Rose Canyon Margarita at Rose Canyon Cantina, Our Drink of the Week!
Dave Lieberman

Rose Canyon Margarita at Rose Canyon Cantina, Our Drink of the Week!

The Rose Canyon Cantina, tucked away behind the last gasps of all-look-same inland South County in its own oak-lined dell, is the least likely place in the county to find a real, honest-to-God, Jalisco-style margarita. Most of the patrons are drinking tequila-tinged swill with bottled margarita mix and, in many cases, a small bottle of beer upended into the drink. It wasn't encouraging. I struck up a conversation with the bartender, who hails from Jalisco, and complained about the sugar-laden nonsense as I sipped a Victoria and a shot of Partida añejo (they have a pretty good tequila list).

"I wish there were a place to get a real margarita, nomás tequila, triple sec and lime juice," I griped. He took my laminated, spiral-bound bar menu, flipped a few pages, and jabbed one finger at the Rose Canyon Margarita. Sure enough, Patrón silver, Cointreau, and lime juice. My eyes lit up as I ordered one. He walked over to the fruit bowl and picked out a few limes and a juicer.

If you've never had a real margarita, this will strike you as wildly unbalanced and sour; it's supposed to be. You're supposed to get a hit of sweetness from the Cointreau, a punch between the eyeballs from the tequila blanco, and a mouthful of sour to help it down, and this delivers. It isn't perfect--it isn't shaken, it's got a lot of swiftly-melting shell ice in it, and it's twice the size it should be--but you know what, one of those and an order of surprisingly good ceviche, and you're set for a lazy afternoon out in the last vestiges of rural Orange County.

Rose Canyon Cantina is located at 20722 Rose Canyon Rd., Trabuco Canyon; (949) 766-6939;; Tuesday-Friday 4-10 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

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