Margarita bottle service? ¡Un otro, por favor!

At a Mill Valley restaurant, serve yourself and live large

Maybe I don’t get out enough, but this is the first time I’ve seen Margarita bottle service: At Playa restaurant in Mill Valley, California, $48 for a voluminous tankard of Margarita, iced and bucketed tableside in the fashion of an overpriced Chardonnay. 

The thing is, the Margaritas were unnecessarily spectacular: tart and bright, with the kick of el burro. All glasses were Old Fashioned style, half the rim wearing a collar of salt and half plain.

I was as usual going to do the Intrepid Cocktail Geek routine at Playa and order some unthinkable mezcal/anisette/Asian-pear-tincture/espresso-rose-water-bitters/nitrogen-frozen-Kool-Aid-garnish thingy named after the chorus of some Guatemalan rap song. 

Wisely, I deferred to our group’s preferences, and to my own curiosity about being served a whole bottle o’ cocktail fun.

It was so good we ordered it twice.

Seems like a brilliant mix of customer delight and business smart. Folks drink more when they serve themselves, the product is pre-batched, the wait-staff is freed from one-off re-orders and even from the salted-or-unsalted query.

And hey, it’s a rare chance to act nearly as cool as you wish you were.

True, it’s not like being a rapper in the red velvet room of a downtown club working through a case if Ciroc. But bottle service of high-power hootch, the vessel sweating in its metal bucket of ice as the gang tops each other off until — oops, gone already? ¡Uno mas, senorita! — is just a hoot.

nb: The food at Playa is so tasty it’s almost unfair to other Mill Valley restaurants. 

Happy Hour Quickie #2: Margarita

This week’s fast, easy, and effective recipe. Hey, you’ve got only an hour.

I’d say “everybody loves a Margarita,” but first, it’s demonstrably untrue. And there are at least 4,000 instances of that exact phrase in digital circulation, per Google. So instead I’ll say it’s a popular, cheerful drink — a bright and balanced classic of the “sour” type, and endlessly riffable.

More to the point, it also meets our immutable Happy Hour Quickie criteria: Easily gettable ingredients, fast assembly, and hard to screw up.

Classic Margarita recipe

  • 2 oz. silver Tequila
  • .75 oz lime juice
  • .75 Cointreau

Garnish: Salted rim, if you want. Float a lime wheel for some visual interest.

Margarita: Essential details

  • Always 2 oz. Tequila. This is ideally a boozy drink, and you want the tequila to push forward.
  • Absolutely, positively, fresh, squoze-on-the-spot lime juice only. No pre-mix permitted. But you knew that.
  • Use Cointreau for the orange liqueur. Triple sec, especially the cheap stuff, just doesn’t have the clean zip.
  • Don’t use one of those Margarita glasses with the well at the bottom. They look cheap and silly. I have no idea why this glass exists. Can either of the regular A Measured Spirit readers explain?

Quickie happy tweaks

  • Agave Margarita
    • Replace the Cointreau with agave syrup.
    • You’ll lose the orange-y notes, but gain a sort of earthy, vegetal authenticity. Agave is made of the same plant as Tequila.
    • You’ll want to back off on the agave a bit — it’s sweeter, drop for drop, than Cointreau. Start with .25 oz and taste your way up into the zone.
    • Agave also dials down the alcohol content of the glass without sacrificing the tequila vibe, since you’re replacing a liqueur bottled at 40% alcohol by volume with a virgin sweet.
  • Ginger Margarita
    • Replace the Cointreau with Domain de Canton ginger liqueur.
    • My favorite of the many “[WTF]-rita” variations.
    • Elegant, slightly exotic — without messing with the classic profile. Cut a piece of ginger root and run it around the rim to create a slight ginger lip tingle. Go ahead, I dare you.
  • A Measured Spirit’s Margarita Oscuro ™:
    • Swap in reposado tequila [a lightly golden version, barrel aged for less than a year] and Grand Marnier [an orange liqueur whose brandy base produces more of a “bottom” than Cointreau, at least in my humble estimation].
    • Oscuro roughly translates to “dusky.”
    • This transforms a bright and happy party drink into a darker, richer sipper. Perfect for a solo cocktail hour contemplating a summer sunset.

Hey, introverts need a happy hour too.