Short List: House Margarita

Seeing as the margarita is a cocktail popular enough to boast a personal holiday (Yes, Feb. 22 is National Margarita Day.), we figured it was about time we call out some of our top picks for this classic, warm-weather treat. Our parameters were simple: It had to be a house margarita, and it had to be fresh – no bottled premixes or smoothie-style, frozen, machine-dispensed nonsense. With this drink, balance is key. Mixologists who stray too far from Gary Regan’s formula of 3 parts tequila, 2 parts triple sec and 1 part lime juice flirt with the possibility of a drink that’s overly sweet, mouth puckering-ly sour or simply way too intense. So, who has walked this line well enough to make our list? Check ‘em out.

Milagro Modern Mexican
20 Allen Ave., Webster Groves, 314.962.4300,

Milagro pretty much knocks the classic house marg out of the park. Understated and hopelessly traditional, this mixture of Sauza Blanco tequila and triple sec is reinforced with a house-made limonada for an unexpected kick. A few quick shakes, and the bartenders strain their potent concoctions into chilled glasses lined with thick flakes of salt. Take three sips, and you’ll be back on the beaches of Playa del Carmen. This baby is as good as it gets.

4198 Manchester Ave., St. Louis, 314.535.9700,

The double Old-Fashioned glass Sanctuaria uses for its margarita is a strange vessel, better suited to dispense bourbon and bitters. But take a sip, and you’ll find that this glass does its duty just as well for margaritas. The bar is overflowing with all the fancy-ass, barrel-aged, crafty drinks staff members can conjure up. But rest assured, they take just as much care with a simple margarita. Their take on the classic reminds you why you fell in love with this drink the first time. With a short ingredient list of lime, Cointreau, Lunazul Blanco tequila and a hit of simple syrup, it’s hardly one of Sanctuaria’s fanciest offerings, but it gets the job done.

5257 Shaw Ave., St. Louis, 314.772.8272,

“Modest” is actually a fitting adjective for Modesto’s house margarita. The restaurant is well-known for its rotating (and phenomenal) selection of brandy-fueled sangrias, but the bartenders at Modesto also shake up a solid, tequila-infused alternative. If you’re nice enough, they will even combine the two for a “Sangrita” in a tall, narrow cocktail glass. But the regular house margarita, which utilizes none other than Montezuma Silver tequila, has the ideal tart-strong combo that makes you wish the double-rocks glass it’s served up in was at least 2 inches taller.