Feb. 22 is National Margarita Day! Celebrate this joyous occasion … without tequila.

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Designate a driver and head over to La Palapa Mexican Kitchen & Mezcal Bar on the South Side. Located at 2224 E. Carson St., the eatery specializes in authentic eats and that other distilled south-of-the-border spirit.

Mezcal is defined as any agave-based liquor, so, technically, tequila is a mezcal (although it’s only made from blue agave, just one of the dozens of varieties of the plant).
Jesús Martinez, owner of La Palapa, says the process of making mezcal is more artisanal, giving it different characteristics and smokier flavor notes.
“Usually people who like scotch will drink mezcal,” he says. “I actually think cocktails are a better way to introduce people to it.”
The restaurant has 15 to 20 different brands behind the bar and the list keeps expanding. The specialty drinks – which they’ve dubbed Mezcal-itas – range from sweet to bitter to spicy.
La Espadin is made with Wahaka Mezcal Espadín, Cointreau, fresh lime juice and cucumber juice. For those who like it hot, there’s the Jalapeño Mezcaltini, a mix of Don Amado Mezcal Rustico, sweet vermouth, jalapeño syrup and chocolate bitters.
A fan favorite is the Piña Caliente with Monte Alban Mezcal, fresh lime juice, pineapple juice, home-made pineapple syrup and Tajín rim.
For margarita traditionalists, La Palapa also has an extensive assortment of tequilas. Get your marg frozen or on the rocks, with salt or without. All are made with fresh fruits and juices.
Martinez is running a Margarita Special on Saturday: get three, 10-ounce signature cocktails – Pineapple, Palmoa and Strawberry – for $21.
If you want to save some room for the kitchen’s offerings, order a Skinny Margarita with Tequila 1800 Blanco, lime juice, Sprite and club soda.
The food special on National Margarita Day – which coincides with the South Side Soup Contest – is a spicy beef-and-vegetable soup.
The restaurant, which started in 2012 in the Pittsburgh Public Market, also serves salads, appetizers and main dishes such as enchiladas and tamales. Customers can even end the meal with a slice of Tequila Cake, a tres leches cake infused with the liquid!
Everything is made with love and authenticity.
Martinez, who hails from Mexico City, hopes folks who enjoy the cuisine will take a chance on mezcal.