Tag Archives: Margarita Meltdown

7th Annual margarita fest offered a sweet answer to sour weather

Mellow Mushroom
Pouring Mellow Mushroom’s honey-ginger habanero margarita at Margarita Meltdown 2017.

It’s been just over a week since the 7th annual Margarita Meltdown, a sold-out, five-hour party featuring more than two dozen Margarita variations from all around the Dallas-Fort Worth area – which could be why I’m barely getting around to recapping the whole thing.

A sample scorecard: Each sample-size margarita meant crossing another box off the chart.

Armed with score sheets like big coffee-club cards, we and our fellow festival goers sloshed through the West End grounds on the drizzly last Sunday of May and lined up for sample-size margaritas from places like The Theodore, Mellow Mushroom, Renfield’s Corner and Y.O. Steakhouse (which marked its territory with a longhorn skull and fake Saguaro cactus). There were mango-papaya margaritas, cucumber margaritas, pickled beet margaritas and honey-ginger habanero margaritas. Aside from Lekka’s snow-cone-style version, they came in little cups – the kind salad dressing comes in with a to-go salad – festooned with rose petals, rimmed with chili salt, or in The Standard Pour’s case, garnished with watermelon radish and vegetable ash.

Austin Millspaugh
The Standard Pour crew knocks out pickled beet margaritas.

Attendees had a sought-after tool at their disposal: one wooden coin, to deposit into the “tip jar” of their favorite overall margarita, with prizes of $1,000, $500 and $250 awarded to the first-, second- and third-place drink makers.

My favorite of the day was the blood-orange margarita from Cassidy’s, in Fort Worth, a Texas two-step primped with Solerno blood orange liqueur and a chewy piece of candied blood orange sunbathing in the cup. The drink, followed by the sugary punch of the candied fruit, was a winner – and not just with me: It turned out to be the people’s choice as top margarita, joining previous champs Pie 314 of Lewisville, Whiskey Cake of Plano, and Dallas’ Asador, Iron Cactus, Savor Gastropub and Soleo.

The Renfield’s Corner’s team handing out berry-powered “Purple Jesus” margaritas.

Coming in second was the pineapple-jalapeno margarita from Frankie’s Downtown, while third place went to Rj Mexican Cuisine’s blueberry-basil translation. The people had spoken. The people were feeling pretty good. So even though we may never know who created the original margarita, it’s safe to say its legacy is alive and well.

Dallas Margarita Competition gives 30-plus bartenders a chance to show they’re worth their salt

The classic Margarita. Image courtesy of LetsGetTwisted.com

In Texas, no drink says summer is almost here better than a Margarita. And in Dallas, nothing puts an exclamation point on the thought like the 7th annual Dallas Margarita Competition, happening this Sunday in the city’s West End District.

Ah, the Margarita. The classic mix of tequila, orange liqueur and lime, rimmed with kosher salt, is among the most legendary and debated of cocktails, with more than a few origin stories to its credit. Rather than try to figure out which one to believe, the Dallas Margarita Competition offers you the opportunity to decide which of the 30-plus versions of the drink you’re going to try. Which will be the best? That’s for you to decide.

At the 2013 event, Armando Guillen and Brian McCullough of The Standard Pour battled the crush in Bishop Arts.

That’s right: At the Dallas Margarita Competition, which runs from 4 to 9 p.m., you are the judge. Your $40 ticket ($50 at the door) gets you samples of Margarita variations created by more than 30 DFW bartenders, along with a scoring card and a wooden chip with which to cast your ballot. (Don’t wait too late, though, or your vote won’t count at all!) The top three bartenders will win prizes of $1,000, $500 and $250, respectively.

Previous first-place winners of the previously named Margarita Meltdown have included Lewisville’s Pie 314, Plano’s Whiskey Cake, and Dallas’ Asador, Iron Cactus, Savor Gastropub and Soleo.

The event will include food and retail vendors, and a DJ. Tickets are available here, but first one to email me at typewriterninja@gmail.com with the year of the very first Margarita Meltdown wins a free pair!


