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.
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.