clear to customers who dine at any of the La Cocina locations. When customers come in, employees, some who have been there since day one, will welcome you in as if you are family, too, Lopez said. 

“I grew up in La Cocina and it is a tight family-run business,” said Lopez. “Fads come and go, but original drinks are always going to be original.” 

(La Cocina has three locations in the SCV: one at 28022 Seco Canyon Road; one at 19915 Golden Valley Road; and one at 28076 Bouquet Canyon Road.)

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