There is a single road in Tulum that segments about 10 kilometers of beach from the jungle. The road is shared by tourists, taxis, cavalier bikers, and mosquitos with questionable ties to Zika. Along most of the pavement there is no sidewalk, and thus no mercy for those on foot. Not from anything with wheels or wings. You can walk along with the current of the road or get out of the way.
This is the mantra of Tulum, Mexico, a stunning land curated for tourists, hacked out of the wild, where the juxtaposition of grandeur and dust is both jarring and beautiful. A paradise that defies taming, despite the decoration of antique-style Marconi light bulbs and leather purses made by Mexican designers that outline the palm trees and jungle leaves.
Most of our days were spent under tiki-style straw huts, soaking in white sand and turquoise waves, which would occasionally drag a novice kite surfer down the beach and threaten to take out any surrounding bystanders.
While we were there, Brett and I went to the famed Hartwood, only to be driven out after our chaya salad with mango, smoked fish, and hibiscus-stained eggs by a very bad case of Montezuma’s you-know-what, leaving behind plumes of insect repellent and drunk bodies dressed in fedoras yelling for tequila shots and waving cigarettes. Despite the charm of a wood-fired restaurant carved out of the jungle with a star canopy for a ceiling, lit by lanterns and flames, I fell for another restaurant.
Posada Margherita is situated near a part of the beach segmented by a cluster of jagged rocks decorated with sunning birds. The waves and sand are easily visible from your table and the ocean breeze wafts in through the restaurant’s windowless windows and open-air entrance. The interior features sanded wood in muted beach blues and greens and is decorated, somewhat ironically, with old doors and window frames, used for style instead of structure. It too has its share of bobbing hipster hats, but it also has one of the best margaritas I have had.
A few things about Posada Margherita. They are an Italian restaurant. They make rich homemade pasta to order and feature shrimp—with their heads still attached—that are the size of small lobsters. The also serve a generous helping of olive oil focaccia alongside a few cubes of parmesan and a curious jar of pickled cauliflower that goes largely untouched by most patrons.
They also have a very strong cocktail garnish program. (I am not even sure this is a thing.) I could have watched the drink parade all day. One cocktail had a dusting of citrus zest shavings that looked like a girandola firework. Another contained a bushy sprig of rosemary alongside a fuchsia-colored flower.
But the best garnish was so simple and beautiful that it is hard to believe I had not seen it before. A single dried lemon slice sat surrounded by a perimeter of salt submerged with the rocks of a classic margarita. The cocktail itself could be sucked down in a couple thirst quenching swigs, I think by design, to help hydrate thirsty beachgoers without turning them into drunkards.
It was a quirky place filled with a peculiar grouping of people and an unusual cluster of cuisine set on the beach in the Yucatán. It was very inspiring.
So when Brett and I got back, we got to work drying lemons and squeezing citrus. We tested, and retested, and ended up with a small collection of tequila-soiled scratch notes decorated with arrows, stars, checkmarks, and dashes and somehow, miraculously, avoided hangovers.
The result is a mutant margarita born on its fifth iteration, with borrowed inspiration from the famed grapefruit habanero version at Hartwood—that I have heard plenty about but did not get to try—and the Golden Posada margarita that we sampled a half dozen of.
It is bright and refreshing without being a pushover, and spicy without being abrasive. I am always a big proponent of a salted rim, particularly in this case as it reminds me of the beach, so that comes highly recommended. As does the garnish, because it looks cool and smells good.
So is seven ingredients, plus water, a lot for a margarita? Maybe. But it also creates space for a little retreat at home.
“Mille grazie,” said the Mexican waiter, as he dropped the check at Posada Margherita. Many thanks to you, Mexico.
Habanero Grapefruit Margarita with a Dried Lemon Slice
- 1 lemon (organic if possible, since you will be using the rind)
- 1 habanero, quartered with the seeds intact
- 10 ounces fresh grapefruit juice (you’ll likely need more than one grapefruit)
- 2 ounces demerara simple syrup (recipe follows)