At once sweet, salty, and sour, the margarita might just be one of the most balanced cocktails of our time. Capable of transporting drinkers to tropical mindsets in no time, it’s also one of the most beloved. In a city like Chicago, where winter long overstays its welcome and summer can’t come soon enough, it’s only natural that it’s the ultimate imbibing accompaniment — all year round. The freshest takes on the humble margarita have it all: elevated ingredients (cold-pressed watermelon juice in your marg? Believe it) and premium liqueurs like Grand Marnier. From smoky riffs to refreshing twists, here are 11 of Chicago’s best margaritas to try now for serious south-of-the-border vibes.Read More
Where to Find Chicago’s Most Unique Margaritas
Logan Square denizens flock to this sandwich haven on the regular for a variety of gussied up fast-casual fixings, from tortas and Cubanos to reubens and meatball subs. The fact that they can customize most sammies to be vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free only helps matters — as does their solid collection of on-tap beers and cocktails. For a refreshing way to wrap up the day, spring for the Watermelon Basil Daisy, a melding of watermelon and lime juice, basil syrup, Grand Marnier, and tequila that is topped off with a basil sprig in a Collins glass.
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Situated on the sixth floor of The Robey hotel, this rooftop bar is a favorite for Wicker Park locals and hip, worldwide travelers alike. Post up near the pool — the ultimate setting for skyline views, crowd-pleasing plates, and sun-ready sippers from beverage director Danny Park. Experience a taste of the tropics in the cucumber blackberry margarita, an at once bright and earthy concoction of Grand Marnier, tequila, blackberries, and cucumbers that is shaken and double strained into a margarita glass.
Bartender Liz Pearce helms the beverage menu at this lush, urban rooftop, where she puts forth a collection of rare Mediterranean wines and spirits — along with a handful of reserve cocktails featuring high-end components. One of them is the 5th Generation margarita, a rich, smooth rendition featuring Grand Marnier Cuvée Centenaire, Tequila Fortaleza, and lime juice. Pair it up with a variety of flavor-packed plates from Top Chef alum CJ Jacobson, who has quickly become known for favorites like short rib hummus, char-grilled lamb chops, and grilled cauliflower kebabs.
Emporium Fulton Market
Bring a fun-loving group to this West Loop hangout, where a range of retro arcade games and social activities await (from pinball and pool tables to air hockey and skee-ball). In between rounds, head to the bar, where spirits director Jorge Saldarriaga curates a list of seasonally driven drams — as proven by names like the Summer Love. Comprised of blanco tequila, Grand Marnier, fresh lime juice, and a house-made tamarind-chile syrup, consider it a riff on the traditional agave tipple and an ode to the time of year Chicagoans crave most.
Las Fuentes Restaurant
This family-owned restaurant has been serving traditional Mexican fare to the Lincoln Park neighborhood for more than 35 years — enough time for the team to open three more Chicagoland locations. Crowds gather at each of them for several house specialties like steak fajitas, enchiladas de mole poblano, and molcajete surtido (grilled skirt steak and chicken with cactus paddles), all prime pairings for the bar’s Latin cocktails. Classicists will enjoy the especial margarita (with Grand Marnier, tequila, and fresh lime juice), while a more complex concoction is found in the mezcal margarita (with Grand Marnier, mezcal, and lime juice).
Roman pizza and convivial crowds are big-time draws at this River North restaurant, where consulting chef Massimo Moresi helps to create a menu of authentic, street-style pies. Keep things simple with the Queen (with basil and tomato sauce), or try several fun flavors with options like the Cookout (with citrus chipotle BBQ chicken, bacon, and cheddar) or the Popeye and Truffle Oil (with sautéed spinach and mushrooms). Bartender Robbie Smolucha oversees an Italian-American beverage program, where other globally inspired libations are found, too. For a spicier alternative to the mainstream margarita, try the Cinco Reps, a shaken dram with tequila, Ancho liqueur, and Grand Marnier that is strained into a Tajin-rimmed rocks glass.
Pink Taco Chicago
Ready all Instagram handles for a visit to this modern Mexican restaurant, where interiors are outfitted with Day of the Dead sugar skulls, eye-catching street art, and plenty of pink. Sample through Baja favorites in orders like the carne asada bowl (with grass-fed steak, cilantro rice, and cotija cheese), green chile chicken enchiladas (with shredded chicken, jack cheese, and tomatillo sauce), or, of course, the venue’s namesake offering: pink tacos (with achiote chicken, arbol salsa, and habanero pickled onions). The ultimate pairing for it all? The Cadillac margarita, a fusion of Patrón Reposado Barrel Select, organic agave syrup, and fresh lime juice that is served alongside a mini bottle of Grand Marnier.
The culinary team at this River North restaurant specializes in the eclectic tastes found throughout Mexico’s authentic mercaditos (small markets), as evidenced by a wide selection of enchiladas, guacamoles, and ceviches. Find those prominent flavors across the beverage program, too, where guests can spot components like Aztec chocolate bitters, hoja santa, and hibiscus salt. If you’re a purist, fear not — the margarita tradicional, with Grand Marnier, tequila, lime juice, and agave, is a classic version of the tipple, not to mention the perfect pairing to any taco order. Try it out at the restaurant or at Mezcalito, the venue’s new, subterranean lounge opening this spring.
Chef Rick Bayless has spent more than 30 years building a restaurant empire in Chicago (with close to 10 establishments to date) and it all started with his James Beard Award-winning Frontera Grill. Soulful, regional Mexican cuisine is the specialty here — case in point with plates like the house ceviche (with Hawaiian albacore tuna, cilantro, and green chiles) and Oaxacan black mole (a house recipe boasting 28 ingredients). That dedication to quality sourcing applies just as strongly to the restaurant’s drinks list, where two show-stopping margaritas are on offer: the splurge margarita (with Grand Marnier Cuvee du Centenaire, Don Julio “1942” Añejo Tequila, fresh lime juice, and agave syrup) and the mezcal margarita (with mezcal, Grand Marnier, Peychaud’s Bitters, and house-made lemonade).
The cuisine of Mexico City served as the inspiration for this River North restaurant, where chef Daniel Espinoza offers a menu of must-haves like hand-rolled enchiladas, ahi tuna tacos, and top-shelf guacamole. They’re natural accompaniments to the bar’s beloved “flip” cocktails, which feature an extra shot of booze via floating fruit garnishes turned inside out. Don’t miss the Cabo Flip, a variation with tequila, Grand Marnier, and fresh lime juice that packs extra punch with a tequila-filled lime boat float.
The Signature Room at the 95th®
Come to this 95th-floor fixture for its upscale environs and 360-degree skyline views; stay for the cocktails. Reimagined classics run the show and are categorized by spirit, as showcased by the pear mule (vodka), strawberry mojito (rum), and blackberry Collins (gin). But when it comes to agave options, it’s all about the Grand Margarita, a shaken and strained rendition with tequila, Grand Marnier, lime juice, and simple syrup that’s garnished with a salted rim and lime wheel. Drink it alongside chef Cardel Reid’s elevated American cuisine, including popular picks like the roasted rack of lamb, seafood tower, and half-roasted Amish chicken.