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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

The best and worst of Taco Mama’s margarita menu

Sip up the last bits of summer with our top Taco Mama margarita picks.
Rachael Perrotta
Taco Mama’s Frozen Sangrita and La Playa margaritas as photographed on April 25, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Rachael Perrotta)

Taco Mama has been a staple of our time at Vanderbilt since discovering it in Hillsboro Village during the first weeks of our first year here. Being part of the Taste of Nashville program, you can rarely visit Taco Mama without seeing other Vanderbilt students (and even faculty members) sharing a table and chips and salsa — especially on Tuesdays, when Taco Mama offers half-price margaritas starting at 3 p.m. CT.

The Hustler ranks a handful of Taco Mama margaritas to prepare those of you who are 21 or older for your next visit to the classic, campus favorite taco shop. If you’re hoping to soak up the last bits of summer or looking for a different ranking besides U.S. News Best National Universities to delve into, this list is for you.

4. Frozen Sangrita: 3/10

Parker: Bad, truly. The tequila is a non-factor in this drink, hiding behind the wine and ice as if intimidated. The wine itself is a bitter, uninspiring red that’s no closer to a cabernet sauvignon than a glass of Welch’s Grape Juice. And if the wine’s messy intrusion into the cup wasn’t egregious enough, the volume of ice in this drink makes everything taste gray and faded, like a rinse cup in fifth-grade art class after 10 kids have rendered their paint brushes clean. This drink is like pouring everything in your fridge on a snow cone. A ghastly Frankenstein of a drink that tries to be everything and succeeds at nothing.

Rating: 2/10

Rachael: The uniqueness of this drink caught my eye immediately: a mix of sangria and a margarita wrapped into a tie-dye pink slushie?! What could go wrong with these three delicious components? Evidently, a lot. I quickly gathered that the combination of wine and tequila was a recipe for a horror story (Frankenstein maybe?), and the flavoring did nothing to make up for this potentially costly combination. Instead of immediately reveling in the refreshing sweetness of the margarita like I’d hoped to do, I took sip after sip of this drink to figure out what exactly was in my glass, each time detecting a new (and not necessarily pleasant) flavor. While I admire the presentation of the drink and its lofty aspirations, I wouldn’t order the Frozen Sangrita unless you have time (and patience) to adjust to its strangely bitter taste.  

Rating: 4/10

Zoe: What’s not to like about red wine and margaritas, right? Wrong. When we made our selections, I was an outspoken advocate for the opportunity to try two of my favorite cocktails combined together into an appealing icy pink slushie. Unfortunately, I misjudged the book by its cover. The combination of the bitter wine and overpowering tequila left me constantly confused about what I should be tasting. This drink was one of those that makes the corners of your lips turn downwards in response to the sour explosion of alcoholic flavors. While I’m usually all for a mash-up that departs from traditional cocktails, nothing about this one was working for me. I kept coming back for another sip in the hopes that it would suddenly become the refreshing patio-picnic treat I had been expecting. Not even a sugar rim could have convinced me to give the Frozen Sangrita another shot.  

Ranking: 3/10

3. Mi Casa: 5/10

Parker: This one more or less fills the vanilla role among Taco Mama’s margarita cast. It’s an amicable mix of orange juice and sour mix given a slight esteem boost by a dose of triple sec liqueur. Add a bit of house tequila, and the recipe is almost as simple as it gets for a margarita. I don’t mind it, but it does have a crucial flaw from the orange juice, which isn’t (to my knowledge) of the highest grade. The weaker OJ schemes with the slowly melting ice in the drink to dilute the tastier ingredients, leaving the Mi Casa much less satisfying after 10 minutes at your table. Tasty, but predictable, and a tad flat if you aren’t quick enough on the draw. 

