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Gimmick vs. craft: Two cocktail styles converge on Hussong’s new margarita menu

Las Vegas has an identity disorder, and it’s delicious. On one side of the bar you have the grandiose and gimmicky, cocktails made with real gold and rare spirits that cost more than a ’99 Corolla, or embellished like hats at a royal wedding. The other side is focused on craft, with subtler, seasonal flavors and presentations that let them have the spotlight.

At Hussong’s Cantina inside Mandalay Place, 10 new margarita twists go both ways, just in time for National Tequila Day on July 24. Concocted by Assistant General Manager Cheri Roberts, they make you reconsider everyone’s favorite shooting liquor.

    • The PB&J margarita at Hussong's

      Gimmick: PB&J

      Cost: $13

      Concoction: Sauza reposado tequila, crème de cassis, muddled blackberries, smooth peanut butter rim

      Background: The idea sprang from a joke made by the bar’s owner, but the more Roberts experimented the more she was driven to capture the essence of America’s favorite sandwich. “The crème de cassis and muddled blackberries came out tasting just like jelly. … I definitely wanted a wow-factor in the presentation and something different. If you see this drink being served from the bar with peanut butter smothered all over it, you’re like, what is that?”

      Look: A sundae glass filled with the deep purple of ripe berries, rimmed with creamy peanut butter. (And you thought salt was intimidating.)

      Experience: While the PB might throw you, tasting that velvety richness before the piquant and pleasantly sweet blend of blackberry and dry blackcurrant is delightful. Just watch your arm when you reach for the guacamole.

    • The Li Hing Mui margarita at Hussong's

      CRAFT: Li Hing Mui

      Cost: $13

      Concoction: Olmeca blanco tequila, plum powder, mango aloe vera juice, fresh lime juice, Tajín Clásico rim

      Background: To bring the Hawaiian classic to the “ninth island,” Roberts accented the funky, salty-sweet plum with the bright lime that goes into so many drinks at Hussong’s, which is said to have invented the margarita in 1941. “I wanted it to feel like you’re sitting on a beach and relaxing and just putting your worries away. Or for the person who went to Hawaii and is like, OMG I loved this there; I want another one.”

      Look: A Collins glass filled with the plum powder’s electric blush, echoed by the rim of Tajín’s chili, salt and dehydrated lime. Pineapple leaves say tropical without a big fruit floater.

      Experience: Exotic, almost floral complexity wrapped in lip-smacking citrus and a whisper of bitter aloe. It’s summer in a glass. (Or, as we’re calling it, the amazing liquid carrot!)

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