Santa Fe Blazes a Margarita Trail

More than 30 restaurants will participate in Santa Fe's new culinary cocktail experience

Kentucky has its famed Bourbon Trail and Scotland its Malt Whiskey Trail. Vermont recently launched a Cocktail Walk, and now, with the unveiling of the brand new Santa Fe Margarita Trail, the City Different is poised to join the ranks of places lauded for libations. And the margarita—a perfect combo of salty, sour, bitter and sweet—is emblematic of our fair city, served in restaurants and bars galore.

The official launch date is May 5, and organizers from TOURISM Santa Fe are betting that the Margarita Trail will be as popular as New Mexico's Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail, Chocolate Trail, Breakfast Burrito Byway and Ale Trail. Based on early interest, including articles in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and Luxury Travel Magazine, the Margarita Trail may just beat all other trails in New Mexico.

It works like this: participants (aged 21 and older) purchase a passport for $3 at participating businesses or TOURISM Santa Fe Visitor Centers. They then visit participating restaurants and bars, sampling margaritas (sold for $7-$12), and collecting stamps for every one they buy. Once they've accumulated five stamps, they can turn the passport in at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center for a Santa Fe Margarita Trail t-shirt. They can use the same passport to keep collecting stamps, which are cumulative, so once you reach 20 stamps, you'll earn a signed copy of The Great Margarita Book, written by Maria's former owner Al Lucero with a foreword by actor Robert Redford. Other prizes are in the works, including a grand prize for 30 stamps. The passport also includes descriptions of each participating business as well as recipes for each margarita on the trail.

The Margarita Trail was unveiled at a press reception at Maria's New Mexican Kitchen on Monday, which fittingly marked National Margarita Day and included an enthusiastic group of food writers, chefs, restaurant and hotel reps and tourism officials. Eve the mayor expressed his support, via a press release announcing the trail's debut: “Celebrating the best food with your best friends is at the heart of living in or visiting Santa Fe. The Santa Fe Margarita Trail will help our visitors discover exceptional mixology talent and hidden cocktail gems in our city while they create very special memories.”

Because organizers want trail-goers to be able to remember their special memories, passport stamps will be limited to two per day.

The idea for the Margarita Trail was the brainchild of Randy Randall, executive director for TOURISM Santa Fe, who said the margarita is the official drink in Santa Fe. It's the most requested drink in the city, prompting mixologists to come up with innovative and exciting versions. In fact, Santa Fe was the first place in the country where tequila was imported from Mexico, making it the ideal spot for a trail devoted to the drink. “The Margarita Trail will complement our storied history and guide visitors to creative and fun restaurants, bars, live music and award-winning regional cuisine they'll never forget,” he said.

Currently, 30 restaurants and bars have signed up to be a stop on the trail, including Maria's, dubbed by The Seattle Times as the Motherlode of American margaritas, with more than 200 varieties on the menu, which is incredible when you consider that the cocktail basically consists of tequila, triple sec and lime or lemon juice, often served with a salt-rimmed glass and/or frozen.

Other trail stops include the Coyote Cantina,which offers a signature Señorita margarita. Order that with BBQ Duck Quesadilla and you'll have what Travel + Leisure has described as a “classic pairing not to miss.” Or try The Agave Lounge at Eldorado Hotel and pair your margarita with Sriracha Honey Wings and the People's Choice Smackdown Winning Green Chile Cheeseburger.

La Fonda on the Plaza has signed up for the trail, too, and will offer a special margarita to trail-goers who visit La Plazuela restaurant, the Bell Tower (open only during the summer) and La Fiesta lounge, which is currently undergoing a face lift and will re-open this March, offering a new menu of salsa flights, deconstructed nachos, braised short rib tacos and more.

At Amaya at Hotel Santa Fe,sip a signature margarita between bites of Achiote-Seasoned Mahi Mahi Tacos, West Coast Black Mussels with Spanish Chorizo and other delicious dishes, or savor calamari, spring rolls and dumplings with a Santacafé margarita.

A stop at Derailed at the Sage offers a margarita that can be paired with a variety of dishes, from nachos and wings to the gourmet Railrunner Dog hot dog and Shrimp Haystack, served tempura fried with wasabi cream on a pile o'fries.

A margarita at the Blue Corn Cafe goes well with so many items on the menu, from queso and chips to a trio of sliders that includes chipotle shredded pork or blackened salmon, both served with jicama slaw and chipotle mayo, and Black Angus beef with green chile and asadero cheese.

One of my favorite margaritas is the classic version served in an ice-cold silver shaker at Del Charro Saloon at the Inn of the Governors. The affordable menu offers a choice of classics that include quesadillas, nachos, chipotle wings and the Del Charro Burger.

Tomasita's is part of the trail, too, offering a margarita that can be paired with authentic northern New Mexico food, from guac and chips and deep-fried jalapeno poppers to green chile cheese fries and more.

At  Cowbirl BBQ you can pair your margarita with  wdishes like Seared Chile-Dusted Pork Belly Taco, Five Pepper Nachos with Salsa Diablo and Yak Meatloaf will be fun to pair with a margarita...or two.

Don't miss the chance to savor this unique culinary cocktail experience. Happy Trails!

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