By Ann Hazard
In 2006 I discovered an unlikely place called Art & Beer on the far end of Cerritos Beach, about 20 minutes south of Todos Santos. I say unlikely because I was expecting a hippie art gallery serving beer. I got the art gallery right. I got the hippie part right. I was charmed by the rustic décor and all the living, breathing art and sculptures. It was magical. But the surprise was their signature—and my first—Exotic Margarita. It was called a Citrus Margarita. Served in a frosty beer mug, it was made of fresh—as in squeezed in front of my eyes— orange, grapefruit, tangerine and limon juices, tequila, Controy, an array of garnishes and a paper umbrella. It was incredible. I came back to Buena Vista after that trip and made them for all my friends.
On recent trips to Todos Santos I began noticing a trend. Every restaurant has at least one signature, exotic Margarita. I talked (it didn’t take much talking) my friends Colleen and Deb into doing a three day Margarita Crawl—including Cerritos, Pescadero and Todos Santos. I’m certain there are fancy Margaritas all over Los Cabos, but I wanted to search out the cool, slightly offbeat places. We took three days and we visited six restaurants. We weren’t just there for the drinking. We were there for the ambience, and as always on Baja’s South Pacific Coast, the amazing food.
Thursday: Our first stop of the day was Tequila Sunrise, across the street from Hotel California in Todos Santos. It is always our favorite stop for lunch when we roll into town. Deb always orders the Shrimp Chile Rellenos. I never order anything but the Beef Chimichangas. The food is organic, beautifully prepared and ridiculously addicting. Owner Manuel Valdez (brother of Chuy who owns Hotel Buena Vista here) is charming. He welcomes every guest at every table. His traditional Margaritas are spectacular and he will show you how they’re made when you visit. But we fell in love with the Mango version. Garnished with a slice of limon and sprig of mint, these are the best we‘ve found. The recipes for both versions are on the wall, so bring a camera or cell phone.
Colleen met up with us at our second stop, the Hotel California. Deb and I fell in love with the Jamaica-Jalapeno Margarita a few months ago. Juan, the bartender showed me how it was made this time and I took notes. (I have all the recipes, actually.) I love the spicy edginess of the jalapeno, complementing the tang of the Jamaica. Colleen hadn’t ever tried one before, and her eyes lit up as she took her first sip. Another winner.
Next door, Chef Dany Lamote, Hotel California’s executive chef, has a boutique restaurant called Santo Vino. His most divine, decadent Margarita is a White Chocolate Margarita, made with Mezcal. As a dessert drink it’s unbeatable.
Friday: It rained early on, so we got a late start, stopping in for lunch at Hierbabuena Hortaliza, a farm to table restaurant I frequent every single time I’m on the west coast. Located in Pescadero just down the road by the Pemex Station, the dining area is an open air pavilion in the middle of an organic farm. To the east are the towering Sierra de la Laguna. To the west is the Pacific. Sitting there, we were surrounded by fields, palm groves and the farm. I am always in awe when I go there. The food, again, was phenomenal. Owner/Chef Marcos made us a trio of exotic Margaritas. I chose the Pomegranate Margarita, made with mescal and fresh pomegranate juice from the garden. Deb had a Mango Margarita and Colleen had a Baja Sunrise, with house made Jamaica liqueur, lime, fresh orange juice and tequila. Craving Italian food, I had Eggplant Parmesan for lunch. The others shared hummus and fresh veggies along with Roasted Squash Soup. To-die-for.
We had planned to visit Rancho Pescadero, a world class boutique resort closer to the beach, but it was closed for a private event. I’ve been there before and I will attest that their Pineapple-Cilantro Margarita is excellent, as is there chile-rimmed Mango Margarita.
Saturday: Our first stop was Art & Beer, the place that started it all for me nine years ago. Instead of just one Exotic Margarita, there was now an entire chalk board filled with them. Deb ordered a Kiwi Margarita. Colleen ordered a Mixed Berry Margarita and I went with my old favorite, the Citrus Margarita. While we were waiting for them to be made, we wandered around the property and took photos. There was far more art and sculptures than on my previous visit, and the backdrop of Cerritos Beach and the Pacific was beautiful. All three Margaritas were delicious and beautifully garnished. As we drank them, we discussed but decided against having another round. Instead we put the paper umbrellas behind our ears and headed north to our next destination.
Hacienda Cerritos is a spectacular Mexican Hacienda perched dramatically on the cliffs at the north end of Cerritos Beach. Its oceanfront bar is open to the public, and a must see for all visitors. Their signature drink is the Basil Margarita. Deb and Colleen had theirs on the rocks and I had mine blended. We agreed mine was better. I am a huge fan of basil, and this drink rocks my world. The view isn’t bad either and we spotted plenty of whales in the short time we were there.
Because we could, we made out last stop Hierbabuena Hortaliza again. This time, Marcos made Deb his version of the Basil Margarita with muddled basil from his garden, white tequila, limon and Controy. It was shaken like and served with a salted rim. Colleen tried his Watermelon Margarita and I had a Pineapple-Cilantro Margarita. Every one delicious.
So … is anyone up for an Exotic Margarita Party? Ole!