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15 Boozy Margaritas to Try Right Now

Salted rims, smoky mezcals, and rainbow swirls are all in play when it comes to the iconic Mexican cocktail

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For Americans, the margarita remains the quintessential Mexican cocktail. But it’s no longer just tequila, triple sec, and lime. Bartenders around D.C. are finding new ways to tweak the classic formula, from substituting smoky mezcal for traditional tequila to playing with flavors like spicy chiles, prickly pear, and basil.

Margaritas are also enjoying a spike in popularity lately, thanks in part to newcomers including El Bebe and Buena Vida Clarendon. Old favorites continue to draw crowds as well. It’s hard to find a warm day where drink lovers aren’t pouring into Cactus Cantina or Guapo’s for pitchers of strawberry or lime margaritas, and bowls of chips and guacamole.

Whether they’re served in rainbow-colored swirls or on the rocks, here’s where to get a margarita fix whenever the mood strikes.

Don’t see a personal favorite on the list? Sound off in the comments or shoot us an email (dc@eater.com).

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Mezcalero

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3714 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20010
(202) 803-2114
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Pick either mezcal or tequila to mix in the house margarita, which pairs well with the kitchen’s Mexican street food. Get it for $6 during happy hour from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. There’s also the El Mazateco, which uses tamarind and mezcal, and the La Zapoteca, made with mezcal and prickly pear.

2. Tequila & Mezcal

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3475 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20010

The bar and kitchen from the owners of Taqueria Habanero makes all of its syrups and mixers in-house, including a hibiscus syrup that gets mixed with mezcal espadin and lime for a sweet and smoky margarita. There’s also a habanero margarita made with chile-infused syrup, tequila anejo, lime juice, and strawberry foam air.

The hibiscus margarita at Tequila & Mezcal
Gabe Hiatt/Eater D.C.

3. Cactus Cantina

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3300 Wisconsin Ave NW
Washington, DC 20016
(202) 686-7222
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It’s hard to top the easygoing feeling of lounging on Cactus Cantina’s expansive patio with a half or whole pitcher of frozen margaritas, especially when it’s an icy swirl of lime and strawberry. The rocks mix does the job, too. Tequila aficionados can build their own margarita from the bar’s selection of blanco, reposado, and anejo spirits.

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4. Tico

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1926 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 319-1400
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Tico offers up glasses and pitchers of colorful hibiscus-spiked margaritas made with Milagro tequila and Patron citronage. The recipe can also be made in the classic version, sans the tart pink flower. Grab each for $7 during happy hour, which runs seven days a week, including late nights.

5. El Techo

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606 Florida Ave NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 836-4270
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Perched above a Shaw burrito shop, El Techo is a rooftop oasis for sipping cocktails and crunching on tacos while overlooking Florida Avenue NW. The bar mixes a solid traditional margarita as well as a spicy mezcal margarita bolstered by habanero, pineapple and lime. The tequila-based garden margarita features bell peppers and cucumbers.

El Techo [official]

6. El Centro D.F. (Multiple locations)

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1218 Wisconsin Ave NW
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 333-4100
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The Georgetown location of this mini-chain features a large outdoor terrace with its own bar and plenty of room to spread out with a freshly mixed margarita. The house margarita packs a serious punch, especially when ordered frozen (grab them on the cheap during happy hour). The refreshing Pepino marries serrano pepper-infused tequila, agave nectar, fresh lime, and fresh cucumber. And local Don Ciccio & Figli Fico d’India liqueur makes an appearance in El Centro’s prickly pear margarita.

Assorted margaritas at El Centro.
El Centro/Facebook

7. Guapo's of Georgetown

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3050 K Street NW Suite WG60
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 844-5777
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Guapo’s locations across the region are loved for their no-frills take on Tex-Mex favorites. Things may be a little more polished at the Georgetown waterfront location, but the margaritas still go down easy. Choices range from the standard option to a glasses accented with mango, pineapple, mint, strawberries, and more.

8. Poca Madre

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777 I Street NW, Techworld Plaza
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 838-5300
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Chef Victor Albisu brings a refined touch to Mexican cooking at Poca Madre, and the cocktails get the same treatment. The Margarita Madre — listed under “daises and sours” on the menu — swaps tequila for mezcal and folds in orange-scented agave and guajillo chile sal de gusano (worm salt).

9. MXDC

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600 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 393-1900
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Blocks from the White House, MXDC boasts a long list of creative margaritas. Selections include the margarita de pina (pineapple) and one made with habanero pepper. Those looking for something more top shelf can go with a Cadillac Margarita made with Roca Patron reposado tequila and Grand Marnier or the $40 Millionaire Margarita with Don Julio 1942 tequila.

