Creative Loafing’s fourth Margarita Wars was indeed a battle! And true warriors were out in force. I’ve never witnessed as much conviction on all sides of the affront.
Peppin Hospitality Centre was ablaze with excitement from the moment we walked in. Hornito’s tequila was splashing all around the event.
One would assume that the war was between the more than 15 restaurants and bars who were displaying fabulous mixology expertise throughout the venue. That was the plan, and the stated goal was to raise funds for Current Initiatives, a program to help fund education in Hillsborough County. Attendees were given a gold medallion with which to vote for which high profile Tampa establishment creates the best margarita. All seemed fair in love and war.
However, Lyft was a primary sponsor of the event, and the bartenders seemed to have ulterior motives. As my husband and I journeyed through the battlefield, it was clear that the bartenders were blasting us with tasty treats that often could not be refused. The evermore unwary attendee was tossed about the ocean of Hornito’s with an occasional oasis of Mexican treats in view.
The guacamole from Besito’s was a piece of sturdy dry land that was often in demand. Ox’s soft tacos were well sought after as well.
The margarita’s were all so very unique with hints and bursts of flavors like: smoky; spicy; sweet; too sweet; sugary; watermelon; coconut; jalepeno; bacon. Colors were reds, blues, pinks, greens, and browns. And there were multiple flavors of salt, and sometimes pepper, on the rims to offset the taste buds just enough to want to try the next taste in line.
Ian Beckles was the host. We enjoyed people watching with him for a bit as we took a break from the battle. Then off we went to taste those last few restaurants that we had missed in order to vote by 9 PM.
We had so much fun and tasted an unknown amount of margarita’s – and then voted.
I voted for “Sweet Heat”, created by Jackie King at First Chance Last Chance – Hornito’s Plata Tequila pineapple margarita with habanero-infused agave.
My hubby voted for “Mother of Dragons”, created by Michael Hughes at Datz – Hornito’s Plata Tequila, charred habanero, red pepper simple syrup & muddled filthy black cherries.
After voting, we went and sat down for a few minutes. We ordered our Lyft ride and don’t recall who won. We have been searching Google for the answer ever since with no success.
It is apparent, though, that the bartenders were the victors, at least over these two defeated combatants.
If anyone knows who won, please let us know!!!
And please note: although drinking can be fun, driving even after one drink is not safe. Please have a designated driver.
I think we are going back to beer battles next….stay tuned.

Diane Stoddart Senior Assignment Editor
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Photos by Paul Stoddart