Shrubs, purees, dancing in the streets: The report from Dallas’ Margarita Meltdown 2013


Standard Pour's Armando Guillen and Brian McCullough battle the crush at Margarita Meltdown 2013 in Oak Cliff.
Standard Pour’s Armando Guillen and Brian McCullough battled the crush at Margarita Meltdown 2013 in Oak Cliff.

They came to do battle with guava and chili, with basil and peppers and passionfruit puree. Slinging their drinks in shot-sized portions, they implored the parched and perspiring throngs to cast votes in their favor, each angling for the $1,000 crown of Margarita Meltdown 2013.

The third annual event pitched its tents in Oak Cliff’s Bishop Arts District Sunday, and if you came to knock down a little tequila, it did not disappoint: Around 30 restaurants offered their own spin on the classic Margarita, cranking out mini-cocktails dressed oh so many different ways — punched up with pineapple, couched in horchata, spiced with serrano chile.

Margarita Meltdown 2013
Oak Cliff’s own Mesa represented with a habanero, serrano and bell pepper Margarita laced with brown sugar.

Everybody started with a common ingredient: Milagro tequila blanco. Plano’s Whiskey Cake, which took last year’s title with bartender Bonnie Wilson’s frozen “Push-Up” Margarita, made another strong push this year with a drink served not in a glass but in a plastic squirt gun. They ran out within two hours.

Here’s how it all worked: Checklists were distributed. Have a mini-Margarita, cross the place off your list. Then vote – via text – for your favorite four. The machinations were a mystery, and voting continued for an hour past its scheduled cut-off point. Then again, the queues moved slowly; I still managed to sample 18 Margaritas in all, from Oak Cliff Social Club’s grapefruit and Squirt-splashed version to the tasty peach margarita pitched up by Cyclone Anaya’s of Oak Lawn.

Oak Cliff Social Club's Social Sipper, with Milagro tequila blanco, Ruby Red grapefruit and a splash of Squirt.
Oak Cliff Social Club’s Social Sipper, with Ruby Red grapefruit and a splash of Squirt.

Sunset Lounge embraced the tiki with a “Zombie-rita” partied up with Bacardi 151 rum, Sailor Jerry spiced rum, Solerno blood orange liqueur, Velvet Falernum, Angostura bitters, cinnamon syrup and lime, grapefruit and pineapple juice.

“This is the longest line I’ve had to wait in,” a girl complained as she waited to try the Standard Pour booth, where bartender Armando Guillen shook up batches of his special Margarita blend in real time. “It’d better be f-ing worth it.”

And it was: Guillen’s drink featured orange-tea-infused tequila, ginger and passionfruit purees, blood orange bitters and a five-chili balsamic reduction – sweetly alluring with lots of character.

Asador's entry featured sambal, a Southeast Asian chile sauce.
Asador’s entry featured sambal, a Southeast Asian chile sauce.

La Duni’s Daniel Guillen – Armando’s brother – also scored with his Bohemia Margarita, flavored with Becherovka (a Czech herbal liqueur), lime and a house-made cordial of cucumber, pepper and star anise, finished off with a Tajin chile-lime powder rim.

So did Asador, whose fruity watermelon and basil version shone with subtle heat, making use of sambal (a Southeast Asian chili sauce) and a ginger/sea salt foam. Another stand-out: The Lucky One, from the just-opened Mutts Canine Cantina, dolled up with a strawberry, cucumber and rosemary shrub for some balsamic beauty. (Though my companion Rachel cleverly suggested sprucing it up even more with a Pop-Rock rim.)

La Duni's Daniel Guillen flavored his Margarita with his own cordial of pepper and star anise.
La Duni’s Daniel Guillen flavored his Margarita with his own cordial made with cucumber, pepper and star anise.

DaLat came prepared to serve up 2,300 of its spectacular “Vietnamese Margaritas,” which were really not Margaritas at all, but with their prune-candy and chili-flaked lime one-two punch kept the booth’s lines long and lingering.

