But, sometimes, with the desire to dull the edge in a familiar fashion for well less than $10 to be slurped with some caloric and spicy enough Tex-Mex, especially when it’s hot and humid outside, a basic frozen margarita is often what’s on the mind. These have been a Houston staple since the early 1980s, and quite likely still the most commonly ordered mixed drink in the area. And, it is National Margarita Day, one of those bullshit days honoring a certain cuisine, dish or drink. It can be an excuse to share a drink or two with co-workers or friends, so the bullshit rationale can be excused.
There is a wide variance in the quality of frozen margaritas, most I find are too sweet and often redolent of cheap margarita mix plus the unmistakable bite of inexpensive and harsh-tasting tequilas, if there is much tequila at all, and some arrive as a slushy mix and quickly watery mix rather than truly frozen. With these lesser margaritas, one is usually my limit before needing to switch to beer. But, as the bar has been raised on the high end, and several places offer quality house frozen margaritas in addition to a usually estimable array of top shelf margarita-inspired cocktails. What I believe makes a good house frozen margarita includes a pleasant mix of tart and sweet, and certainly not too sweet, evident, clean-tasting tequila made from 100% agave, usually the unaged silver tequila, some taste of lime and not much in the way of processed flavors. Good is good enough for a quality house frozen margarita, in my opinion.
After years of dedicated research, below is my list of the best frozen margaritas in Houston, listed alphabetically. Just frozen. Yes, I know that margaritas on the rocks are better than frozen margaritas even with basic ingredients, and I really like the very tart not-quite frozen specialty at Spanish Village, but this list is for bulk-made and wallet-friendly frozen staple of the Houston people.
In "research" in the past year-plus since the original version of this was posted, I have had to drop Ninfa's and Pico's, the latter has devoted their effort to the more expensive, and still excellent, top-shelf margaritas. Ninfa's quality has seemingly dropped too much, too. Maybe that is influenced by the definite drop in quality of their long-famed fajitas, which makes for a more disappointing visit, overall.
El Tiempo – Long known for probably the strongest margaritas around and rumors that Everclear played a big role in the mix, I had found these too sweet and unbalanced for my tastes until the past couple of years or so when they changed the makeup and upgraded the tequila. These are now very good while retaining all that potency.
Laurenzo’s – Same as above.
Laurenzo’s Grill – Same as above and above.
The Pastry War – You should expect that the bar dedicated to tequila and mescal from the folks at Anvil would serve up an excellent frozen margarita if they deigned to, and they do, thankfully. For just $8 you are treated to a more serious than usual frozen blend of quality blanco tequila, key and Persian limes, agave nectar and citrus salt.
Texas Shrimp Shack – With still plenty of plenty of tequilas on display when it was Maria Selma's, who remain with a new tasty concept, this Montrose eatery has always had a very enjoyable and properly balanced frozen margarita.