I Tried 5 Wildly Different Margaritas Around Toronto & The Best One Comes With Cotton Candy
🎵Give me five margaritas, Imma have some fun🎵
I’m no stranger to sipping tasty cocktails around Toronto on a summer night, but I had no idea just how far you could stretch the definition of “margarita” until a recent night out in the city.
I visited five different bars and restaurants around Toronto as part of a Cointreau-backed margarita tour to celebrate the cocktail’s anniversary, and I quickly discovered that not all margaritas are created equal. In fact, I'd argue that every margarita from now on should come with a side of cotton candy — but I'll get to that later.
The classic Mexican cocktail has a few different origin stories. Most of them involve a Mexican bartender whipping up a new cocktail for a girl named Margaret or Margarita (as in Rita Hayworth), and while we may never know for certain, some have circled 1948 as the year it all started. That means bartenders have been mixing up — and remixing — the margarita for about 75 years.
So what’s in a basic margarita? The classic “3-2-1” recipe goes like this: 3 ounces of tequila, 2 ounces of orange liqueur and 1 ounce of lime juice. Shake it up and pour it over ice in a salt-rimmed glass, garnish with a slice of lime and there you have a margarita.
But what else can you do with a margarita, other than recreate the TikTok margarita song?
Here’s what five different Toronto bars are doing with the classic margarita recipe. And while I won’t pretend to know the best place in the entire city to get a classic Mexican margarita, I can tell you that I had one clear favourite after this mini margarita tour of Toronto.
Isabelle's - Classic Margarita
Address: 548 King Street West #200
Ingredients: Tequila, Cointreau, Lime, Simple Syrup
Isabelle's is more of a nightclub than a cocktail bar, so I wasn't surprised to learn that their take on the margarita is... a margarita.
Isabelle's adds simple syrup to the recipe, but otherwise it's simply a tasty, straightforward version of a margarita. It's not a "you need to go here and try this" kind of cocktail, but if you're here and you want one, you know exactly what you're going to get and you'll enjoy the result.
The Fortunate Fox - Tropical Margarita
Address: 280 Bloor Street West
Ingredients: Tequila, Cointreau, Lime Juice, Fruit Juice (Passionfruit, Guava, Mango or Pineapple), Salt & Tajin Rim
The Fortunate Fox's Tropical Margarita is easily the most summery margarita on this list. It comes loaded with the fruit juice of your choice and that fruity sweetness drowns out the alcohol so that you might even forget you're drinking a cocktail. If you want something boozy but you prefer not to taste the bite of the alcohol, this is definitely a winner.
I tried the margarita with passionfruit and with mango, and I found the passionfruit was more subtle with the sugar.
The part I liked most about the Fortunate Fox's margarita was the blend of salt and Tajin (chili and lime) spice included with the drink. Most bars will add that sort of thing to the rim, but the Fortunate Fox actually puts the spice on the side of the glass. That change allows you to try as much or as little of the spice as you want. It's a pretty cool stylistic move, although you don't want to get caught licking the side of your glass too much...
Playa Cabana - Smoky Watermelon
Josh Elliott | Narcity
Address: 36 Wellington Street East
Ingredients: Mezcal, Cointreau, Watermelon, Serrano Pepper
I visited the mezcal capital of Oaxaca, Mexico earlier this year and quickly fell in love with the tequila-ish spirit, so I was excited to see Playa Cabana using it for their margarita recipe.
If you've never tried mezcal, it's similar to tequila in that both liquors are made from agave, which is a giant plant that kind of looks like aloe vera on steroids. However, there are plenty of subtle differences between the two liquors, with the most noticeable one being the smoky taste that mezcal gets from the way the agave is roasted before it's distilled.
All of that is to say that Playa Cabana's Smoky Watermelon takes advantage of mezcal's smokiness in a clever way, blending it with the watermelon to create a fruity -- but not too fruity -- take on the classic margarita.
Playa Cabana also includes slivers of Serrano pepper in the cocktail itself, meaning you don't have to taste the rim to blend spice with the sweet and smoky flavours in the drink.
I'm not sure I could handle more than one of these cocktails in a sitting, if only because the flavours are so intense. However, if you're looking for a nuanced margarita to wash down your tacos at Playa Cabana, this is a good bet!
Harriet's Rooftop at the 1 Hotel - Sunset on Wellington
Josh Elliott | Narcity
Address: 550 Wellington Street West
Ingredients: Tequila, Cointreau, Pineapple Juice, Red Chili Peppers, Agave
No other bar on this list can beat the views at Harriet's Rooftop, so you can't blame them for naming their margarita after that view.
As for the drink itself, the Sunset On Wellington isn't the sugar rush you might expect. Yes, it includes pineapple juice and a pineapple slice, but the red (hot) chili peppers offset the juice and give this drink a more complex, balanced taste.
The Sunset On Wellington is spicy, slightly sweet and slightly tart -- all perfect notes when you want to take your time with a cocktail and take in the scenery from the rooftop of the 1 Hotel.
This is a cocktail I would definitely order again.
Silent H - Ensenada Dreams
Address: 461 King Street West
Ingredients: Patron Reposado Tequila, Cointreau, Mango, Yuzu, Petit Sirah, Habanero Tajin Dream
Ladies and gentlemen, we have our winner.
Silent H's Ensanda Dreams cocktail is the tastiest, most surprising margarita I've ever had, and I'll certainly be going back for another.
I actually said "Wow" when this two-layered cocktail showed up at the table on a slate tray, accompanied by a pepper-dusted cloud of cotton candy.
The margarita itself is topped with red wine from the Baja California region of Mexico where it was invented, and this adds an incredible pop of extra flavour to every sip. You're meant to take a bite of the accompanying cotton candy in between sips, and you'll have to pardon the pun but it's a heavenly experience.
By the end of the cocktail I was a feeling tipsy from the booze, giddy from the sugar and slightly sticky from the cotton candy on my fingers. That's a good recipe for a night out!
Narcity does not condone the overconsumption of alcohol or other substances. If you're going to drink alcohol or consume cannabis, please do so responsibly and only if you're of legal age.