In Santa Fe, every day is Margarita Day (it’s really Feb 22, BTW). What better way to enjoy this classic cocktail than by exploring the Santa Fe Margarita Trail, a cocktail odyssey featuring 45 restaurants and bars? Each unique margarita has been crafted specifically for the trail, so you know you’ll be tasting some of the best margaritas in the world.
Since the trail opened in 2016 some 18,000 locals and visitors have traveled along it, sipping their way to earning commemorative T-shirts and other prizes by collecting stamps from each venue. New venues have been added, too, taking margarita fans across the city and beyond its outskirts. You’ll visit bars with a celebrated history, classic BBQ joints, 5-star restaurants, local haunts and other intriguing spots, all offering custom margaritas you won’t find anywhere else.
Here’s how the Santa Fe Margarita Trail works. You simply download the Margarita Trail Passport from the Apple Store or Google Play, or pick up your old-fashioned paper passport version from any of the participating venues. Then head out on the trail, sampling signature Santa Fe margaritas. Remember that you’re limited to two stamps every 12 hours, because margaritas can be potent, especially if you’re not used to Santa Fe’s 7,200-foot altitude.
As you travel the trail, you’ll collect stamps from each venue that you visit. These little stamps can earn you big rewards—everything from an official Margarita Trail T-shirt (5 stamps) to a membership in the Margarita Society (15 stamps), which gives you access to special seminars, tastings and other events along with a subscription to the society’s newsletter, the “Margarita Insider,” and other cool stuff. Conquer the full trail (45 stamps), and you’ll receive the grand prize, a VIP Margarita Package that’s a Santa Fe margarita experience customized just for you. Have we whetted your whistle yet? Then let’s get you started on your margarita adventure!
The best margaritas in Santa Fe
If you need a few suggestions to get you started, these fine Santa Fe spots (or check out our Santa Fe Restaurant Guide) serve up some mighty margaritas!
Low ‘n Slow
Stop at Hotel Chimayó ‘s Low’n Slow Lowrider Bar for one heckuva ride with the Chimayóso Margarita, created specifically for the Santa Fe Margarita Trail. This memorable margarita is composed of serrano pepper-infused Espolon Reposado Tequila, Rothman and Winter Orchard Apricot liqueur and fresh-squeezed lime juice, served with a Chimayó chile-salt rim. Its flavors will linger long after you’ve finished drinking it.
Don’t miss Del Charro at the Inn of the Governors, serving an impressive variety of margaritas, including the Pomegranate Margarita with Grand Marnier, and the Del Charro Silver Coin with Cointreau, house-made sweet n’ sour, a red and green chile-salted rim, and a garnish of tequila-marinated jalapeño. To get your passport stamp, however, you’ll want to order the Santa Fe Trail Margarita, a blend of Del Charro Double Barrel Tequila Reposada from Casa Herradura that’s infused with Hatch chile, agave triple sec and sweet n’ sour mix. Ole!
The Secreto Bar and Lounge at Hotel St. Francis is famous for handcrafted garden-to-glass cocktails. Here, the signature Smoked Sage Margarita is a work of art. The recipe includes orange liqueur, smoked sea salt and sage leaves set alight so the smoke is captured inside the shaker. This infuses the cocktail with a smoky, earthy flavor. It’s so good you’ll want to order two, even though that will only get you one stamp.
Bar Alto‘s Sangre de Cristo, a combo of Reposado Tequila, orange liqueur, cinnamon and orange soda, looks enticingly like a Santa Fe sunset. Drink this on the rooftop of the Drury Plaza Hotel just as the the sun starts to set over the ocean of blue sky, and you may find yourself drifting off into a reverie of sea and sand, thinking of Margaritaville
Most visitors to Santa Fe make at least one stop at Meow Wolf, the otherworldly interactive art installation backed by George R.R. Martin, arguably the most famous author on this planet (and probably others). Meow Wolf’s fanciful Float Bar offers one of the coolest concoctions you’ll find anywhere, and could have been featured in one of Martin’s fantasy novels. The Meowgarita is pretty in pink, with a purple splash of butterfly pea flower tea. It’s topped with a cloud of ice blue cotton candy for dramatic effect. What a perfect way to start, or end, your visit to Meow Wolf’s mind-blowing installation, “The House of Eternal Return.”