10. Oyamel

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401 7th St NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 628-1005
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José Andrés’s Mexican restaurant is known for its house margarita, made with blanco tequila, Combier L’Original, lime, and a spoonful of foamy salt “air” on top. Fans of sparking wine can try the Al Gusto, a concoction of cucumber-spiked tequila, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, lime, and cava. Classic margaritas are also available during the “hora feliz” happy hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

11. Buena Vida Clarendon Restaurant

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2900 Wilson Blvd Suite 103
Arlington, VA 22201
(703) 888-1259
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Buena Vida’s selection of margarita riffs include the namesake drink with reposado tequila, lime and “salt air.” Adventurous drinkers can sip on a smoky Oaxcan version with mezcal and salt made from chapulines (Mexican crickets). The restaurant has a sister location in Silver Spring.

The namesake Buena Vida margarita
Ardent Vibe/For Buena Vida

12. Mi Vida

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98 District Square SW
Washington, DC 20024
(202) 516-4656
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This spot at the Wharf stocks dozens of tequilas and mezcals that can be used to fuel specialty drinks. Cool off with La Frozen, an icy blend of tequila, mango, ginger, passion fruit, agave, and fresh lime. Then there’s the house mix and the updated La Buena Vida with tequila reposado, Grand Marnier, agave and orange.

Mi Vida [official]

13. El Bebe

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99 M St SE Ste 120
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 863-2323
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The team behind Circa restaurants opened El Bebe this spring with inspiration from the taquerias and bars of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The bar churns frozen margaritas in flavors like classic, prickly pear, hibiscus and strawberry that’ll cut through the D.C. heat. People who prefer theirs on the rocks can explore variations with strawberry jalapeno, blackberry, and a cucumber-lime combination. Any of them can be topped with a liqueur or a Cognac floater for a small fee.

Deb Lindsey/El Bebe

14. Mission - Navy Yard

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1221 Van St SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 810-7010
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Mission’s Navy Yard location (it’s second in D.C.) slings glasses and pitchers of its house margarita, which it serves from the tap for maximum crowd control and consistency. From there, branch out to a “skinny” recipe of tequila, fresh lime juice and agave nectar or go Cadillac-style with blend of Don Julio blanco and Cointreau.

15. Urbano 116

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116 King St
Alexandria, VA 22314
(571) 970-5148
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This Old Town cantina serves up festive margaritas to match its colorful, lucha libre-themed design. The signature 116 Margarita satisfies cravings for something boozy, tart and refreshing. The upgraded Navie uses reposado tequila, lime, orange juice, and a Grand Marnier float.

1. Mezcalero

3714 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20010

Pick either mezcal or tequila to mix in the house margarita, which pairs well with the kitchen’s Mexican street food. Get it for $6 during happy hour from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. There’s also the El Mazateco, which uses tamarind and mezcal, and the La Zapoteca, made with mezcal and prickly pear.

3714 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20010

2. Tequila & Mezcal

3475 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20010
The hibiscus margarita at Tequila & Mezcal
Gabe Hiatt/Eater D.C.

The bar and kitchen from the owners of Taqueria Habanero makes all of its syrups and mixers in-house, including a hibiscus syrup that gets mixed with mezcal espadin and lime for a sweet and smoky margarita. There’s also a habanero margarita made with chile-infused syrup, tequila anejo, lime juice, and strawberry foam air.

3475 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20010

3. Cactus Cantina

3300 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20016

It’s hard to top the easygoing feeling of lounging on Cactus Cantina’s expansive patio with a half or whole pitcher of frozen margaritas, especially when it’s an icy swirl of lime and strawberry. The rocks mix does the job, too. Tequila aficionados can build their own margarita from the bar’s selection of blanco, reposado, and anejo spirits.

3300 Wisconsin Ave NW
Washington, DC 20016

4. Tico

1926 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

Tico offers up glasses and pitchers of colorful hibiscus-spiked margaritas made with Milagro tequila and Patron citronage. The recipe can also be made in the classic version, sans the tart pink flower. Grab each for $7 during happy hour, which runs seven days a week, including late nights.

1926 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20009

5. El Techo

606 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001
El Techo [official]

Perched above a Shaw burrito shop, El Techo is a rooftop oasis for sipping cocktails and crunching on tacos while overlooking Florida Avenue NW. The bar mixes a solid traditional margarita as well as a spicy mezcal margarita bolstered by habanero, pineapple and lime. The tequila-based garden margarita features bell peppers and cucumbers.

