The Ultimate Margarita: Finding It And Making It In The Florida Keys
Fun, fruity cocktails like rum runners, Pina Coladas, and hurricanes all have the potential to put us in an island state of mind, but nothing says "Sunshine State" like that frozen concoction that had Jimmy Buffett singing in high praise - the margarita!
A classic margarita is rather simplistic in its basis: tequila, orange liqueur (triple sec), and lime juice (preferably key lime juice, of course). It is traditionally served in a margarita glass with a salt or sugar rim, on the rocks, or frozen. As with most timeless beverages, some crafty folks have added their own twists to the classic version, with additional liqueurs, fruits, and more, but there's just something about the original recipe. It’s the most popular tequila drink in the U.S.!
Make no mistake - though the margarita may not be the trickiest of mixed beverages, there are still some strong opinions on what makes a margarita "great", and here in the Keys, getting it right is truly a badge of honor. If you're spending some time island-hopping, you'll have more than a few opportunities to sample some of the best margaritas in the region and decide which one earns top honors in your book.
Of course, you could always work on perfecting your own margarita-making skills right in your vacation rental like a true Conch! We'll provide the blender and the salt shaker. Serve it up with a slice of key lime pie for a double dose of KEY-liciousness!
The Best Margaritas In The Florida Keys
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Duval Street, Key West
Sloppy Joe's is a Key West tradition with great eats and live music, and you can't complete your Margarita-hunting quest without tackling a signature Sloppy Rita, featuring Hornitos Resposado Tequila, Gran Gala, sour, orange juice, and club soda. You can also opt for a classic margarita or a version infused with agave nectar, but the "House Drinks'' list includes a range of rum runners, mojitos, daiquiris, and Coladas as well.
Pier House Resort & Spa
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Duval Street, Key West
This iconic island resort is home to a bar as legendary as its patrons, including notable residents Mel Fisher and Jimmy Buffett... and the waterfront sunsets are nothing to scoff at, either! The Chart Room bar provides a casual atmosphere with a wealth of history, and of course - a stellar margarita! A local favorite, Mel's Mango Margarita blends tequila with fresh Key lime juice, mango puree, and Cointreau, topped with a lime slice.
Opal Key Resort & Marina
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Front Street, Key West
The famous Margaritaville Key West Resort has recently been reimagined as Opal Key Resort & Marina, but they have wisely opted to keep their margarita game up to Keys standards. Along with a respectable assortment of wines and beers, the resort offers specialty drinks from traditional daiquiris, Coladas, and mojitos to a fresh agave margarita and the ever-popular Watermelon Margarita with Sauza Silver Tequila, Muddled Watermelon, cold-pressed Persian lime, Florida Orange Juice, and Organic Agave Nectar.
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Duval Street, Key West
This open-air restaurant and dive bar offers exceptional daily drink specials. While their margaritas come in classic, banana, strawberry, and mango varieties, popular opinion is that their mojitos (more than two dozen flavors) are the real stars of the show.
Square Grouper Bar and Grill
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Overseas Highway, Cudjoe Key
A favorite place for locals and visitors alike, Square Grouper serves up creative dishes and a spicy spin on the classic margarita. The Jalapeño Watermelon Margarita is one of many original cocktails at Square Grouper, composed of Don Julio Blanco tequila, fresh watermelon juice, and jalapeño. Of course, their one-of-a-kind martinis are certainly worth a try as well!
Snook’s Bayside Restaurant & Grand Tiki Bar
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Overseas Highway, Key Largo
Dine on the water's edge at the bamboo bar for the ultimate island experience - made complete by the perfect island drink. The classic Snookarita is the perfect accompaniment to the tranquil sunset, capping off Happy Hour at Snook's, or kick it up a notch with a "Pick Your Pepper" Margarita made with your choice of Tanteo Smokey Chipotle, Tanteo Extra Spicy Habanero, or Tanteo Spicy Jalapeño.
Robbie’s of Islamorada
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Overseas Highway, Islamorada
Home of the world-famous tarpon feeding, Robbie's of Islamorada is a Florida Keys institution. Snag a seat on the waterfront deck with the catch of the day and a Strawberry-Jalapeno Margarita, made with muddled fresh strawberries, tequila, fresh lime, a splash of sour mix, and fresh jalapenos, with a sugar rim. Raspberry, mango, and classic versions are also available.
Do-It-Yourself At Your Vacation Rental
From The Florida Journey (shaken, key lime margarita):
- 1/4 cup Fresh Key Lime Juice
- 1 1/2 oz. Tequila
- 1/2 oz. Premium Orange Liquor
- 1 oz. Agave Nectar
- For Margarita Glass
- Key Lime Wedges
- Coarse Salt
- Rub rim of glass with key lime wedge, then dip in coarse salt.
- Fill shaker with ice and add all ingredients. Vigorously shake to mix. Pour into prepared glass.
From Martha Stewart (frozen margarita):
- 5 cups ice cubes
- 3/4 cup tequila, preferably silver
- 2/3 cup fresh lime juice (from 5 to 6 limes)
- 1/2 cup Simple Syrup for Frozen Margaritas
- 1/3 cup coarse salt
- 1 lime wedge, plus more for serving
- Puree ice, tequila, lime juice, and simple syrup in a blender until smooth.
- Pour salt onto a saucer, and moisten the rims of 4 glasses with lime wedge.
- Dip each glass into salt, and fill with margaritas. Serve with lime wedges.