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Margaritas in San Diego

So I moved to SD from the NW this year and to my surprise, I have not found as good of a margarita as I would get in Seattle. To be a complete snob, I find margaritas that use that sweet neon sour mix just not worth drinking.

A perfect margarita for me is made with fresh citrus juices, plus the alcohol. Fresh juice rather than sour mix is key. Are there any places that make a good margarita in town? I am calling on my friends here at CH to tell me your favorites.

In the meantime, I mostly make mine at home. I really like to use tamarind in place of the juice or even hibiscus juice.

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  1. Where have you already tried the maggies? It's been a long time since I've order one out myself; I'd be curious to know as well. I make most of my margaritas at home too. I make nice variations with mezcal and with the juice of the red prickly pear cactus.

    1 Reply
    1. re: DiningDiva

      Tuna-rita's are great with the cactus pear.

    2. I have also used jamaica (hibiscus) as an ingredient in tequila cocktails; however, I would not call such a drink a Margarita. Perhaps a "Distrito Federal?" as an allusion to the similar taste of cranberry in a Cosmopolitan?

      Try Baja Betty's, on University in hillcrest. Their drinks are rather large and strong, but they offer very good tequila, and use fresh limes in their house margaritas. The food isn't bad, either; we usually go during the happy hour specials for a light meal of appetizers and a drink apiece. I can't afford most of the aged tequilas they offer, but you wouldn't waste those in a cocktail, would you?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Joseph

        I really like Baja Betty's but NOT for the Margies - they are made with sour mix from the soda tap. No bueno if expecting a real juice one.

        I am generalizing here - anything with tequilla and orange liquor loosely is a margarita. We used some fresh lychees to make a "margarita" recently which was really good.

      2. I don't order Margaritas out for precisely the reason you mention. I actually like to make them with bottled key lime juice.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Josh

          Josh, for pete's sake, Pancho Villa Market, Northgate and Windmill Farms all sell fresh key limes, usually about 10 for $1. Squeeze your own. Even though the bottled key lime juice is pretty good, margaritas are better with fresh squeezed. Yes, I guess that makes me a food snob :-D.

          The limes keep for quite a while, or just freeze what you don't use. Buy a Mexican lime squeezer while you're at it and juicing is a breeze. (BTW, a Mexican lime squeezer works with lemons too with a littl modification.)

          1. re: DiningDiva

            I don't where any of those places are. I've seen them various places, but my understanding is that what we get here that are called Key Limes are actually a Mexican lime variant. Supposedly the only source for real Key Limes is Florida. Not sure how true that is anymore.

            Bottled (not the plastic stuff, the real thing from FLA) is too quick to pass up, though I usually do agree that fresh is best.

            1. re: Josh

              Okay, dude, you've gotta get out more ;-)

              Pancho Villa market is on El Cajon right where it crosses the 805.

              Northgate is just off the 805 at 43rd. And when I say just off the 805 it really it. If you're going south on the 805, the 43rd street exit makes a long sweeping curve. At the stoplight at the end of it is Northgate. Very visible once you make the curve.

              Windmill Farms is in Del Cerro. I-8 East to College Ave. North on College to Del Cerro Blvd., right on Del Cerro Blvd, first left is the driveway to their parking lot.

              Make a trip to Northgate, their produce section is unbelieveable

              1. re: DiningDiva

                I've actually seen Key Limes at my local Henry's. Apparently they are grown in Mexico now as well.

              2. re: Josh

                Florida is the only "true" source of Key Limes in the sense that the name refers to the Florida Keys. Mexico grows a good quantity of the small, thin-skinned, juicy limes called "key", "bartender's" or "mexican". I buy them in 2 lb bags and keep the extra limes in the refrigerator, bring them out to warm in the fruit basket before juicing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Key_lime

                1. re: Joseph

                  Your source (Wikipedia) contradicts, not supports, the first sentence of your post.

                  The Spanish brought the *limón criollo* to the New World, including Mexico and Florida, among other places. The name of the *limón criollo* was corrupted to 'Key Lime'. The genus of the tree, whether in Florida or Mexico, is identical.

                  1. re: Joseph

                    Perhaps I was unclear. I meant to say that "only in the sens e that..."; in other words, I think mexican limes are just about the same thing culinarily.

            2. I also hate that neon sour mix! I also make my own at home but I like the Bone Daddy's mix they sell at BevMo in a pinch. It's made with real juice - though it's bottled. Much better than conventional.

              I also just posted a recipe for Blackberry Mint Margaritas on my blog. The recipe is from the Hungry Cat in LA - fresh blackberries, lime juice, a little sugar, tequila and crushed mint. They were really good. http://aliceqfoodie.blogspot.com/2006...

              In response to your original question, I have had good margaritas at Roppongi, George's at the Cove, and Ponce's in Kensington - though you have to ask for a gourmet one (like the Hornitos) their regular ones aren't good. Good luck!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Alice Q

                Those look really good - I'll have to try them. The mint must be an interesting mix with tequilla.

              2. Weird, I've lived in SD 12 years and seems like everywhere you go, the margs are made with a mix. Make 'em at home with 2 parts premium tequila, one part part cointreau (use triple sec if you're using Jose Cuervo tequila), and 1 part mexican lime juice (plain ol' limes work too). Please don't use bottled lime juice! If you're willing to drive south of the border, drive down the coast highway and just south of Rosarito Beach stop at La Calafia, a little hotel with a bar/restaurant that has tables sitting in little coves carved into the cliff ... watch the sunset, drink a margarita, and love life!