I know there’s this phenomenon called March Madness, when everyone gets excited over basketball to avoid work. But for me, the real madness begins in May, when Cinco de Mayo ushers in warmer weather and the return of thirst-quenching, fruity drinks. I’m talking Margarita Madness here, and if you ask me, it’s way more interesting and fun than watching a bunch of sweaty guys run around, dribbling and throwing a ball (but hey, to each his or her own).
Back to the drinks. Margaritas in Bellingham can’t be the run-of-the-mill frozen concoction that Parrot Heads (drunkenly and off-key) sing about. That’s just not how we do things in our little corner of the world. Local mixologists are using fresh, local and creative ingredients (very Bellingham) to transform the standard salt-rimmed margarita into something very special.
We’re fortunate to have plenty of options when it comes to getting a tequila fix. Here are a few I recently sampled.
We stopped by Taco Lobo on a Tuesday evening, after the dinner crowd had come and gone. Leo mixed up a couple of big, frosty house margaritas for my pal and me. We asked for a premium silver, or blanco, tequila, to which he added the house-made margarita mix of fresh lime-cucumber juice and simple syrup, plus an added kick from fresh jalapeño. We both loved this tangy, sweet and spicy combination. It’s not a small drink, so plan accordingly!
Taco Lobo is a favorite with Bellinghamsters for its homemade tortillas, chips and salsas. You’ll find plenty of fresh, authentic Mexican food to pair with a lime, mango or strawberry margarita.
Taco Lobo, 117 W. Magnolia St., Bellingham, WA 360-756-0711
Monday – Saturday 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Redlight is a pure delight. It’s small, but not too small; quiet in the afternoon, and increasingly lively as evening falls and the lights go down. Early on, you’ll see patrons toiling away on laptops, while late night brings some serious date action.
It’s a perfect spot for gathering friends for drinks, conversation, or to catch a show. Rattletrap Ruckus plays Thursday nights for free, and on most weekends, you’ll find performers from Bellingham, Edison, Seattle and beyond.
Redlight’s chalkboard highlights their solid line-up of wines available by the bottle or glass, plus their always-creative selection of cocktails. Apparently they were having Margarita Madness of their own this week, with three on the menu. How lucky we were to have three in our party, so we didn’t have to choose!
We each ordered one and shared sips:
- Don Caballero: With Herradura silver tequila, Cointreau, fresh lime juice and Grand Marnier. Nicely balanced, not too sweet.
- Le Butcherette: Considering Redlight is housed in a former butcher shop (with the original meat hooks still hanging around), this is a great name for a cocktail, but I think it might be an homage to a punk band. At any rate, this short-but-potent drink featured jalapeno tequila, triple sec, fresh lime juice and simple syrup.
- Fresh Raspberry Margarita: Raspberry preserves, tequila and lime juice. Simple, beautifully pink and so delicious.
Since we biked downtown, and Redlight’s margaritas were so good, we three stayed for another, happily licking our salty rims (well, two of us did that) and making full use of our adult-size straws.
Redlight, 1017 N. State St., Bellingham, WA
4:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m. 7 days a week Happy Hour every day from 4:00 – 7:00
Temple Bar (my favorite happy hour spot) tempted me back in its usual way: with a few words and a photo on Facebook. This time it was Organic Rhubarb Margarita. I was there in a flash to check it out. This delicate pink-orange beauty is made with pureed organic rhubarb grown on owner Chelsea Farmer’s own “farmlette,” muddled fresh orange and lime, reposado tequila (a/k/a the good stuff) and lots of love.
I liked my drink plenty, but do wish the rim had been salted to offset the tad-too sweetness of the drink. But then, I’m a rhubarb fanatic, and prefer it on the saliva-sucking tart side. I ate it raw as a kid, so take this with a grain of salt, too.
Coming next week:
May Margarita Madness continues with my report on Whatcom County’s new tequila bar, the gorgeous Cantina Bar at Silver Reef Casino.