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Best Margaritas in Austin--on the rocks with salt

Hello all, I have recently moved back to Austin after being away for two years, and I am trying to make up for lost time. The weather is finally hot enough now to make margaritas seem almost necessary in the afternoon/early evening. I would love to hear from people their opinions about who makes the best margarita in town. I don't care if it's at a bar, a happy hour, or a full service restaurant (BONUS POINTS if the place has a patio, though), or what part of town it's in--I just want to drink some delicious margaritas. I prefer margaritas made with fresh key/Mexican lime juice (although persian limes can be fine, too), not too sweet, and I always drink them on the rocks w/ salt. I did search the archives, and I found a few places where margaritas were mentioned in the body of restaurant reviews, but I couldn't find a topic devoted specifically to the drink. Anybody have suggestions? Thanks in advance!

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  1. Guero's for the key lime.... Cedar Door for a Mexican Martini (margarita on the rocks in a shaker). They salt the rim and serve with salty green olives and the patio is the BEST, with fans and misters in the summer, heaters in the winter - 3rd and Brazos. I can vouch, also, for Baby A's on Stonelake at the Arboretum and on Barton Springs (both have good patios). All three have food service.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Rene

      I'll second the recommendation for a mexmart from Cedar Door. I've only been there a few times, but I always get the Mexican Martini, and it's always quite good.

      1. re: alienzero

        I completely forgot about my love for Cedar Door Mexi Marts. I think, alas, that these too may be a mix rather than limes...but they don't have a set cut off number. Not to sound like a drunk, but if I want to sit for many hours chatting with friends and indulge in more than two (the limit most places) I should be allowed if I'm not driving.

      2. re: Rene

        I like the Cedar Door Mexican Martini, but for one that's just as good, try Julio's across the street from Mother's in Hyde Park. Served in a shaker, but no olives (which is fine by me). They have a small patio, about 4 tables. Bring cash, they don't take plastic.

      3. Some of my favorites:

        Opal Divine's suprisingly makes a damn fine margarita (and has a patio to boot). Their traditional mix is simply limes, water and agave nectar (not some botled crap), but they also have a prickly pear blend. All margaritas (they make a variety with varying price levels of tequila) can be ordered in a small rocks glass or as larger shaker.

        El Chile's El Chile Tini is also quite good. Served in a martini glass (no shaker) it is a simple combo of Hornitas, Cointreau and fresh lime juice...nothing else. These also pack a deceving punch.

        For a downtown "out on the town" margarita I like the ones at Casino El Camino. I'm not sure that they use fresh lime, but if they use a sweet and sour mix it's one of the better ones. These are strong and good.

        As far as the usual host of happy hour joints and mexican martini makers, I prefer Chuy's (probably because of the jalapeno olives) over Trudy's. Again, it's sweet and sour but one of the "tolerable" mixes....plus in recent years, Trudy's have turned to water and the 2 tini rule is a jip.

        Finally, and I know you didn't specifically ask about this, but I'll also throw in some frozen suggestions. I too prefer a rocks version, but there are some places in town that have superior frozen versions. I've mentioned in other posts my love for Vivo's frozen (large and topped with more tequila). These are not for light weights, and two will likely do the trick. I'm also a fan of the "fancy" frozen ritas at Manuel's--my favorite being the pomegranate.

        I'd also love to hear other suggestions from folks. Has anyone tried the ones at Wahoo's? I hear they have a good happy hour deal. Margaritas are my only "liquor friend"....otherwise I stick to wine or beer. I'd love to add some new spots to my repetoire.

        4 Replies
        1. re: ashes

          Thanks for the recommendations. I haven't been to Opal Divine's for 4 years or more, probably, but I will try them again on your recommendation, especially now that they've opened south, quite near me. I have also planned to try Vivo's, since that opened while I was away and it seems to have many fans. BTW, I do sometimes drink frozen, as I find that for some reason, some places can make a good frozen margarita, but a terrible rocks version, or vice-versa, so I do appreciate those recommendations as well.

          1. re: angusb

            The food at Vivo's gets mixed reviews. Personally I go there for the margaritas but end up getting food. It's good but if you want great food and margaritas, I'd head to El Chile instead.

            1. re: angusb

              When revisiting Opal Devine's, try the Penn Field Location down south. It is by far the best location for service, food and drink quality and all around ambience. Sixth Street is okay but the one north didn't work for me in any way.

              1. re: Rene

                Guero's for a traditional, lime-y margarita, with your choice of tequilas. The food is just OK, but the cocktails are made very well. And they're deceptively small.

          2. Maudie's if you order them with Don Julio Silver and Cointreau. Chuy's mexmarts.
            I personally think the rita's at Guerro's are the worst in town, but some people swear by them. My god they are so freaking tart my head wants to explode. Vivo can be good, depending on who's pouring, so can El Chile.
            A good rita is just a very personal thing.

            1 Reply
            1. re: woofdog

              I appreciate the margaritas at Guero's. I have had them show up at the table unexpectedly and surprisingly tart, but that is not the norm. I'm guessing that they stick to the same recipe year-round, and they occasionally get a batch of under-ripe or especially tart limes...limes are an agricultural product, after all, and they do vary by season. They should adjust their recipe to account for that, but I'm sure that a lot of the bartenders just squeeze the juice and never taste it.

              I am planning to try Vivo, and I will go back to El Chile--it's been a few years, but I do recall liking their drinks when they first opened. Thanks for the recommendations.

            2. I know you asked for a rocks margarita, I like rocks better than frozen, but the frozen margarita at the Belmont is very good for $4. They make it with Paula's Orange.

              1 Reply
              1. re: nibs

                I agree. I'm not normally a fan of frozen margs, but the Belmont's has me convinced. Now, if only they had any good food.

              2. I like Fonda San Miguel. They use only a touch of simple syrup. I also Guero's but I tend to like the traditional margarita without sugar or sweet and sour added. Just the three ingredients. Chuy's and Hula Hut pour terribly sweet and tart margaritas. The best are the ones made at home with fresh lime juice.

                1. Ranch 616 's house margarita is great. tart and fresh, and their well tequila is 100% agave.....Jimador, I believe.

                  Their Ranch Water is popular. A margarita with Topo Chico, basically, but the margs are cheaper and better.

                  I usually just go to the bar and drink....maybe split a quesadilla for sustenance.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: yehudimenuhin

                    The best margarita I've had in ages can be found at Lovejoy's on Neches .I
                    t's only available on Tuesday night after 8 pm[because that's the only night the comely lass who served it to me,Kathryn-works]...she has long red hair and wears all black,notable because there will be more than one bartender working.
                    It is expertly mixed,served tall and has the appropriate amount of liquor...lots.Ambience is stellar,Lions of Tsavo on the jukebox and a very diverse crowd;some suits off work,some punks shooting pool and hollerin,some indie rockers affecting disinterest and assorted bikers and oddballs rounding out the mix.

                    1. re: scrumptiouschef

                      Thanks for the info. I will definitely check out Lovejoy's and Ranch 616.

                    2. re: yehudimenuhin

                      I too appreciate the attention to margaritas at Ranch 616. But I think el Jimador is a mixto, no longer made w/ 100% agave. Mitch at Twin on Mesa told me however that it has more agave than other mixtos, so still a good choice on the more economical end. (In basically the same price range I recommend Hornitos or Cuervo Tradicional, both reposados. Paula's Tx Orange is a great local product and $10 less than Cointreau)
                      I have also had good rocks ritas at Club DeVille. And they make an interesting twist on the classic at Starlite, with spiked sour cherries in the bottom.