Friday is Cinco de Mayo, and if you’re wondering whether I plan to be a cliche that day, margarita in hand, the answer is a resounding yes. This classic cocktail just happens to be one of my all-time favorites, and lucky for me, a handful of North Shore establishments serve up fresh, creative twists that are so good, I’m writing a blog post about it. Have a look, order a couple, and if you’re so inclined, I’ve also included my tried-and-true recipe—and an octane-free version for the kids. Happy Cinco de Mayo!
House 406: Raspberry Margarita
Ask any of my mom friends and they’ll eagerly back me up: the craft cocktail masters at House 406 pride themselves on the artistry of their drinks. Sit at the steampunk-inspired bar for the full effect (these people don’t pour their cocktails, they invent them). With names like “When the Clock Strikes Midnight” and “Salt in the Air, Sand in my Hair,” you might find the entire cocktail menu hard to resist. But order the Raspberry Margarita at least once. The frozen raspberry-infused ice balls will be all it takes to win your heart (plus, it’s fun to say “raspberry balls.”)
1143 1/2 Church St., Northbrook
Yard House: El Picante
You have your choice of not one, but two tastebud-tickling margaritas: the Pomegranate Margarita and (my favey) the El Picante. The first is smooth, sweet and pretty; the second is a force to be reckoned with. Cayenne pepper and fresh jalapeño give it quite the kick, and if I’m being honest, I usually have to ask the bartender to tone down the spice … because I’m a wuss.
1880 Tower Dr., Glenview
El Tradicional: Margarita
Come to El Tradicional for the drinks, stay for the super-duper good Mexican food. The margarita menu is long and varied, and my favorite here is the silver. Order the Pollo Con Mole (the mole is perfect!), the Carne Asada (but you have to get it medium rare, OK?), or any of the enchiladas. Also, if you ever want to bribe me, bring me El Tradicional’s chips and salsa by the truckload.
649 Lake Cook Rd., Deerfield
Katie’s Tried and True Margarita
(With a little help from The Food Network)
3 ounces silver tequila
2 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice (No shortcuts! Hand-squeeze those limes! Think of it as stress relief.)
1 ounce simple syrup
1/2 to 1 teaspoon orange liqueur (Cointreau is primo)
Salt for rim
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add tequila, lime juice, simple syrup and orange liqueur. Cover and shake until mixed and chilled, about 30 seconds. Salt rim of glass and strain margarita into glass.
Katie’s Tried and True Sparkling Raspberry Limeade
(With more help from The Food Network)
1 cup sugar
6 ounces raspberries, plus more for garnish
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 10 limes)
1 liter club soda
Ice, for serving
1 lime, thinly sliced, for garnish
Add the sugar, 1 cup water and berries to a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and press against the berries with the back of the wooden spoon so their juices leach into the mixture. Let sit and steep until cool.
In a large pitcher, combine the cooled raspberry simple syrup, lime juice and club soda. Pour into tall glasses filled with ice and garnish with a slice of lime and a few extra berries for garnish.