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¡Salud! The best margaritas in Yakima

The Yakima Valley is home to — at last count — 700 billion Mexican restaurants, and virtually all of them, from the taco trucks to the cloth-napkin places, have great food.

A lot of them also have margaritas. Unfortunately, their success rate in this category lags far behind their success rate with the cuisine. It’s not uncommon to order a margarita, expecting the liquid ray of sunshine produced by the proper mixture of tequila, orange liqueur and fresh lime juice, and instead be handed a glass full of high-fructose margarita mix with a shot or two or tequila in it.

So, as a public service, we in the Margarita Research Department here at re-Discover Yakima Valley have spent the past decade drinking margaritas in preparation for compiling this list of five great Yakima margaritas. No need to thank us for our sacrifice; your enjoyment of a good margarita is thanks enough.

Santiago’s on the Ave.

111 E. Yakima Ave.

Your order: The house special margarita, and make it a double

Menu description: 2 oz. gold tequila, triple sec, lime juice

Price: $8 ($9 if you want that double)

The lowdown: Santiago’s, open since 1980 and in its current location since 1986, is one of Yakima’s oldest Mexican restaurants. It boasts patio seating right on the main downtown drag, a vibrant happy hour and one of the best and biggest selections of fine tequila and mezcal we’ve ever seen.

The thing to get, despite all of the other options, is the house special margarita. When you order one, they’ll ask if you want a double. You do. That means it comes with a shot of tequila you can pour in after you sip it down a bit. (Though there’s no law saying you can’t just shoot that extra tequila, it really is better added to the margarita.)

Cowiche Canyon Kitchen and Icehouse Bar

202 E. Yakima Ave.

Your order: Graham’s Margarita

Menu description: 100 percent agave tequila, fresh lime, agave

Price: $10

The lowdown: Cowiche Canyon is the lone non-Mexican restaurant or bar on this list. It makes the cut based on its unquestioned status as THE place to get fine cocktails in Yakima. The bar is stocked with esoteric ingredients, and the people working behind it know how to make those ingredients sing.

So it’s no surprise Graham’s Margarita, named for co-owner Graham Snyder, is as delicious as it is. Omitting the orange liqueur and instead using agave as a sweetener, the drink has as fresh and bright a flavor as any margarita you’ll find anywhere.

Xochimilco Tequila Bar

Inside Glenwood Square shopping center at 5110 Tieton Drive

Your order: Traditional margarita

Menu description: Hornitos tequila, muddled lime, Gran Gala liqueur

Price: $10.75

The lowdown: This is, as the name implies, a traditional margarita — tequila, lime, orange liqueur. It’s the classic recipe, and it’s executed well at Xochimilco Tequila Bar (and equally well at Xochimilco Mexican Restaurant, 2304 W. Nob Hill Blvd.). The only tweak in this recipe is the inclusion of muddled lime instead of just lime juice; the muddling imparts a zesty flavor from the bitter oils in the lime peels.

If you want something a little more adventurous, there are nine margaritas on the Xochimilco menu, plus mojitos, sangria and palomas. But I’m telling you, this is the platonic ideal of the margarita.

Xochimilco (again)

Your order: The Lagunita

Menu description: El Jimador Blanco tequila, fresh lime juice, grapefruit juice, agave nectar, topped with an upside-down Coronita beer

Price: $12.99

The lowdown: Is it cheating to choose two margaritas from the same place? Uh, who cares? There’s an upside-down beer in it. And, yeah, sure, fine, that’s kind of just a gimmick. But whatever. It’s a delicious gimmick. The beer slowly drains into the margarita as you sip, giving it a whole different flavor.

There are other places that do this beer-in-the-margarita thing, too. But nowhere else does it with the quality of margarita you’ll get here.

Antojitos Mexicanos

3512 Summitview Ave.

Your order: Adovada pambazo and a margarita

Menu description: Margarita

Price: $7.59 for the pambazo; $5.99 for the margarita

The lowdown: OK, so the margaritas at Antojitos are not great. They look and taste like they’re made from a store-bought mix. But I don’t care because the food is the best of any sit-down Mexican restaurant in Yakima. And the pambazo you’re going to order with your margarita is going to more than make up for the drink. It’s like a regular torta (a Mexican sandwich) but it’s dipped in red sauce and grilled. Plus they serve it with a tray of six different salsas.

Then, when you finish your margarita, you can order a michelada to help you wash down the second half of your meal. The micheladas at Antojitos are delicious.