Up on historic Canyon Road, the iconic El Farol has been serving guests since 1835. With its old world Santa Fe atmosphere, rambling rooms and covered porch overlooking Canyon Road, El Farol is the perfect place to relax and sip a Smoking Bull. This handsome cocktail, created for the Margarita Trail, combines smoky mescal and cilantro-piqullo pepper agave syrup, rimmed with Chimayó red chile.
La Casa Sena
Downtown, La Casa Sena named its Margarita Trail drink The Nooner, but you can enjoy this refreshing cocktail anytime of day, or night, whether you sit on the garden patio or inside this handsome, historic hacienda. The recipe blends tequila, elderflower liqueur and orange juice, and the result is one cool, classic margarita.
Sports fans flock to Boxcar, which is also a hot spot for live music, karaoke and more. Located in the trendy Santa Fe Railyard, Boxcar is a hot spot on the Margarita Trail, too. That’s because Boxcar’s H.O.T.T, or Hot On The Trail, margarita is hard to resist, a spicy concoction of green chile-infused tequila, cucumber vodka and a dash of tabasco. Grab a seat and enjoy your H.O.T.T. at the longest bar in the city.
Out on the city’s Southside, Blue Corn Brewery has long drawn crowds with its award-winning craft beer. Margarita-lovers now are stopping by too, to enjoy the Perfect Margarita. Created for the Margarita Trail, this with a simple formula of tequila, agave and citrus. On the other end of the city, a short drive north brings you to Tesuque and the new Tesuque Casino, where the Cottonwood Kitchen offers spectacular views. Whether you’re inside or outside on the stylish patio, this is the perfect place to watch the sunset as you sip on the Sunset Margarita, made with a combo of fruit juices.
A short history of the margarita:
National Margarita Day is February 22. Why February 22, you ask? The answer may surprise you. It’s not the anniversary of the invention of the margarita, because no one knows for certain when that was. And it’s not the birthday of the inventor of tequila, because the origins of that Mexican spirit date way back to the Aztecs. It turns out that February 22 is really a random date chosen by a margarita-lovin’ guy from Ohio named Todd McCalla who wanted to counteract the cocktail’s watering down with cheap high-fructose corn syrup-laden mixes. He also hoped that a mass margarita celebration in February would light up one of the year’s dreariest, most depressing months.
More than a decade later, National Margarita Day is a huge hit, and that’s unlikely because there’s a lot of competition. Almost every day in the year is is devoted to at least one food or beverage. (Monday, February 18, for instance, was National Drink Wine Day, also established by McCalla.)
The margarita has long been a beloved beverage. There are almost as many origin stories as there are versions of the drink. Some 22 bartenders have been credited with creating the cocktail, including an Irish barkeep in Tijuana. What’s more certain is that the cocktail took off with American tourists who were visiting Mexico during Prohibition. By December of 1953, the drink had become so popular that “Esquire” magazine dubbed it the Drink of the Month and published a simple recipe: 1 ounce tequila, a dash of triple sec and the juice of half a lime or lemon, poured over crushed ice and served in a glass with its rim rubbed with a lime or lemon rind and spun in salt.
In the 1970s, the frozen margarita took the limelight after a bartender transformed a soft serve ice cream machine into a frozen margarita maker. Jimmy Buffet’s 1977 hit song “Margaritaville” elevated the frozen cocktail to superstar status. Today, his behemoth “Margaritaville” enterprise spans the globe with resorts, restaurants, bar and grills as well as his own brand of party fare – Margaritaville Gold Tequila and Margaritaville Dark Rum, margarita drink mix, pineapple orange salsa, Key Lime pie mix and that’s just a small sampling.
You could choose to spend February 22 in Margaritaville, with throngs of celebrants who doubtlessly will be singing “Wasting away again in Margaritaville” while they’re at any of Buffet’s resorts. Better yet, you can celebrate in Santa Fe, which holds the distinction of being the first city in the New World to import tequila from Mexico. For more information on the Margarita Trail, visit the website.This article was posted by Cheryl Fallstead