Best margaritas in town ... hic!
Updated: 2011-09-04 07:59
By Gregg Schroeder (China Daily)
Citrus slice perched on the salt-dipped rim, tequila, rum and liquer shaken up over ice into a fiery mix. That's a good margarita. Provided to China Daily
It's not hard to find a margarita in Hong Kong these days. Just about every bar serves up its own take on the lime and orange-liqueur flavored tequila cocktail from Mexico. The trick, however, is finding the best one, in just the right surroundings to celebrate the country's Independence Day.
I set out on my quest one steamy afternoon, thinking I could work my way through a fair number before the effects kicked in. I was wrong.
But I did make good progress. My first stop was Coyote Bar and Grill in Wan Chai. Boasting more than 75 margaritas on the menu, the place to start was the top of the list: La Casa, a balanced blend of sweet and sour simply made with Jose Cuervo Silver Tequila, Grand Marnier and lime juice. Turns out, this is the most-requested margarita at Coyote.
But one question remained: On the rocks or frozen?
"On the rocks is better," bartender Roncy Buenviaje told me. "With frozen, you can't taste the tequila."
While the citrusy flavor was refreshing, the crumbling salt crust around the rim added a piquant kick - and reminded me I needed some food. What goes best with a margarita?
"Spicy chicken wings," Buen-viaje suggested. "Also nachos and deep-fried jalapeno peppers."
The strangest margarita on the list? The Firecracker, Buenviaje said, showing a bottle of homemade chili-infused tequila that made me wince just to look at it. Or El Coyote Loco, with absinthe and Red Bull. The bartender smirked. "It can really make you loco."
Wouldn't you know it, my glass was empty. There were a lot of drinks to get through and the afternoon was wearing on. Caribbean? (Along with tequila and triple sec, it includes rum and pineapple juice). Beverly Hills? (Includes cranberry juice and champagne). Black Forest? (Blackberry, blueberry and cream.)
I opted for the Firecracker. I drummed my fingers on the copper-topped bar in nervous anticipation, like waiting for a blind date. It arrived and appeared refreshing, a pleasant pale green with a jaunty slice of lime on the salty rim. It didn't look hot. It didn't feel hot.
I thought Buenviaje may have made a mistake. But then I took a sip. It was deceptively cool, but a heartbeat later triggered all the spicy-hot receptors on my lips, the tip of my tongue and the back of my throat. I felt my eyes widen. I was quietly on fire, but the waitress noticed and gave me a sympathetic look. "It took me an hour to finish that one," she said.
I needed a cool-down break, but next was El Taco Loco in Soho. I love its casual taco-standy feel - burritos wrapped in foil, paper-lined plastic baskets for messy-but-good tacos, self-serve hot sauce near the counter. It's always packed, but vulturing for a table is part of the fun.
They have an impressive list of tequilas as well as margaritas, including the Grand Margarita, featuring Jose Cuervo Reposado, Cointreau and the juices of orange and lime.
My long-time drinking companion prefers her margarita with Gold tequila, and light on the syrup-lime mix. Another aficionado with Mexico running through her veins refuses syrup entirely, insisting on only freshly squeezed limes, like Mama used to make.
The final stop in what turned into my Lost Weekend of margarita testing was on the south side of the island. South Bay Beach Club is remote - a short cab ride from Repulse Bay - and has only three margaritas on the menu, but there's no beating watching the setting sun from the terrace, overlooking sand, palm trees and lazily lapping sea. Squint, and you could be in Mazatlan, Cancun or Ixtapa Zihuatanejo. Now that's not a bad setting to celebrate anyone's independence.
You can contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For China Daily
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