The handcrafted margaritas at Tacos and Tequilas in Midtown come in an array of colors and tastes. This one is called the Florda Oaxaca. Who’s thirsty? Photo: Tacos and Tequilas

LIKE A “VIRGIN” COCKTAIL when you’re out on the town?

If so, order it in hush-hush tones.

Madonna’s notoriously tardy performance for a sold-out, but forgiving Atlanta crowd in September was blamed on her obligation to tape endorsements for tequila giant Jose Cuervo before, during and after the show.

But if, like the Material Girl, tequila is your beverage of choice, you have plenty of company.

“The tequila category is booming and will continue to boom,” says Mac Thurston, owner of Mac’s Beer & Wine in Midtown. “It’s really gone upscale. My customers are paying on the same price level for better brands that they’d pay for a fine cognac or a single-malt scotch or small-batch bourbon.

“This isn’t your daddy’s tequila we’re talking about,” Thurston says. “It’s made from pure Mexican agave, and people love the taste. It’s not just for margaritas anymore, it’s becoming the drink of choice straight up.”

Strawberry Margarita and Skinny Margarita
The skinny and strawberry margaritas at Tacos and Tequilas.

Georgia, says Statista market data service, is a Top 10 state in terms of tequila enjoyment, imbibing more than 450,000 9-liter cases per year at last count. Nationwide, says the U.S. Distilled Spirits Council, tequila consumption has steadily risen at a rate of about 5.6 percent every year since 2002, thanks in large part to celebrity endorsements (George Clooney, Justin Timberlake, Sammy Hagar, Sean Combs) and party-scene depictions on television and film.

Metro Atlanta’s trendiest bars and eateries — from Pure in Decatur, to JCT Kitchen in West Midtown, to Three Sheets in Sandy Springs — have been creating tequila-based food and drink as quickly as premium distilleries can churn out the beloved nectar of the agave plant.

And Buckhead-based Goza Tequila, which hit the market in February, is poised to make its mark. Self-proclaimed foodies, meanwhile, are flooding social media with praise for tequila-infused nibbles.

“Taco Tuesday” isn’t enough anymore; now ”Tequila Tuesday” is a thing. With that in mind we offer a bit of a rundown on the local scene so you can be fully informed as you plan for that popular “national” holiday — Cinco de Mayo.

Tried and true

The time-tested Jose Cuervo brand is rebooting, with the help of pop priestess Madonna, who’s been seen biting a lime wedge and licking salted rims on the company’s behalf.

Closer to home, reliable pours pull thirsty fans into such happy hour hot spots as Tin Lizzy’s (several locations), Six Feet Under (Grant Park, West Midtown), The Cockpit (southeast Atlanta) and Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong (Atlanta, Athens).

Go local

Cosmo Rita
Buckhead’s Goza Tequila, available at dozens of metro retailers, has a program for do-it-yourselfers that includes, among other tasty options, a Mint Refresher brightened with blackberries. Photo: Goza Tequila

Buckhead’s Goza has been working for a decade to deliver three vintages from Mexico’s hillsides — the fresh-brewed Blanco, barrel-sweetened Reposado and oak-spiced Afiejo. They sell at dozens of metro retailers, including Green’s Discount Liquors in Midtown, the Smyrna World of Beverages and Sigman Bottle Shop in Conyers. To date, Goza (pronounced GO-zuh) has 104 distribution points in the Southeast.

“Goza means ‘enjoy’ in Spanish, and is targeted to men and women who want to savor the taste of a product that mixes just as well in any cocktail as vodka does,” says founder Jacob Gluck. “Our tagline is, ‘Mexican Grown. Atlanta’s Own,’ because this is the perfect market. It’s growing and we want play a part in that growth.”

Goza is poured at bars and bistros ranging from quirky to the aristocratic.  The brand even has a recipe program for do-it-yourselfers. It includes the Mayan Mule, with a kick of bitters and lime; the Mint Refresher, brightened with blackberries; and the Go Go, spiked with lemongrass (recipes and more HERE.

Cactus cuisine

If you’d rather make a meal of your tequila, check out the ceviche at Escorpion (downtown Atlanta), the fried plantains at Mezcalito’s Cocina (Grant Park, Oakhurst) and the shrimp cocktail at Tacos and Tequilas (Midtown).

Buyer beware

Tequila does have a reputation for producing hangovers, though — the better the tequila, the lighter the morning-after bite, reportedly — but you’d still be wise to indulge at your own risk when sipping such well-known margarita and tequila libations as the FGR Herradura Double Reposado Cube, a spiked and frozen green apple juice at Alma Cocina (downtown); the potent Naranjarita, which comes with a blur of blood-orange juice puree, at the Original El Taco (Virginia-Highland); and the El Paso, with pineapple and cilantro, at 4th & Swift (Old Fourth Ward).

Thirsty? We thought so. Salud!

About A. Scott Walton

A.  Scott Walton has for decades immersed himself in the sports, entertainment, travel, lifestyle and fashion worlds. Besides writing for Encore Atlanta, he writes extensively for major print and digital publications nationwide. Scott was born in South Bend, Ind., educated at Vanderbilt University and, for 15 years, covered every aspect of life for readers of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

View all posts by A. Scott Walton