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Best Margarita

Casa Molina's
6225 E. Speedway

READERS' PICK: Here's a helpful tip: Don't drink and drive--hire a taxi to take you to Casa Molina's, and, once there, order a pitcher of their plenty strong margaritas. Drink same. They go down surprisingly easily--soda pop for the depraved among us. You'll awaken three days later without a hangover, we promise. (Make sure you pay the cabbie in advance, though.)

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: On the off-chance they might win some sort of place in this year's readers' poll, we decided to spend every Friday afternoon for the past year thoroughly investigating the margaritas at the Grant Road Chuy's Mesquite Broiler. After a great deal of probing, experimentation, discussion with colleagues, cross-referencing and retesting, we are pleased to announce our preliminary findings: They're real good! While some elitists may be put off by the plastic cups rimmed with salt, we find no fault with the working class ambiance (particularly during happy hour, when margarita pitchers are only $4). In any event, all aesthetic objections are soon overwhelmed by the faux-Puerto Peñasco flavor of the surroundings, to say nothing of the free chips and salsa provided by enthusiastic waitstaff. Chuy's has seven Tucson locations, open seven days a week, so chances are pretty good we'll see you there.

STAFF PICK: It's true there's no shortage of decent margaritas in Tucson, but what makes those at Cocina Restaurant at Old Town Artisans, 186 N. Meyer Ave., so splendid is the awe-inspiring exploration of possibilities, which include several variations in the list of traditional ingredients for this gran señora of cocktails. We admit a lack of appreciation for the standard strawberry version of our favorite sipper, so are pleased to inform that variety does NOT mean fruit cocktail. What does change, albeit subtly, is the blend of aged tequila with either Triple Sec or Cointreau; or the addition of unexpected accents like Amaretto or Curacao. We usually stick with the house margarita, on the rocks, salted rim; but we feel better just knowing Cocina's crafted a marg for every occasion.

Case History

1998 Winner: El Charro
1997 Winner: Casa Molina
1995 Winner: Chuy's

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