varieties of Herradura tequila are sampled during
tastings at La Fiesta Lounge.
FE, N.M. ó If a restaurantís parking lot is typically
full, then the food inside is typically good.
rule of thumb certainly applies at Mariaís New Mexican
Kitchen. And while deciding what to eat can be tough ó
everything from green chile meatballs to tamales is
offered ó deciding what to drink is even tougher.
more than 140 types of tequila and 200 margaritas, the
drinks menu is staggering. The choices ó with intriguing
names such as Happy Camper, Moonglow and Platinum Crow ó
will have you feeling lightheaded well before the first
started with 16 margaritas," said Al Lucero, who
bought Mariaís in 1985 because no restaurants were
serving the tasty New Mexican food the Santa Fe native had
enjoyed as a child. As he tried more and more food ó and
tequila ó both his knowledge and the menu expanded.
Lucero, author of "The Great Margarita Book,"
could easily be nicknamed Mr. Margarita.
traveling El Camino Real brought tequila to Santa Fe more
than 400 years ago. And while the margarita wasnít born
in Americaís oldest state capital, it definitely matured
here. Fittingly, the city launched the Santa Fe Margarita
Trail (www.santafe.org/margaritatrail) last year where
custom-created cocktails can be enjoyed along with a
wealth of art galleries and museums.
by the downtown visitor center (201 W. Marcy St.) to
invest three bucks in the Margarita Trail Passport. In
exchange for inclusion, the 31 featured bars and
restaurants have developed special concoctions. Their
recipes, plus a trail map, are included in the informative
booklet. Holders get $1 off each of the listed margaritas
and earn stamps good for free gifts with each purchase.
sipping at the La Fonda on the Plaza hotel, the only place
providing stamps at three venues: La Plazuela restaurant
plus two bars.
warm weather, locals enjoy after-work cocktails at La
Fondaís Bell Tower Bar, a rooftop gathering spot
overlooking the city. Its new offering, the Bell Ringer,
comes with a kick; itís made with Tanteo jalapeno
tequila, Cointreau, jalapeno juice and lemon-lime juice.
no wonder that city fathers are encouraging responsible
drinking by limiting the number of stamps to two a day.
off the lobby, La Fiesta Lounge serves a new margarita as
well as a tequila flight containing four types of
Andrew Alas first offers the Silver, aged for 40 days.
has a soft taste," he explained. "Itís really,
Alasí tutelage, guests then try varieties of reposado
and anejo before he proffers a small glass of
double-barrel tequila. It comes from individually numbered
bottles bearing the hotelís name.
aged for 11 months to give it a different taste," he
liquor is smooth as silk on both the tongue and the back
of the throat.
now on our third barrel, so itís been really
successful," said Shawn Murphy, La Fondaís food and
associate tequila with margaritas. I donít drink it that
way. I sip tequila," he added. "The tequilas
they come out with now are as good as any brandy or
cognac. Theyíre just as smooth. Itís amazing."
are a big deal in New Mexico. The village of Hatch, in the
southern part of the state, is famous for its green chiles.
No wonder another localsí favorite, Del Charro Saloon at
Inn of the Governors, puts an emphasis on super-spicy
ingredients in both its food and drink.
Charroís new special, the Santa Fe Trail margarita, will
knock the socks off a timid out-of-towner. In addition to
green chile-infused tequila, bartenders add green chile
powder and red chile flakes. With that much spice, the
Cointreau, lemon and lime juices almost seem like
thatís not enough to make a gringoís eyes water, there
are always the quesadillas topped with New Mexico green
who forgot to pack their antacid pills can always opt for
the Cowgirl Cadillac margarita at Cowgirl, an
indoor-outdoor rib joint near Santa Feís up-and-coming
restaurantís special is a gentle spin on the classic
margarita. Itís made from organic blue agave tequila,
Grand Marnier, and sweet and sour mix, as well as fresh
squeezed lime and orange juice.
conjures up, in my mind, this sexy cowgirl lounging in her
Cadillac Eldorado with the big steer horns up front and
her boots up on the dashboard," Cowgirl co-owner
Nicholas Ballas said. The creation, he added (only partly
tongue-in-cheek), is the result of more than 30 years of
trial and error.
was night after night after arduous night of researching
margaritas in Santa Fe," he said. "I finally
found out how to make a good margarita."
a mile away at Mariaís, where the passport drink is
named for former owner Lucero, donít be surprised to
find Robert Redford sitting nearby. A Santa Fe homeowner,
the legendary actor has been dining here since he filmed
"The Milagro Beanfield War" in nearby Truchas in
the late 1980s.
praised Mariaís in his forward to Luceroís book.
it fancy? No. Is it chic? No. Is the food good? Yes. But
the margaritas ó they are the best," he wrote.
try to avoid asking for a frozen margarita. That will make
the bartenders wince.
youíre doing a frozen margarita," Lucero pointed
out, "youíre getting a slushie, and itís mostly