In the decades since the Margarita became entrenched in American menus, the drink has gone from a frozen cantina staple to craft cocktail bar obsession. The classic’s tried-and-true template has made it a canvas for bartenders and drinkers alike to project onto it whatever flavor profile they want, from spicy to fruity and beyond. With the widespread relaxation of cocktail world dogma over the last several years, the fruity Margarita in particular has come into its own as an endlessly riffable and reliably refreshing summer stalwart.
One of the most popular techniques for creating a fruity Marg is to infuse the base tequila. This approach, which allows for the quickest à la minute mixing, is favored by John Watterberg at Santa Fe BK in Brooklyn. His Sandia Stormking combines watermelon-infused tequila (sandía is Spanish for “watermelon”) with fresh muddled mint alongside both lemon and lime juice.
In the absence of fresh fruit, powdered versions can also work. Houston bar Monkey’s Tail, for example, shakes dragon fruit powder directly into tequila for a quick infusion, doubling down on the flavor in the bar’s Dragon Fruit Margarita by also mixing the powder into syrup, which lends the finished drink a subtle sweetness and a fluorescent hue.
The Cuj, meanwhile, incorporates fruit flavor simply through the addition of fresh juice. A mix of bittersweet Aperol and Suze with the expected tequila teams up with lime, passion fruit and orange juices, yielding a bittersweet take on the frozen Margarita. Juice can also be shaken into the Margarita template using Dave Arnold’s “juice shake” technique. In the Cape Cod Margarita, a cross between the Cape Codder and a frozen Margarita, cranberry juice is frozen into cubes, then shaken with mezcal and orange juice until dissolved. The resulting drink is a slushy, tart take on the fruity cocktail.
To turn any Margarita fruity, the most intuitive approach is to add fresh fruit directly into the mix. This technique brings a thicker consistency to the frozen Margarita template at New Orleans bar Vals, where different fruits are spotlighted for the seasonally rotating Margarita special. The Mango Margarita, for example, combines fresh mango with blood orange liqueur for extra brightness, served from the bar’s frozen-drinks machine. The Summer Melon Marg from Horse Inn in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, meanwhile, stars cantaloupe, while the salinity of Manzanilla sherry replicates the traditional Margarita’s salt rim.
Finally, for those who can’t be forced to choose between a spicy or a fruity Marg, enter the Mango Mezcalero. Made with a spicy tincture and Tajín rim, plus lime juice and mango purée, the cocktail is equal parts piquant and refreshing. Likewise, a few dashes of Cholula hot sauce provide the heat in Sarah Morrissey’s I’m on Fire, while honey syrup and pineapple and lime juices round out the cocktail to offer the best of both worlds.