Photo by Ruta Smith The Velvet Butterfly by Yoyo Tang of Chubby Fish

Shake the Rainbow

Monday is National Margarita Day, so there’s no better time to indulge in the quintessential cocktail offered at so many Charleston establishments. Sometimes, the classic — made with high-quality tequila, orange liqueur and fresh-squeezed lime juice — just hits the spot, but why not add some color and variation to your margarita lineup?

With the help of local beverage directors, cocktail specialists and restaurateurs, we’ve curated a list of margaritas that captures almost every color of the rainbow — from bright pink to red, green and magenta. Try one of these margs at a Charleston establishment, or use a recipe below as inspiration to craft your very own colorful margarita.

Spring is almost here, so raise a glass, Charleston — this national holiday just gave you an excuse to add tequila to this weekend’s list of pandemic-approved activities.

Photo by Ruta Smith
Pink Cactus Margarita

Brook Warden, Pink Cactus owner

Pink Cactus Margarita
• 1½ ounces blanco tequila of choice
• ½ ounce prickly pear purée
• ¾ ounce lime juice
• ¼ ounce simple syrup

For Garnish
“We garnish with volcanic black sea salt as a nod to Oaxaca’s black clay terroir, but any salt will do.”

Shake all with ice to bind citrus to the spirit and to make frothy then strain all over fresh ice. Pro tip: Add a pinch of salt to the tin before shaking for salinity and foam.

“The Pink Cactus margarita is essentially a prickly pear margarita, which is very common on the West Coast. The delicious fruit of the prickly pear cactus is known as ‘tuna’ in Mexico because of its intense bright red color, like tuna, the fish. Prickly pear fruit is often used in drinks and food very commonly all over the West Coast and in Mexico where it originated. It’s the perfect signature house margarita for Pink Cactus because it bears our restaurant’s name. Pink Cactus is named specifically after a rare kind of prickly pear cactus named Santa Rita Prickly Pear Cactus, known for its bright pink to purple color.”

Photo by Ruta Smith
Yoyo Tang pouring the Velvet Butterfly

Yoyo Tang, Chubby Fish general manager

The Velvet Butterfly
• 2 ounces butterfly pea flowers infused with Del Maguey Vida mezcal (see instructions below)
• ½ ounce Lillet Blanc
• ¼ ounce Pierre Ferrand dry orange Curaçao
• ¾ ounce pineapple gum syrup
• ¾ ounce fresh lime juice
• lime wedge

For infused mezcal
Add a handful of dried butterfly pea flowers into a 750ml bottle of mezcal, steep for 45 minutes and strain. You now have purple mezcal to get you through the pandemic.

For Garnish
Dehydrated candied orange and chili salt for the rim.

Rub the lime wedge along the upper half inch of the rocks glass, halfway around the circumference, then roll the wet portion in the chili salt. Add all of the ingredients to your cocktail shaker filled with ice, shake vigorously and strain into a chilled rocks glass with a big ice cube and garnish with the candied orange.

“I enjoy a good margarita from time to time. I find using mezcal instead of tequila gives a lot more depth to the cocktail. I love the texture of this cocktail, hence the name, The Velvet Butterfly. The ingredients all swirl together to create something otherworldly.”


Morgan Hurley, Mex 1 Coastal Cantina beverage director

Pineapple Coconut Margarita
• 1½ ounces pineapple tequila
• 3½ ounces Mex 1 Margarita Mix
• ½ ounce Coco Lopez

Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Strain over fresh ice in a glass and garnish with a pineapple leaf. If you want to make this at home, substitute in a 100% agave blanco tequila and shake up 1½ ounces pineapple, ¾ ounce lime juice, 1 ounce simple syrup and ½ ounce Coco Lopez.

“At Mex 1, we are always striving for the pursuit of the endless summer. The Pineapple Coconut Margarita combines our love of tequila with our love for tiki-style cocktails that make you feel like you are on a vacation. The slight sweetness from the pineapple and coconut balances nicely with the tartness you get from the margarita mix. Drop in and ask for this secret menu item today.”


Ann-Marie Schwartz, Basic Kitchen general manager

Beet margarita
• 1½ ounces tequila
• ¾ ounce fresh lime juice
• ½ ounce fresh orange juice
• ¼ ounce agave
• ¼ ounce beet Juice

Pour tequila, lime and orange juices, and agave into an empty shaker and fill with ice. Shake for 10-12 seconds. Strain mixture over fresh ice into an old fashioned glass. Top with beet juice and garnish with a lime wheel.

“It’s our healthy twist on a classic cocktail,” said Basic Kitchen general manager Ann-Marie Schwartz. “The drink is really well balanced with fresh citrus and earthy beet juice. A squeeze of agave (syrup) gives it some sweetness and pairs perfectly with the tequila.”


Lewis Kesaris, Rebel Taqueria chef and owner

La Adelita Rose
• 2 ounces La Adelita Black Cristalino
• 1 ounce rosemary blossom cordial
• ¾ ounce fresh lime
• ¹/8 teaspoon green brew glitter

Combine all ingredients, shake and strain over good ice. Garnish with blooming rosemary.

According to Kesaris, the drink is inspired by “Rose Tico from Star Wars, a key member of the rebel alliance.”

“Rose Tico has hated the First Order since she was a child. Now that they are defeated, she has plenty of time for the simple pleasures in life, such as beautifully garnished margaritas.”


Kevin Regan, Kiki & Rye and Community Table beverage director

Blood Orange Margarita
• 2 ounces tequila (Reposado preferred, like Espolon)
• 1 ounce simple or agave syrup
• juice of one whole lime
• juice of one whole blood orange

Combine all ingredients into a shaker with ice. Shake, then strain over fresh ice.

This drink was inspired by three things, Kiki & Rye and Community Table beverage director Kevin Regan told the City Paper. “One: (Kiki & Rye and Community Table owners) Kelleanne and Ryan Jones love them and make and drink these themselves. Two: it tastes like a margarita and is a simple twist on the simple classic while using fresh squeezed juice. Three: it looks and tastes spectacular.”


Sandra Aguirre, El Pincho Taco owner

El Metro
• 2 ounces tequila
• 1½ ounces lime juice
• ½ ounce Orgeat
• 1½ ounces Aperol
• splash of orange bitters

Combine tequila, lime juice, orgeat and Aperol, shake and strain over ice. Finish with a splash of orange bitters.

El Pincho owner Sandra Aguirre says, “‘El metro’ means ‘the metro’ in Spanish, so (this drink) was inspired after the complex rapid transit system in Mexico City. The metro’s color is bright yellow, which is the color of the drink.”

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