If you were to take a snapshot of the quintessential Angeleno, you might find them holding a taco in one hand and a margarita in the other. We love our tequila here, as evidenced by L.A.'s fantastic tequila and mezcal bars and the countless margaritas that are shaken or blended within them. From brunch to happy hour—and every hour in between—we found the best bars in the city for a top-notch margarita.
Where to find the best margaritas in L.A.
This Downtown den of mezcal and tequila comes from the city's craft cocktail innovator Cedd Moses. Here, Mexican kitsch meets psychedelic rabbit murals with an impressive list of tequilas (a mix of Highlands and Lowlands) and mezcals (there's Illegal and a bang-up selection of Del Maguey) in between. Their signature cocktail is dubbed the Spiced Daisy. Olmeca Altos Plata tequila, Combier, agave, lime juice, cucumber, cilantro and jalapeno are all combined for a drink that is at once sweet and spicy.
Water Grill DTLA recently launched brunch, and their brunch cocktail list has some true gems on it—including this beauty, the Margarita Verde. All the standard ingredients are here—tequila, lime, agave, jalapeno—but so is the addition of refreshing cucumber and basil, giving the drink an earthy note. Pair it with the restaurant's salmon hash and you're golden.
The fact that one of the best margaritas in the city is available for a mere $6 during happy hour is something our livers are just going to have to deal with. Made with your choice of tequila or mezcal, lime and a citrus-spiked agave curacao, the drink goes perfectly with Petty Cash's mini munchies, like oysters, al pastor nachos and quesadillas.
There isn't a margarita at Gracias Madre that we don't love. The Purista, the restaurant's house margarita, is a refreshing blend of tequila reposado, lime, agave and orange bitters, rimmed with a sweet orange salt. (Going with a group? Order it by the pitcher.) But you can also bump your drink up a notch with Gracias Madre's premium margaritas, which use baller-status tequilas like Fuentaseca Reserva and Clase Azul Ultra Extra Añejo.
The Hermosa Beach Pier is filled with rowdy bars and fast food stands, but Palmilla Cocina y Tequila is a little more dressed up. Suspender-wearing studs man the bar, where tequila flows freely and Hermosa locals sip on margaritas made with farmers' market-fresh ingredients. The muddled fruit margarita is a dream, with Herradura Blanco and your choice of watermelon, raspberries or strawberries. It's a drink that'll make you feel like lounging by the ocean—which, coincidentally, is just a block away.
Highland Park's dive-turned-Mexican-cocktail-den has a Día de Los Muertos theme, where skulls, skeletons and upside-down bats unapologetically grace mezcal and tequila-lined shelves. The slightly kitschy, multi-room space feels like a dark and moody movie set—though after a couple margaritas, it becomes whatever you want it to be. The jalapeño margarita here is a winner, with Sino spicy tequila, organic agave syrup, cilantro and fresh grapefruit and lime juice. It tastes like a spicy, boozy garden, and we wouldn't have it any other way.
The Studio City restaurant offers plenty of tacos, antojitos and entrées for consumption, but you'll also find outstanding drinks in the open-air space. In addition to a classic Margarita Cocina, tequila fans can order the Spicy Mango Margarita, a tropical version made with Cazadores Blanco Tequila, habanero-infused mango puree, lime juice, organic agave and a chile-lime salt rim.
You could call Toca Madera a scene (seriously, everyone here is beautiful) but that shouldn't discredit the fact that it's a great place to come for a margarita—especially if you're a fan of spice. The El Guapo, made with Altos blanco tequila, basil, lime and smoked sea salt comes garnished with a giant Fresno chili, lighting your mouth on fire with each sip. And the Ghost Rider? Featuring El Cartel Blanco Tequila, mint, lime and agave, the cocktail itself is a fiery beverage, with flames licking the surface until you begin to sip away.
There are diehard fans of Mercado's spicy cucumber margarita roaming around L.A.—mention the drink and they'll praise the cocktail in all of its jalapeño and cucumber pureed glory. Using Senda tequila and garnished with a dusting of chipotle salt along the rim, it's the kind of cocktail that you can knock back in a split second without realizing it. Uh, oops?
Guelaguetza is practically a household name in L.A. at this point, though diners usually come more for the mole than the margaritas. Still, if you're thirsty for tequila, the happy hour here is a dream with two-for-one margaritas. Try them in both traditional and fruit varieties (strawberry, mango and passion fruit).