With 46 locations around the city offering up a special margarita, Santa Fe's Margarita Trail is well-traveled. If margaritas, or drinking 46 of them, aren't your thing, there are plenty of other options for those looking to get their drink on. Santa Fe boasts an impressive variety of cocktail lounges, distilleries, breweries and wine tasting rooms. Here are some alternatives to the Margarita Trail, for those who prefer to drink their way down a road less traveled.
While there are many great bars in town, hence the existence of a margarita trail, there are also standouts that offer a cocktail experience on par with those of bigger cities; or even one brimming with Santa Fe's unique "flavor."
Evangelo's Cocktail Lounge, a downtown standard since 1971, is cash-only and one of town's few truly late-night establishments, open until 2 am daily, except The Lord's Day, when they close at midnight. Across the street and down some stairs, The Matador (116 W San Francisco St.) is Santa Fe's best-known (and only) punk rock dive bar, where the drinks are cheap but the atmosphere unmissable. As one Facebook fan put it, it's "Santa Fe's dive bar paradise. Underground in every way."
Just down the street, tucked behind the ever-popular Café Pasqual's, Tonic's tiny space belies big cocktail personality. The art of mixology is taken seriously here and the cocktail menu changes regularly. You're likely to find a classic or two on the menu, but mostly creative, unexpected cocktailing. The same goes for the downtown tasting room of Santa Fe Spirits. Bartenders here take their time crafting concoctions with great attention to detail. Consider trying a whiskey drink here; Liquor.com calls Santa Fe Spirits' Colkegan single malt whiskey the best in the state. For those into the darker side of spirits, Radish & Rye offers Santa Fe's only bourbon-centric bar menu—crafting cocktails from a hand-chosen barrel of Buffalo Trace. A bit south, those who enjoy agave spirits and Instagram-worthy design can wile away an afternoon or evening in La Reina's stylish space. This recently opened watering hole at the newly redesigned El Rey Court motel mixes up drinks with a focus on tequila and mezcal, including the ever-popular Southwest standard, Ranch Water (tequila, Topo Chico, and lime).
Santa Fe isn't brimming with wine bars, per se, but it's not hard to find places boasting pretty bodacious wine lists. TerraCotta Wine Bistro, near the O'Keeffe Museum, has over 250 glass and half-bottle options, conveniently organized by price. Choices range from new- and old-world producers, starting at under $10 per glass and ranging up to $150+ a bottle. A few blocks away, New Mexico wine producers Gruet, Noisy Water Winery and Hervé Wine Bar are each don't-miss spots for trying wines from the country's oldest wine-growing region. Gruet is known around the world for its award-winning sparkling wines, but also boasts a healthy offering of still wines, from chardonnay to pinot noir. Noisy Water and Hervé feature a stunning spectrum of varietals, from New Mexico-grown refosco and sangiovese to semillon and chenin blanc; at Noisy Water the adventurous can even sample a New Mexico chile wine. If you'd rather enjoy a bottle in the comfort of your home or hotel room, La Casa Sena's Wine Shop offers over 2,000 choices from around the world. The wines here and specifically chosen by the shop's experts, not by scores, and their expertise has earned the Wine Spectator's "Best Award of Excellence" for 18 years running.
So. Many. Options. Start this journey off on a different foot at Honeymoon Brewery. This somewhat new kid on the block is serving up the Southwest's first hard kombucha brew and stacking up the accolades for its hard work: Sunset Magazine recently named Honeymoon's Camellia Flor #1 in a taste test of hard kombuchas from around the US. Heading downtown, Chili Line Brewing specializes in smoked beers, everything from pilsner to porter, and its interior patio is a prime spot for downing a few pints in the sun. Santa Fe Brewing Co. and Second Street Brewery can't be missed, not just because they both have multiple tasting rooms around town, from downtown to down south, but because they each offer a wide variety of beers and encourage tasting flights. Heading down Cerrillos Road, Rowley Farmhouse Ales, was recently crowned New Mexico's "Great American Beer Bar" by craftbeer.com for the second year in a row, and its Germophile sour was a big winner at the Great American Beer Festival. South on Agua Fría Street, Tumbleroot Brewery & Distillery's cavernous space is often overflowing with imbibers enjoying the best of both worlds: heartily crafted beers and handmade, organic spirits. Tumbleroot's nonstop lineup of live music makes it the ideal place to end this journey—as often, the music and the drinks are so good, it's hard to break away.