606 Florida Ave NW
Washington, DC 20001

6. El Centro D.F. (Multiple locations)

1218 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007
Assorted margaritas at El Centro.
El Centro/Facebook

The Georgetown location of this mini-chain features a large outdoor terrace with its own bar and plenty of room to spread out with a freshly mixed margarita. The house margarita packs a serious punch, especially when ordered frozen (grab them on the cheap during happy hour). The refreshing Pepino marries serrano pepper-infused tequila, agave nectar, fresh lime, and fresh cucumber. And local Don Ciccio & Figli Fico d’India liqueur makes an appearance in El Centro’s prickly pear margarita.

1218 Wisconsin Ave NW
Washington, DC 20007

7. Guapo's of Georgetown

3050 K Street NW Suite WG60, Washington, DC 20007

Guapo’s locations across the region are loved for their no-frills take on Tex-Mex favorites. Things may be a little more polished at the Georgetown waterfront location, but the margaritas still go down easy. Choices range from the standard option to a glasses accented with mango, pineapple, mint, strawberries, and more.

3050 K Street NW Suite WG60
Washington, DC 20007

8. Poca Madre

777 I Street NW, Techworld Plaza, Washington, DC 20001

Chef Victor Albisu brings a refined touch to Mexican cooking at Poca Madre, and the cocktails get the same treatment. The Margarita Madre — listed under “daises and sours” on the menu — swaps tequila for mezcal and folds in orange-scented agave and guajillo chile sal de gusano (worm salt).

777 I Street NW, Techworld Plaza
Washington, DC 20001

9. MXDC

600 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20005

Blocks from the White House, MXDC boasts a long list of creative margaritas. Selections include the margarita de pina (pineapple) and one made with habanero pepper. Those looking for something more top shelf can go with a Cadillac Margarita made with Roca Patron reposado tequila and Grand Marnier or the $40 Millionaire Margarita with Don Julio 1942 tequila.

600 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20005

10. Oyamel

401 7th St NW, Washington, DC 20004

José Andrés’s Mexican restaurant is known for its house margarita, made with blanco tequila, Combier L’Original, lime, and a spoonful of foamy salt “air” on top. Fans of sparking wine can try the Al Gusto, a concoction of cucumber-spiked tequila, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, lime, and cava. Classic margaritas are also available during the “hora feliz” happy hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

401 7th St NW
Washington, DC 20004

11. Buena Vida Clarendon Restaurant

2900 Wilson Blvd Suite 103, Arlington, VA 22201
The namesake Buena Vida margarita
Ardent Vibe/For Buena Vida

Buena Vida’s selection of margarita riffs include the namesake drink with reposado tequila, lime and “salt air.” Adventurous drinkers can sip on a smoky Oaxcan version with mezcal and salt made from chapulines (Mexican crickets). The restaurant has a sister location in Silver Spring.

2900 Wilson Blvd Suite 103
Arlington, VA 22201

12. Mi Vida

98 District Square SW, Washington, DC 20024
Mi Vida [official]

This spot at the Wharf stocks dozens of tequilas and mezcals that can be used to fuel specialty drinks. Cool off with La Frozen, an icy blend of tequila, mango, ginger, passion fruit, agave, and fresh lime. Then there’s the house mix and the updated La Buena Vida with tequila reposado, Grand Marnier, agave and orange.

98 District Square SW
Washington, DC 20024

13. El Bebe

99 M St SE Ste 120, Washington, DC 20003
Deb Lindsey/El Bebe

The team behind Circa restaurants opened El Bebe this spring with inspiration from the taquerias and bars of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The bar churns frozen margaritas in flavors like classic, prickly pear, hibiscus and strawberry that’ll cut through the D.C. heat. People who prefer theirs on the rocks can explore variations with strawberry jalapeno, blackberry, and a cucumber-lime combination. Any of them can be topped with a liqueur or a Cognac floater for a small fee.

99 M St SE Ste 120
Washington, DC 20003

14. Mission - Navy Yard

1221 Van St SE, Washington, DC 20003

Mission’s Navy Yard location (it’s second in D.C.) slings glasses and pitchers of its house margarita, which it serves from the tap for maximum crowd control and consistency. From there, branch out to a “skinny” recipe of tequila, fresh lime juice and agave nectar or go Cadillac-style with blend of Don Julio blanco and Cointreau.

1221 Van St SE
Washington, DC 20003

15. Urbano 116

116 King St, Alexandria, VA 22314

This Old Town cantina serves up festive margaritas to match its colorful, lucha libre-themed design. The signature 116 Margarita satisfies cravings for something boozy, tart and refreshing. The upgraded Navie uses reposado tequila, lime, orange juice, and a Grand Marnier float.

116 King St
Alexandria, VA 22314

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