This Cancun Bar Has Over 150 Margaritas

No one's successfully made it through the entire menu — yet.


Courtesy of JW Marriott Cancun

If you put your head to it, I bet you could list off a dozen or so riffs on a classic margarita on the spot. Passionfruit, strawberry, jalapeño, and mango, sure. A smoky mezcal number, why not? But how long would it take you to come up with 150 different margaritas — and ensure that every single one was built around a different tequila? That’s exactly what Guillermo Canto, the head of food and beverage at the JW Marriott Cancun, and his hospitality team did in order to launch a lobby bar that boasts, yes, more than 150 variations on the classic margarita. 

It began in 2019, when the Marriott team was looking to revamp the lobby bar in their hotel and resort. “We thought, what do people want when they come to vacation in Mexico? Tequila,” Canto said. “And the most famous tequila cocktail has to be the margarita. But we wanted to create a way that would really showcase the variety of tequilas we have here. So we set out to develop 100 different margaritas.”

Basil Mangorita

Courtesy of JW Marriott Cancun

The whole hospitality team got involved, including the restaurant and bar managers as well as the lobby managers. Every week, they tried out more recipes, working with a mixologist brought in especially for the project. In addition to experimenting with various flavor combinations, the team also played around with different preparations — shaken, stirred, blended. There were salt rims, sugar rims, and spice rims. Canto and his team tasted hundreds of margaritas over the many weeks of the project, weeding out ones that had a particularly interesting story, or showcased a spirit. He decided that every margarita would include an additional eyedropper, balanced on the rim, filled with a taste of the tequila that the cocktail was built around so people could try it both in the cocktail and straight. “The hardest part was coming up with a name for every single drink,” Canto said. “We wanted every drink to have a storytelling element to it, and for the name to tell that story. We tried 30, 40 margaritas a week, and tried to come up with a good background for each of them.” They ended up exceeding their initial target of 100 margaritas, at one point considering 200, but settled on the 150 best cocktails they tried. 

Finally, in March 2018, the team unveiled the 150 margarita menu at the lobby bar, divided into four sections: Classic, Fusion, Modern, and Exotic. The classic category is fairly self-explanatory, and fusion margaritas are nods to other classic cocktails, like an Old Fashioned and Margarita mash-up;  The modern and exotic sections are so dense with options that each resembles the periodic table. The stable element in every drink is tequila — otherwise, many of the cocktails are about as close to the margarita you might order at a Tex-Mex joint as a T. Rex is to a parakeet. That might bother traditionalists, but it’s a pure delight to cocktail completists like myself. 

“Often, we’ll have someone come up and see how many margaritas they can try during their vacation,” Canto says. He hasn’t personally seen anyone manage to drink all 150, though there are plenty of guests who have attempted it, with many succeeding in trying a fair part of the menu during their stay.

A bartender mixes a classic margarita at JW Marriott Cancun

Courtesy of JW Marriott Cancun

Some of the most popular options hew close to the classics, like the Cadillac Margarita, which features Grand Marnier and añejo tequila. But other favorites stray pretty far from the classic margarita path, like the Red Dragon Rita, which has raspberry, lemon, and mint alongside  añejo tequila, or the “Flirtacius,” which has cucumber, pineapple, strawberry, and blanco tequila. Canto’s personal favorite is the Cheve-rita, built on a base of dark Mexican beer with Tesoro de Don Felipe tequila. 

My personal favorites were drinks that captures the flavors of different Mexican dishes, like the Al Pastor Margarita, which has pineapple, cilantro, and tajin, as well as the Habanerita, which had chamoy and habanero alongside Don Nacho Blanco Extra Premium, and the 7 Moles Margarita, which, yes had black mole in it. I also respected some of their truly off-the-wall combinations, like a Nutella margarita, topped with whipped cream, that tasted like a slightly tequila-inflected milkshake. I hit my personal margarita limit before I got to try some of the others that intrigued me: a Limoncello Margarita, an Apple Pucker-based Margarita, a Chipotle Choco Rita, and a Jager-rita.

If that sounds like an overwhelming amount of choice, well, you’re not wrong. Customers often come in paralyzed with the number of cocktail options — but Canto has a solution for that. Aside from the old fashioned option of asking the bartender, customers can also use an iPad at the bar that has a built-in app that chooses a drink for you. Put in your name and flavor preferences, tap the screen, and voila — you have the margarita you should order. It’s a little bit like cocktail roulette.

But because not everyone can manage downing dozens of cocktails just to try them, the bar also sells tasting flights of margaritas, allowing groups to try several tiny shot-sized versions of the drinks rather than downing a whole one, like little snack-a-ritas. “Then if they like a certain one from the tasting, it’s easier to guide them to where on the menu to go,” Canto said. 

The biggest challenge of maintaining the 150 margarita bar is to continuously have all the elements for every single cocktail in stock. There are occasional additions or substitutions on the menu but Canto says that it’s more about finding sufficient quantities of the many unique tequilas they offer than anything else. Tequila shortages, particularly during the pandemic, meant that the team had to get creative with finding substitutes for the spirits that they had built the menu on.  “We tend to keep a drink on the menu, but then do tastings to figure out if we can swap in a different tequila,” Canto said. “So if [a drink called for] an añejo, we’d try to find a [back-up] añejo with similar characteristics.” Essentially, it means that Canto and his team never stop tasting tequila, and never stop reconsidering the boundaries of the margarita. “It’s a terrible part of my job,” he jokes, “but I’ll never stop drinking margaritas.”

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