The best of the bunch? For one, Mesomaya’s avocado-pineapple Margarita made with Cointreau – always a plus in my book – and laced with Tajin. “It’s mellow and yellow,” my worthy sidekick said.

Mesomaya's avocado-pineapple Margarita, a solid dose of mellow yellow
Mesomaya’s avocado-pineapple Margarita, a solid dose of mellow yellow

My favorite, though, was “The People’s Last Pequin,” from The People’s Last Stand, a complex punch incorporating smoked strawberries, honey agave and two infused tequilas – one with chile pequin, the other with vanilla bean – and, naturally, Cointreau. The rim was a mix of lime zest, smoked sea salt and guajillo chili. All-around goodness.

So who won? Well, does it really matter? Suffice it to say that the victorious cocktail was the one drink that both my companion and I tossed away without finishing, so horrendous was its assault upon our palates. And in case we thought we were mistaken, the guy behind us practically spit his out. Who knows: Maybe we got a bad batch. But really, by the time the results were announced, spirits were high, and this small but populous stretch of Bishop Arts had gotten its club vibe on, with booming beats and dancing in the streets, so for all anyone cared – except for a contingent of disappointed bartenders – the Sonic down the street could have been named winner and the party would have gone on. And it did. Dallas, I salute you.

The top-notch People's Last Pequin, from The People's Last Stand.
The top-notch People’s Last Pequin, from The People’s Last Stand.
And then this happened.
And then this happened.


This weekend, Dallas bartenders take Margarita out for a spin; you and a good cause reap the benefits

The classic Margarita. Image courtesy of LetsGetTwisted.com
The classic Margarita. Image courtesy of LetsGetTwisted.com.

The Margarita transcends definition as a simple cocktail. I mean, it is a simple cocktail — tequila, orange liqueur, lime and sweetener — but like the Martini, it’s carved out its own familiar niche on the American cultural landscape: The average person may never have even tried a Manhattan, or a Mai Tai, but everyone’s had a Margarita. Probably several. In succession.

But let’s say you’re tired of standard Margaritaville. You want a Margarita, but… not quite a Margarita. Oh, what the heck, maybe a beer — wait, what’s that guy drinking over there? Why, that’s a Margarita “Push-Up,” the winner of last year’s annual Margarita Meltdown.

Yes, if that’s the sort of Margarita madness you crave, Sunday’s third annual Margarita Meltdown — in Oak Cliff’s Bishop Arts District — may be the place for you. And an estimated 2,000 other people.

Standard Pour's Brian McCullough got his Margarita on at last year's event. Photo by Nico Ponce
Standard Pour’s Brian McCullough got his Margarita on at Margarita Meltdown 2012. Photo by Nico Ponce.

Sponsored by Milagro Tequila, the festival runs from 5 to 10 pm, and more than two dozen restaurants will be putting their own spin on the classic drink. For just $20, you can try them all and then vote (via text, by 8 pm) for those you think are worth their salt.

Tickets, which can be bought here, benefit La Voz del Anciano (“The Voice of the Elderly”), an organization that helps Spanish-speaking elders overcome cultural and language barriers to access community resources. This year’s participating restaurants include Asador, Ten Bells Tavern, Mesa, Urban Taco, Bowl & Barrel, Lark at the Park, Pozo Mercado, DaLat, Boulevardier and The Ranch at Las Colinas.

“What’s the one cocktail everybody drinks?” says event co-organizer Nico Ponce. “It’s a Margarita. I have a 94-year-old grandmother who will still put down a Margarita.”

Then again, these  aren’t your grandma’s Margaritas: La Duni’s Daniel Guillen, for instance, plans a version made with tequila, herbal bitters, lime and a homemade cordial flavored with cucumber, pepper and star anise. Prepare for Margarita alchemy, my friends.

The winner of the competition gets a $1,000 prize and a spot at the Dallas Craft Cocktail TX festival on Labor Day weekend. Last year’s prize went to Plano’s Whiskey Cake; the inaugural year’s to Iron Cactus.