Rating: 5/10

Rachael: This margarita was nothing special in my opinion. It’s everything you would expect from a typical margarita, except with the added regret of not ordering one of Taco Mama’s other, more unique flavors. The drink didn’t do much to refresh me on a hot day, especially after the tequila quickly revealed itself from behind the weak mask of lime and orange juice. After a few sips, all you seem to taste is the alcohol. However, if you’re someone who likes to stray from sugary and over-flavored drinks, this margarita is for you. It’s not unbearable, but definitely not a stand-out.

Rating: 5/10

Zoe: If made properly — good tequila, fresh lime juice, avoiding unwanted and unnecessary flavors — the margarita can be refreshing and versatile. The lime and orange juices made a valiant effort to mask the drink’s strong tequila and the first few sips were enjoyable and refreshing. Unfortunately, the Mi Casa falls short of expectations here. The concoction of juice and watered-down tequila became unpleasant to sip on after chatting with friends for a few minutes. This wasn’t the drink I would write home about, but it got the job done.

Rating: 5/10

2. La Playa: 7/10

Parker: Now we’re talking. The La Playa is a comfortable duet of a drink, featuring house tequila and pineapple juice. Seamlessly simple, but reliably very, very good. Where does this juice-centric beverage differ from the Mi Casa, you may ask? My theory is this: pineapple juice is rarely a beverage on its own, more often used as a baking and mixing ingredient. For that reason, “weaker” pineapple juice is harder to find. I think it’s simply higher quality than the OJ employed above, and it shines here; refreshing and zesty without the bells and whistles.

Rating: 8/10

Rachael: Especially compared to the lackluster Mi Casa, the La Playa has much more pizzazz, which initially earned the green light from me. However, I found myself having to put the drink aside after a few more sips, as the sweetness of the pineapple juice was too much to muster. It’s a much more tangy version of a vodka pineapple (likely due to the subbing of tequila for the vodka), but even my affinity for sweet, fruity drinks wasn’t strong enough to finish this margarita. The pineapple flavor lasted long after retiring from drinking this margarita, seeming to leave an invisible residue on my teeth from the sugar. I appreciated La Playa’s flavor creativity, though, putting it higher on my list than Mi Casa. 

Rating: 6/10

Zoe: As an avid lover of all things sugary, the pineapple juice provided the perfect extra boost of sweetness that boosted La Playa above the rest. A simple drink with a signature flair, it was easy to sip on absentmindedly during conversations with my fellow editors. If you’re looking for a summery flavor that reminds you of an afternoon on the beach, La Playa will do the trick. The creativity and spunk of this drink solidified its place above the otherwise bland and uninspired Mi Casa. If you’re also a fruity cocktail lover and a novice taster, the extra sugar and tropical flavor make this an enjoyable drink. For those with more developed tastes, this cocktail rounds out beautifully when served with a lime wedge and a salt rim. 

Rating: 7/10

1. Frozen Pomegranate: 9/10

Parker: Of the drinks we ordered for our review, this one was the most pleasant surprise. I’m typically not an advocate for frozen margaritas; I tend to find them too adjacent to gas station slushies. But the Frozen Pomegranate margarita surpassed my expectations. The flavor of the drink is made complex by hints of lime juice, triple sec, simple syrup and soda water, adding intrigue to the strong floor provided by the pomegranate. While I may have enjoyed this even more unfrozen, it’s still a very good drink, and enjoying the frosty presentation and subsequent brain freeze brought out my inner child. Complexly flavored, and a cup of innocent joy for a cocktail snob.

Rating: 8/10

Rachael: I’ve had few margaritas that top Taco Mama’s Frozen Pomegranate flavor. Although this drink is irresistible all year round, it’s especially a comforting and refreshing treat on hot days in Nashville when you’re looking for a mix of a popsicle and a pick-me-up. Unlike the La Playa, the flavoring of this drink isn’t overbearing, straying away the La Playa’s tacky, tangy aftertaste while still largely disguising the tequila. The pomegranate flavor — tasting somewhat like a combination of mixed berry and frozen watermelon lemonade — is special to Taco Mama, yet isn’t too exotic to discourage less experimental drinkers from ordering it. I can only muster a (minute) complaint about how the slushie tends to melt somewhat quicker than I’d like, but for people like Parker, this aspect may be more of a benefit than a downside.

