A perfect duo: Santa Fe and a margarita

The Rosalita at The Pink Adobe’s Dragon Room, photo/Steve Collins

Here’s a great duo, Santa Fe and a frosty margarita. “Where can I go for a great margarita?” is a frequent question asked by visitors to The City Different. There are great ones all over town;  many Santa Fe restaurants specialize in these frosty tequila cocktails. Once you choose your spot, a good question to ask before you order is, “Do you use a commercial Margarita mix?” If the answer is yes, go to the next place. A good drink needs good ingredients. My advice: go for at least the silver coin tequila, the drink will be smoother. It’s simple, the better the quality of the agave distillate, the better the finished product. Order some fresh guacamole or a quesadilla to munch with it or savor the margarita on its own.

Whether you drink it straight up, on the rocks, frozen, with or without salt, here are a few places to you won’t go wrong.

The most famous margarita in town is probably at Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen, where you can choose from a menu offering a hundred variations of the drink. Hollywood legend Robert Redford, a regular when he’s in Santa Fe, has one named for him; the Baile del Sol (Sundance). The star likes the margaritas so much he wrote the forward to owner Al Lucero’s The Great Margarita Book, which has sold over 1,000,000 copies. It will take you a long time to work your way through this list and figure out your favorite.

The Great Margarita Book, photo/courtesy Al Lucero

A popular spot for both locals and tourists to sip margs is the Dragon Room at The Pink Adobe. The restaurant, one of the oldest in Santa Fe, started in 1944, by local artist Rosalea Murphy, quickly became a hangout for local artists. The restaurant is back in her family’s hands after a short hiatus. Their bar gained national renown. Try the Rosalita, named for the flamboyant artist who started it all (recipe below).

Coyote Café is a great place to grab a margarita. Quinn Stephenson, drink master extraordinaire, has a way with tequila. His signature marg is the Señorita topped with lime foam. For an intimate drink, try their new bar, The Den. For more casual drinks and food, from April to October, there’s the Rooftop Cantina open all day long. They have some fruity, fun margaritas.

In warm weather, if you want a drink and a view, try the historic La Fonda hotel’s Bell Tower Bar. Sip a cold, frosty margarita and watch the sun set.

The Shed is a popular New Mexican restaurant that’s been around for years. The bar is always crowded and the margaritas flow. A few doors down, La Casa Sena makes a mean marg and nothing beats their outdoor courtyard for ambiance. Some even come in a shaker evoking a bygone era.

This list of places with great margaritas could go on and on, but you have to start somewhere. I’ve rarely encountered a bad version of this popular mixed drink in this town.

Here are a few Santa Fe recipes you can try at home:

This list of places with great margaritas could go on and on, but, you have to start somewhere. I’ve rarely encountered a bad version of this popular mixed drink in this town.

The Pink Adobe’s Dragon Room’s Rosalita Margarita (Named for Rosalea Murphy):

Lime wedge
Saucer of margarita salt
1 ½ oz silver tequila
¾ oz Triple Sec
4 oz margarita mix (lemon, lime and simple sugar mixed together)
Splash cranberry juice
Splash Gran Gala (Italian orange liqueur)

Prepare a rocks glass by running a wedge of lime around glass rim then dip the rim into the saucer of salt to create a light crust of salt around the rim. Fill glass with ice cubes and set aside. Fill cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Pour tequila, Triple Sec and margarita mix into the shaker. Cover and shake to blend. Strain into the prepared glass. Top with a splash of cranberry juice and a splash of Gran Gala

Maria’s El Baile Del Sol Margarita: (from The Great Margarita Book — Second Edition, Al Lucero, forward by Robert Redford)

The Merry Margarita, created for Christmas, now popular year ’round, photo Al Lucero, courtesy Maria’s

1 lemon or lime wedge
Saucer of kosher salt (about 1/4-inch deep)
3/4 ounce El Tesoro Anejo tequila
3/4 ounce Chinaco Anejo tequila
1 ounce Cointreau
1-1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice

Run the lemon or lime wedge around the rim of a hurricane style margarita glass. Dip the rim of the glass into the saucer of salt, rotating the rim in the salt until the desired amount has collected on the glass.

Measure the tequilas, Cointreau and lemon or lime juice into a 16-ounce cocktail shaker glass full of ice. Place a stainless steel cocktail shaker over the glass, tapping the top to create a seal. Shake vigorously for about 5 seconds and pour into the salt-rimmed glass, ice and all.

Makes one margarita.

And try Santa Fe Traveler’s Steve Collins’ Ginger Peach Margarita. Like the Merry Margarita (see photo on the left) it’s a great holiday drink, but you’ll love it any time of year.

If you have a favorite Santa Fe margarita spot, share it with us below. We’d love to know.


Authors’ note: As a former hotel concierges and owners of a travel concierge and trip-planning business in Santa Fe, the writers may have been guests of business or services mentioned in posts on this site. While these experiences have not influenced us in any way, this information is provided in the spirit of full disclosure.

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4 Responses to “A perfect duo: Santa Fe and a margarita”

  1. Leslie (Downtown Traveler)
    April 30, 2019 at 8:53 am #

    Looks like Santa Fe has plenty of options for tasty margaritas!

  2. TravelDesigned
    May 2, 2019 at 4:57 am #

    YUM! As if we dont have enough fab reasons to visit Santa Fe, now we can do a Margarita tour! :)

  3. Christine
    June 8, 2019 at 9:49 am #

    Nothing beats the margarita’s at Tesuque Market though the Bell Ringer Jalapeno margarita at La Fonda Bell Tower is close!

    • Billie Frank
      June 8, 2019 at 10:00 am #

      We have favorites all over town. Didn’t know Tesuque Market had a full liquor license. I learn something new every day.

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