Today is National Tequila Day, which is not to be confused with National Margarita Day (Feb. 22) or Cinco de Mayo (duh). In the interest of this vital holiday, we're encouraging you to get out and drink a tequila cocktail that's not a margarita or a simple shot of something. Here are a few of our favorites:
Fuego Verde (Hogo, $9)
The most fiery tequila drink in Washington is aptly named. Bartender Julia Hurst infuses the dry, tasty Cimarron Blanco with fresh habanero peppers for this house specialty, and adds spicy Velvet Falernum, agave syrup and a bit of lime. You'll feel the burn, but in a good way, and there's just enough sweetness from the agave to keep it interesting – and keep you from diving for the water glass.
Paloma (El Chucho, $10)
The Paloma cocktail has become increasingly popular in the last year, with many bartenders putting their spin on the classic Mexican recipe of tequila, grapefruit juice and soda – or tequila and grapefruit soda – with a bit of lime. So simple, yet so refreshing. My favorite twist on it comes from El Chucho in Columbia Heights, where bar manager Gordon Banks makes his own grapefruit soda with dried cinchona bark, which adds an interesting herbal quality to the fruit's natural sharpness. He mixes the soda with silver tequila, lime and a salt rim to make a long cocktail that's perfect for sipping on a hot summer day.
Guanajuato Cruze (DNV Rooftop, $13)
Josh Berner, who creates the cocktails for Donovan House's Zentan restaurant and the hotel's rooftop bar, remembers passing many roadside strawberry stands on a trip through Mexico's tequila country, so one of his standout summer drinks involves infusing Tequila Real with fresh strawberries. The result is a little on the sweet side on its own, so he mixes it with a verbena-mint tea for a wonderful garden-fresh flavor. This is the drink to enjoy while soaking in the sun on the roof.
Cornocello (Casa Luca, $13)
Fiola's cocktail maestro Jeff Faile created the short-and-sweet menu for sister restaurant Casa Luca, and the lone tequila drink is a sharp, spicy one. Faile infuses fruity, bitter Aperol with chili peppers to add a kick, then mixes it with Milagro Tequila. Some St. Germain elderflower liqueur is added to round off the peppery fire, along with quenching lime juice.
Mariachi (Graffiato, $11)
I'll admit I'm partial to Graffiato's mezcal cocktails, but the Mariachi, found on the seasonal menu, covers all the bases. There's lots of oak and spice in the Espolon Reposado, some bitterness from Aperol, sharp citrus from grapefruit, sticky sweetness from agave nectar and the brightness of fresh thyme.
Oyamel House Margarita (Oyamel, $12)
Okay, I know it's not National Margarita Day, and Oyamel has some great tequila-based cocktails. But the balanced Oyamel margarita, topped with a dollop of foamy "salt air," is an icon in Washington for a reason. (Also, if you're really a tequila fan, take a look at the Single Villages flight, which offers tastes of three tequilas that are produced solely in three Oaxacan towns. It's a great showcase for tequila's terroir.)