Rating: 9.5/10

Zoe: This margarita stayed in my thoughts the entire summer until I made the 10-hour drive back to campus for another one. I even brought my Dad back to try this one again — a man with several more decades of margarita-critiquing experience. The frozen pomegranate flavor exceeded my expectations, providing a cool, refreshing and unique end-of-summer treat. The lime juice and pomegranate flavor complements the tequila without watering it down and has a perfect combination of sweet and tangy flavors that are forward but not cloying. Taco Mama’s unique version of this drink appeals both to sugar lovers and seasoned snobs, especially when sitting outside enjoying the restaurant’s signature chips & guac and watching a Nashville sunset. If you’re looking for a delicious treat that resembles Belly’s coming-of-age classic in “The Summer I Turned Pretty,” this one’s for you. Not only was this drink an all-around hit with The Hustler crew, but it won a thumbs-up of approval from my Dad. 

Rating: 9.5/10

Grab bag

Jalapeño: 3/10

Rachael: Much like the Frozen Sangrita, the Jalapeño margarita was interesting at best. In my first sip, I was met with the spicy mix of orange liqueur (Patron Citronge), tequila, lime, muddled jalapeños and chipotle powder, the latter of which graced the glass’s rim. While I expected the drink to be a tad spicy, I had to down multiple glasses of water as a reprieve for this drink. The Jalapeño margarita is definitely not for you if you aren’t at least a moderate spice lover — in which case, I say go for it, but it wasn’t for me. 

Guillermo: 6/10

Parker: At the end of the day, ranch water is ranch water. The simple recipe — blanco tequila, lime juice and sparkling water — belies a drink with a surprisingly refreshing bite. Anybody can enjoy a tequila seltzer every once in a while, and the Guillermo checks that box. My only gripe is that because this drink is so straightforward, the quality and quantity of tequila used to make it matter more than they usually would. On those criteria, Taco Mama cuts corners. The tequila is only okay, and I would even venture to say there isn’t enough of it in this drink. Nevertheless, the Guillermo is a crisp, if underwhelming, standout on the menu.

Skinny: 6/10

Zoe: I was initially hesitant to try Taco Mama’s low-carb option because, I mean, who really thinks about how many carbs are in a margarita? I was pleasantly surprised by the refreshing combination of tequila, triple sec, Splenda and lime juice. I’d been expecting the fake sweet aftertaste of low-calorie sweeter to dominate after each sip, but this wasn’t the case at all. If you gave me a classic margarita in one cup and Taco Mama’s Skinny marg in another, I’m not sure I’d be able to tell the difference. A relatively straightforward option that suits those with a range of dietary restrictions, you truly can’t go wrong with the Skinny. 

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About the Contributors
Rachael Perrotta
Rachael Perrotta, Senior Advisor
Rachael Perrotta ('24) is from Cranston, R.I., and is majoring in cognitive studies, communication of science and technology and political science in Peabody College. She was previously Editor-in-Chief and News Editor. If she's not pressing you for a comment, she's probably trying to convince you that she's over 5 feet tall, cheering on the Red Sox or wishing Nashville had a beach. She can be reached at [email protected].
Zoe Abel
Zoe Abel, Opinion Editor
Zoe Abel (‘24) is from Washington, D.C., and is a student in the College of Arts and Science. She is majoring in medicine, health and society and child development with minors in biology and French on the pre-med track. In her free time, Zoe loves distance running, good music, coffee and telling terrible dad jokes. She is also an avid Oxford comma advocate. You can reach her at [email protected].  
Parker Smith
Parker Smith, Deputy News Editor
Parker Smith ('24) is majoring in computer science and political science in the School of Engineering. He enjoys playing guitar in his spare time and is a former Starbucks barista and self-proclaimed coffee expert. He can be reached at [email protected].
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