On The Rocks, With Salt: A Guide To Margaritas In Columbia SC
Monday, February 19, 2018 2:00 PM by Holly Heaton
Margaritas are evolving, yall. Traditional concoctions made with premade mix and cheap tequila are being traded for artfully crafted cocktails with fresh ingredients and unexpected additions (can you say jalapenos?). And whether it’s National Margarita Day, Margarita Monday, or just a day that ends with Y, we’ll never turn down a sip from a salted rim. So, grab a few limes and raise your glasses—it’s time we give you the 411 on the margarita hotspots of Columbia SC.
A local go-to for unique tacos, chips, dips and craft cocktails, Cantina 76 knows how to shake up a good margarita—both traditionally and with a twist. If you want something simple, refreshing and authentic, order up the self-titled Cantina Margarita. Fresh lime juice, agave nectar and your choice of tequila are chilled + served straight with a salted rim and a lime slice. The classics are the classics for a reason, right? If you feel like mixing it up a bit, we recommend the Prickly Pear (if you’re cravin’ something sweet + sour) or the Jalapeno Margarita (if you like your margs to pack a punch).
A hip spot for fusion grub in the heart of Five Points, Publico has a vast selection of margaritas for every taste—from the beloved traditional margarita to a pineapple margarita served in a hollowed out fresh pineapple. Stop by on Mondays for $4 margs, don’t miss Sunday Funday brunch and if you can’t choose just one margarita, pick several to sip on with a margarita flight. Yep, you read that correctly—margarita flights are a thing. Our personal favorites are the blueberry and watermelon, but you do you, boo.
A new kid on the Vista block, COA specializes in tapas and artisan tequilas. With more than 20 creative cocktails to sip and delicious, memorable bites (try the ceviche and the bone marrow and thank us later), this agaveria has quickly built a loyal following of locals + visitors alike. For a knock-your-socks-off sip, try the Smokey Piña—made with Mezcal Sombra, pineapple, honey, chipotle, lime and Hellfire Bitters. And if you’re feelin’ something a little untraditional but still simple, go for the Margarita Fresca… made with Lunazul Blanco, citrus mix and your choice from a variety of fresh fruit and herbs. We recommend the mango, though, and are fairly sure it can’t be beat.
Arguably the most authentic Mexican cuisine in the Columbia region, Real Mexico has a band of loyal followers that keep coming back for noteworthy eats that are nothing short of the real deal. Of course, the ‘ritas are no exception—from a frozen classic in a chilled glass the size of a small country to Corona-ritas and on-the-rocks concoctions. However, we recommend ordering up a pitcher to share with your squad—we have a feeling you’ll want to stay a while.
While Motor Supply isn’t known specifically for its tequila libations, the restaurant’s head barman, Josh Streetman, is nothing short of a magician when it comes to artfully crafting cocktails. Thus, just ask him to whip you up the marg of your dreams and we are sure you’ll leave grinning ear-to-ear. You also might stumble upon a margarita on the seasonal menu (like a spiced cucumber peach margarita for summertime or even the occasional scotch marg), so make sure to ask when you get settled in!
Known for wood-fired pizza + fusion tacos, Tazza Kitchen (“Ta” for taco, “Zza” for Pizza! Who knew?!) has been the subject of some recent buzz regarding their next-level margarita—a mixture of El Jimador Blanco, Patron Citronge, fresh lime and agave over cracked ice. If it’s nice out—and the odds are in your favor in Columbia SC—grab a spot on the patio. Twinkly lights and a fire pit make for a cozy, swoon-worthy experience.
A hidden gem of Columbia’s Mexican food scene, Moctezuma Taqueria is celebrated for its authentic, no-frills cuisine and quaint, relaxed atmosphere. And with delicious Mexican eats comes classic margaritas to match. We recommend the traditional frozen variety or the spicy margarita with fresh jalapenos. And if you’re sharing (or, you know, just really thirsty), order up the Liter Margarita for only $10.
Arkos Grill is a big hit with Columbia SC locals, and for good reason. While the hotspot specializes in craft martinis, you’d be remiss in not ordering a margarita or 3. You can’t go wrong with the traditional, of course, but we encourage you to give the Chocolate Cranberry margarita a try. With Espolon Blanco, lime juice, cranberry reduction, Aztec chocolate bitters and agave nectar, it’s as delicious as it is unforgettable.
Tio’s, within walking distance of USC, is known for the famous “Wet Burrito”—a giant burrito covered in enchilada sauce. Students + locals alike come first, though, for margarita towers (yes, towers) to share. From simple and classic to fruity varieties, the margaritas are cheap, fresh and best served alongside chips + queso. Yes, please. We’ll take 2.
Cover photo credit: Cantina 76
If you're looking for more delicious sips + bites in Columbia SC, check out our restaurants page where you can search by category to find exactly what you're craving!