The first time you hear about it, you think it’s a joke. At the very least it’s an exaggeration. How can any bar, even at one of Mexico’s most popular resorts, possibly serve 150 margaritas? But once you actually witness and spend upwards of 20 minutes gawking at the magnificent menu, you come to an incredible realization: the JW Marriott Cancun Resort and Spa’s legendary lobby bar not only serves 150 margaritas, but some of them are so ingenious and unique, you’ll wonder how the human mind could have come up with this concept.
When I recently visited Cancun, I declared that I would move heaven and earth to finally visit this bar, my Valhalla. For years, I have toyed with the math in trying to determine how many days on how many trips it would take for me to eventually try all 150 margs. For me and many others, this is the impossible dream, because I just don’t think it’s possible to accomplish without visiting over and over. (Not that I’m opposed to doing that, but let’s be realistic.)
So, as I stared at the large menu, subtly set upon a stand to the side of the lobby bar, with its magnificent, tall shelves of tequila and mezcal, I came to four conclusions:
- With only two days left in my visit, I’d have to think small. Trying five margaritas would be my goal.
- If I can only choose five from 150, I wanted to be sure to enjoy the spectrum from the simple to the extravagant.
- Of course I tried (and recommend) the Classic Margarita, so that technically makes six cocktails, but this is far more about living beyond the ordinary.
- Most importantly, I had to pace myself. There’s no fun in getting bombed when the whole point is appreciating the effort that went into developing, again, a menu of 150 margaritas.
With those crucial points in mind, I walked to the bar, prepared to order the first of my chosen five… only to realize the bar wasn’t open at 2 p.m. In all my excitement, I never bothered to find out that it doesn’t open until 4, so the best piece of advice I can include is to be patient. But good things always come to those who wait.
There is truly something for everyone at this bar but take my advice that these five margaritas rise above the rest.
The Grapefruit Rita
The “Classic” section of the menu is probably where purists will spend their time, and a margarita with a splash of grapefruit juice is already a staple at my home bar, so this was a natural starting point. Featuring Gran Orendain Blanco tequila, grapefruit juice, Cointreau, simple syrup, and lime juice, this cocktail also includes a little watermelon juice for refreshing sweetness.
This is the cocktail that launched this quest in the first place, as I am a mezcal enthusiast above all else and have been endlessly tinkering with my own recipe for a delicious mez-marg. When the JW Marriott Cancun’s mixologists offered us the recipe for this drink, I couldn’t turn it down. I also couldn’t make it as well as the bartenders, and believe me, I have tried.
You might think this “Exotic” concept is easier than it sounds, with its short ingredients list of Tierra Noble Reposado tequila, mezcal, orange juice, lemon juice, Cointreau, and tajin chili powder. But this one is best when it comes from the resort’s experts.
The Tamarind Rita
This is where we start to get weird. It wasn’t long ago that I couldn’t tell you anything about tamarind without sneaking away so I could Google it. Today, I try to include it in everything from smoothies to dessert dishes, and I have some of the Caribbean’s most creative culinary geniuses to thank for that. If you’re unfamiliar with tamarind, all you have is my word that it’s awesome.
I like to mix a little paste into an old fashioned (a trick I picked up in St. Croix); however, I have yet to replicate the excellence of the “Modern” menu’s Tamarind Rita, which features Espolon Bourbon Reposado, tamarind, pequin chili powder, Cointreau, lime juice, and simple syrup.
The Cucumber Chili Rita
If I was ranking these margaritas, this would be at the top of my list, because I was blown away at the flavor in this “Fusion” selection. People either love or hate spicy margaritas, and I can always be found whispering, “Te amo” to a nice jalapeño marg. At this bar, though, the fire comes in a variety of creative styles, so much that choosing just one was as tough as limiting this article to five drinks. (I also had a really hard time choosing between this and the Mezcal Cucumber, so I’ll see that one next time.)
Featuring Esperanto Piramide Añejo tequila, cucumber, jalapeño, lime juice, simple syrup, and Grand Marnier, this margarita masterfully delivers the heat without making you pay for it. And it has the benefit of not being as intimidating in name as the Fire Scorpion.
The Green Juice Margarita
When I first approached the bar—when it was actually open—this was the marg I was most eager to try. But when I asked for it, I was rejected because the bar wasn’t prepared for the more elaborate recipes just yet. Fast forward a few hours, when I circled back after dinner, and the bartender was thrilled to finally make it for me.
Now, this is hardly the most unique or even bizarre marg on the menu, but the words “green juice” make it sound like this is being served in the spa waiting area, and it certainly looks the part with the avocado slice as a garnish. Made with Lapis Reposado tequila, epazote (Mexican tea), avocado, agave syrup, lemon juice, and Grand Marnier, this margarita is unusual and creamy, but the flavor is enchanting.
At the very least, it’s a great choice for when you want to sound brave but just can’t bring yourself to order the Clamato Rita.