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Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

The best margaritas in Chicago

The best margaritas have plenty of fresh lime juice and no shortage of tequila, plus a few surprises

By Morgan Olsen and Elizabeth Atkinson

A classic margarita is a mixture of tequila, fresh lime juice and Cointreau (an orange-flavored liqueur). It's an undeniably refreshing drink whether it's Cinco de Mayo or any old Friday night. Of course, here in Chicago there are an infinite number of fanciful twists on the simple recipe. Whether you like your margs spicy, sweet, made with veggies or infused with gold flakes, there's an option for you at Chicago's bes Mexican restaurants, taco joints, dive bars and cocktail lounges. Choose from simple or fancy, plain or bizarre, by the glass or in a pitcher—our list includes a little bit of everything.

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Best margaritas in Chicago

Pepino margarita at Del Toro.
Photograph: Martha Williams

Pepino Margarita at Del Toro

Restaurants Mexican Lower West Side

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. $8. —Amy Cavanaugh

Rosemary margarita at Antique Taco
Photograph: Martha Williams

House Rosemary Margarita at Antique Taco

Restaurants Mexican Wicker Park

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 glass and the quart—considering the heat some of the tacos carry, you’ll want to go big. $8, glass $30, quart.AC

Photograph: Cassie Stadnicki

Classic Margarita at Big Star

Bars Mezcalerias Wicker Park

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 $36, a requirement if you’re whiling away an afternoon over a plate of tacos. $9. —AC

Top Shelf Margarita at Dos Urban Cantina

Restaurants Mexican Logan Square

This Logan Square spot offers two margs on its menu: house and top shelf. We recommend splurging on the latter, a seamless blend of tequila, triple sec, lime, simple syrup and dry orange liqueur. Sounds somewhat basic, but all of the ingredients come from bottles you'd expect to find on your fancy friend's bar cart. The finished product is clean, packed with citrus and downright juicy. Consider adding a little heat with an optional drop or two of habanero tincture. $16. —Morgan Olsen

Where there is smoke margarita at Masa Azul.
Photograph: Martha Williams

Where There is Smoke at Masa Azul

Restaurants Mexican Logan Square

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

Photograph: Courtesy Cafe D'noche

De Noche Rita at De Noche Mexicana

Restaurants Latin American Logan Square

Margaritas at De Noche Mexicana are no joke, whether you want a twist on the old classic with the De Noche Rita ($9) or prefer to kick things up a notch with the smooth but serious Margarita Suprema ($14)—a mix of Don Julio reposado tequila and Grand Marnier, plus anejo rum and citrus mix. That said, a $32 pitcher of the trusted house ’rita—El Charro blanco tequila, orange liqueur, orange liqueur and de noche citrus mix—goes down easy. Add a taste of blackberry, mango, passion fruit or guava for $3. —Laura Rote

Eric Kleinberg

Carrot Margarita at Clever Rabbit

Restaurants Ukrainian Village

No, that's not a typo. This bright orange elixir gets its unique hue from carrot juice. Still, it's not your typical juice-bar concoction. The vegetal base is spruced up with reposado (oak-aged tequila), spicy green chile liqueur, agave, lime and lime sea salt. It's a complex yet refreshing sipper that sets the scene at this veggie-focused restaurant in Wicker Park. $12. —MO

Morgan Street margarita at Maria’s Packaged Goods With Monte Alban Mezcal Joven, 1800 Reposado Tequila 100, lime juice and spicy simple syrup, this margarita is spicy, smoky and oh, so good. $10.
Photograph: Martha Williams

Morgan Street Margarita at Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar

Bars Pubs Bridgeport

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. $10. —AC


Splurge Margarita at Frontera Grill

Restaurants Mexican River North

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): Don Julio 1942, 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? $30.Laura Baginski

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Mescal Margarita at Mi Tocaya Antojería

Restaurants Mexican Logan Square

Chef Diana Dávila's ode to Mexican cuisine offers three simple margaritas. The only choice you'll need to make: Blanco tequila, mescal or reposado? We recommend switching things up with the herbaceous and smoky mescal, which adds just the right amount of depth to an otherwise-classic cocktail. If you're dining with a group, upgrading to the pitcher is a no-brainer. $13 or $52. —MO

Photograph: Nathan Borgo

Hot Mez at La Mez Agave Lounge

Bars Cocktail bars River North

At La Mez Agave Lounge, the margarita comes with mescal, herbal liqueur, Grand Marnier, lime and lightly sweetened with agave. It makes for a great after work drink, and you can sometimes find the cocktail being offered at half price, accompanied by small plates of food. $13. —EA

Photograph: Courtesy Best Intentions

Horchata Margarita at Best Intentions

Bars Pubs Logan Square

Best Intentions has a fantastic patio, and while you could easily cool down with the delicious Wondermint Malted, you might be looking for something a little lighter. Try the Horchata Margarita, a little sweet but not cloying. Everything else stays the same, with a pop of tequila, this margarita aims to please. $8. —EA

Margarita Tradicional at Mercadito
Photograph: Drew Templeton

Margarita Tradicional at Mercadito

Restaurants Mexican River North

When it comes to margaritas, keeping it simple is often the best course of action. This River North hotspot offers a variety of 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. $12.50 —LB

Pineapple Serrano at Takito Kitchen

Restaurants Mexican Ukrainian Village

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. $11. —AC

Find more of our top Mexican picks by dish

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Chicago's most authentic and original Mexican food


We don't ever need an excuse to gorge ourselves on the city’s stellar Mexican offerings. (We’d happily scale a mountain of snow for 2am tamales!) And whether we're bundled up in our parkas or shedding our winter layers for some warmer weather, we're always in the mood for tacos, enchiladas and hard-hitting, ice-cold margaritas. We decided to check out the best—and most authentic—Mexican food in Chicago, dish by delicious dish.


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