In a city full of secret gardens, adobe rooftops, and rambling portals, there’s no shortage of beautiful spaces in Santa Fe to sit outside and sip a Silver Coin margarita, that perfect blend of top-shelf tequila, freshly squeezed lime, and Cointreau. But just because you’re in the Southwest, don’t limit your drinking selections to alcohol derived from the blue agave. There are quite a few craft cocktail bars in town that whip up superb, mind-bending libations made with local spirits, herbs, and bitters. Four of the five restaurants here are just steps from the Plaza and one requires a fifteen-minute drive north into the high-desert foothills. All have perfected the art of the cocktail hour, with a stunning trifecta of views, ambience, and intoxicating beverages. Start with these, but stay in the city for even just a weekend and you’ll stumble into a favorite outdoor watering hole of your own.
The rooftop cantina adjoining the more formal, indoor Coyote Café, this rooftop restaurant overlooks Water Street and the Jemez Mountains to the west, has a festive vibe, and a constantly evolving food and drink menu. One classic pairing not to miss: The signature Señorita margarita and the BBQ Duck Quesadilla.
Bell Tower Bar at La Fonda Hotel
On the sixth floor of the landmark La Fonda Hotel, the Bell Tower sits atop Santa Fe’s version of a “skyscraper.” The food and drink menu, featuring chips and salsa, local brews, and the top-shelf $12 “Bell Ringer” margarita, is unfussy and affordable, and the views to the Jemez Mountains and western sky are unobstructed.
Accented by linen curtains, pergolas, bubbling fountains, and a crackling fire in the kiva, Luminaria is an elegant garden with an up-close view of the Loretto Chapel, which is lit up from below at night. The organic Silver Coin and tortilla soup, made from the same 30-year-old recipe, is a must on the menu.
La Casa Sena
This interior courtyard, once the center of the 33-room Sena hacienda that was built in 1868, is as old world as it gets. La Casa Sena may be best known for its 2,000-bottle wine cellar, but the Cool Summer cocktail infused with cucumber vodka, Midori, lemon, lime, and agave nectar, is as refreshing as a bubbling spring in the arid high desert.
Gabriel’s guacamole, which the wait staff custom-prepares table-side, is the reason to drive 15 minutes north of Santa Fe on Highway 285. Add the view east to the Sangre de Cristos, the soothing bubbling fountains, and a few Gold tequila margaritas, and its easy to while away an entire afternoon on this multi-level patio.