Story by Dave Eckert / Intro photo by T-Shotz
Consistently warm weather is still just a light at the end of the tunnel, but we can always prepare, right? What better way to get in the mood for summer than sipping on a delicious margarita or two? I hereby dedicate this article to that very activity with an introduction to some of the most magnificent margaritas in the metro.
I start north of the river at one of my favorite watering holes – T-Shotz. Yes, this locally owned driving range/upscale sports bar tucked behind Macy’s off 169 not only has great activities and terrific, scratch kitchen food, but also a wonderful and creative full-service bar. There are dozens of made-to-order cocktails on the menu, including more than a half dozen margaritas, both frozen and fresh. Mixologist Sarah Jarozewski told me one of her personal favorites to make is the jalapeno margarita. “We sell a lot of margaritas, especially the jalapeno, which is surprising because it has a kick from jalapeno we muddle into the drink. People are surprised the first time they taste our cocktails. After that, they’re hooked,” Jarozewski smiled.
Executive Chef Justin Spencer says the goal of using as many scratch ingredients as possible in the kitchen carries over to the bar. “We want the cocktails to be fresh and delicious as possible, so we make our own juices fresh every day. We also buy blue nectar agave syrup five gallons at a time, which helps balance the sweetness versus tartness. But that’s the only thing that’s batched. Everything else is fresh and handmade. That makes a big difference,” Spencer said.
Photo courtesy of Gaels Public House & Sports
Down at Gaels Public House & Sports at 55th and Troost, owner Derrick Bachman agrees that fresh ingredients are key to a good margarita, but Bachman says it all starts with good quality tequila. “Our margarita is a Hornitos Fresh Batch Margarita featuring Gold Hornitos tequila to give it a great, oaky character,” Bachman stated.
Gaels’ Hornitos Fresh Batch Margarita lives up to its name. “You’ve got to have the fresh juices in there, so lots of lime, but also, lots of fresh lemon. Then we also do our simple syrup, which we make in-house,” Bachman told me. Bachman also points out that the Hornitos Margarita has plenty of company. “We offer seasonal flavors like a blackberry margarita, and we batch up frozen margaritas, so lots of margaritas! We pair them with our Gaels guacamole. Nothing goes better together than a great margarita and good guacamole,” Bachman shared.
Photo courtesy of Zephyr Kitchen and Bourbon Bar
My next fabulous margarita comes from, of all places, a bourbon bar. Yes, the Zephyr Kitchen and Bourbon Bar in the newly renovated Marriott Kansas City, Overland Park hotel. Zephyr features more than 125 bourbons, and one terrific margarita. It’s called Marg My Words, featuring Espolon tequila, Solerno blood orange liqueur, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, and a dash of red wine. If it sounds delicious, and indeed it does, just wait until you taste it. Zephyr’s Anne Winters says the key to this winning margarita is the choice of liqueur. “The Solerno blood orange liqueur rounds out the tartness of a traditional margarita, while the red wine floater adds a balance to the sweetness along with a beautiful color,” Winters noted.
Now, I couldn’t write an article on margaritas without including a Mexican restaurant or two. I considered both Margarita’s and Ponaks, two longtime favorites, but finally landed on Teocali, an excellent Mexican restaurant on Union Hill/Hospital Hill. It’s where I met Enrique Gutierrez, the son in this family-run operation. Gutierrez shared his thoughts on what comprises a truly magnificent margarita. “We at Teocali make various types of margaritas (raspberry, strawberry, mango, peach, pomegranate), but our most popular one is our Spicy Cool margarita. It consists of El Jimador Blanco tequila, Lime Juice, and Naranja Triple sec with cucumber and jalapeno slices. Not only do you get the agave from the tequila, but you get a little fire from the jalapeno and freshness from the cucumber. It’s not overly sweet or over-powering with the tequila. That’s what makes it so good,” Gutierrez shared.
Photo courtesy of OurHouseKC
Finally, a profile of my personal favorite margarita in the metro and the single best margarita I’ve had outside of Mexico. You will find it at OurHouseKC on 39th Street just east of The University of Kansas Hospital. You will also find it incredibly delicious and entirely unique. “We infuse the tequila with pineapple for a minimum of three days, squeeze fresh lime juice, make our own simple syrup, put in a little Triple Sec, and rim the glass with Tajin seasoning,” Co-Owner Joe Zahner said. Zahner says OurHouseKC’s margarita is “just about perfect,” and he gives the credit for that to friend and talented mixologist, Scott Beskow. “We never owned a bar, so we sought out some expert advice from Scott when we were opening. He suggested using infusions and just took the idea and ran with it. He decided the pineapple was the best, started tinkering with it, and before long, our amazing pineapple-infused tequila margarita was born,” Zahner shared. I’m sure glad it was, and you will be, too!