11 great margaritas in Chicago you have to try

Our favorite margaritas in Chicago have plenty of fresh lime juice and no shortage of tequila, plus a few surprises (gold flakes!)

1/11
Photograph: Martha Williams

Pepino Margarita at Del Toro, $7
The margarita starts simple—silver tequila, lime, Cointreau—and then the bartender doctors it up with cucumber, jalapeno, simple syrup and a chile pequin rim. The cucumber makes it taste light and fresh, while the chile-lime salted rim adds heat to every sip.—Amy Cavanaugh

2/11
Photograph: Martha Williams

Rosemary’s Margarita at Antique Taco, $12
It makes sense that the cutest taco joint in town also has the cutest margarita. At Antique Taco, the simple margarita—tequila, plus fresh lime and orange juices—gets a hint of sweetness and herbal notes from rosemary simple syrup. It’s garnished with a sprig of rosemary and available both by the pint and quart—considering the heat some of the tacos carry, you’ll want to go big.—AC

3/11
Photograph: Drew Templeton

Margarita Tradicional at Mercadito, $10.50
When it comes to margaritas, keeping it simple is often the best course of action. This River North hotspot offers 11 margaritas, most of which are mixed with unexpected ingredients like cumin salt and almonds, but the best of the bunch is a straightforward adherent to the form: El Jimador Blanco tequila, agave nectar, Grand Marnier and fresh lime juice. Caution: Do not pay an extra $3 to “add smoke” to this margarita, unless you like a mouthful of campfire.—Laura Baginski

4/11
Photograph: Martha Williams

Adobo Margarita at Adobo Grill, $9.50
And then sometimes, adding smoke is a terrific idea. At Adobo Grill, start with a perfect margarita made with Herradura Blanco, Gran Torres orange liqueur and fresh lime that’s shaken tableside. For $1.25, the bartender will pour a layer of Del Maguey Chichicapa on top—it adds smokiness and makes the drink super boozy. We have a personal two-drink max on these, so drink slowly.—AC

5/11
Photograph: Cassie Stadnicki

Classic Margarita at Big Star, $8
Big Star makes two margaritas: the classic, with Lunazul Blanco, lime and orange curacao, and the Big Star, which adds in mezcal. While we’re usually all over mezcal margaritas, here it’s a bit too strong. Stick with the simple but well-crafted classic, which is also available in a pitcher for $33, a requirement if you’re whiling away an afternoon over a plate of tacos.—AC

6/11
Photograph: Arthur Mullen

Splurge margarita at Frontera Grill, $35
While the gold flakes may remind you of Goldschlager shots in college, drinking this margarita, served neat in a filled-to-the-brim martini glass, will end a lot better than those frat ragers. That’s because this drink is made with incredibly high-end ingredients (hence, the incredibly high-end price): Riazul anejo tequila ($60 a bottle at Binny’s), Grand Marnier, the French aperitif Pineau des Charentes and those aforementioned gold flakes. If you like cognac (the tequila is aged in Cognac barrels and Pineau des Charantes is infused with the stuff), you’ll like the mellow Sweet Tart flavor of this drink. If you don’t…uh, stick with Goldschlager?—LB

 

7/11
Photograph: Martha Williams

Where There is Smoke at Masa Azul, $10
The Mexican restaurant knows its tequila, and there are several margaritas on the cocktail list. Where There is Smoke is a recent addition, and the name says it all: The smoky mezcal hits you up front and it’s followed by fire from the serrano pepper. The orange liqueur and lime juice mellow both flavors out, resulting in a balanced margarita.–AC

8/11
Photograph: Martha Williams

The Rita at Commonwealth Tavern, $11
You won’t taste the sriracha that’s supposedly added to this otherwise classic margarita, but you won’t miss it, either. This is one of the most balanced, smooth and bright margaritas we’ve had in ages, thanks to a hefty supply of fresh lime juice, agave nectar and Don Julio tequila, plus a splash of orange juice and Cointreau.—LB

 

9/11
Photograph: Martha Williams

Morgan Street Margarita at Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar, $10
Proof that Maria’s is the most underrated cocktail joint in town: this margarita, which is made with Monte Alban Mezcal Joven, 1800 Reposado Tequila 100, lime juice and spicy simple syrup. There’s only a bit of heat, but combined with the smoky mezcal, it’s so good you’ll want to order a second immediately after you finish your first.—AC

10/11

Pineapple Serrano at Takito Kitchen, $10
Between the tequila, Cointreau, pineapple and spicy Serrano, there’s a lot of flavor here, but it all melds together beautifully. And while we’re not entirely sure what the bartenders are doing to make the chile-citrus-salt-sugar rim so good, we also don’t really care.—AC

11/11
Photograph: Martha Williams

Margarita Humosa at Parson’s Chicken and Fish, $8
Parson’s patio may not be open year-round, but thankfully you can still drink the margarita any time the craving strikes. The mezcal cocktail is rimmed with malic acid and sugar, which makes it taste just like Sour Patch Kids—it’s a smoky-sweet treat we just can’t get enough of.—AC

Whether it's National Margarita Day (that's February 22, so clear your calendar), Cinco de Mayo or any day a tequila and lime craving strikes, you can consult our list to find the 11 best margaritas in town. Everthing from textbook classics to a high-end version with gold flakes made the cut, and you can drink them at tiny Mexican restaurants, cocktail bars and even sports bars.

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