World Margarita Championship (Photo courtesy of SAACA)

What’s Shakin’ at the 2023 World Margarita Championship (MENUS)


June 12, 2023
By Jonathan Frahm

On Saturday, June 17, upwards of 600 margarita fans will be filling the Kiva Ballroom at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort for an evening of world-class cocktail sampling, southwestern cuisine, live art presentations, folklorico dancing, live mariachi music, and even a silent disco. 

Ryan Clark, one of the competitors and executive chef of one of Tucson’s favorite luxury resorts and casinos, makes a mean margarita. Clark oversees a staff of 450 across 11 different culinary functions at Casino Del Sol, and now he’s once again mixing up an innovative cocktail for the 2023 World Margarita Championship. Joining him will be Chef Iris Hernandez, who will be presenting the casino’s Watermelon & Bay Scallop Ceviche — set to pair with a smoky Sandia Negra margarita.

“We always try to create margaritas that are approachable and recognizable for our guests yet have a fun twist,” said Clark. “This year’s margarita will feature a fresh watermelon base using Dobel Single Barrel Tequila. Our twist is using a balance of mesquite charred elements from watermelon flesh and a combination of sweet and spicy peppers. To bring forward the charred smoky flavor we have added a bit of Dobel Humito Tequila which is a mesquite-smoked tequila from Maestro Dobel.”

Sandia Negra by chef Ryan Clark

“We have a pretty intensive beverage program at Casino Del Sol. Because of this, we get to experiment with a lot of different agave spirits throughout the year. We were excited to see Maestro Dobel Tequila would be the sponsor this year as we work with them year-round to supply us with Casino Del Sol single barrel products for the casino floor, our restaurants, and the golf course.”

The 16th annual edition of the culinary charity event will feature margaritas and menu samples from a mix of renowned chefs, mixologists, and vendors from around Tucson. Put on by the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance (SAACA) and Tucson Originals Restaurants, it all goes down on Father’s Day Weekend. 

Regarding his competition, Clark is a good sport, stating, “I’m a Tucson Native and love nothing more than margaritas and good food. I’m excited to see what all of the Chefs and bartenders have created for this year’s event.”

Clark represents one of several competitors ready to take on the championship with their own spin on one of Tucson’s finest trademarks — the margarita. Other competitors include Dante’s Fire (2022 Iron Chef Ken Foy), Nana’s Kitchen (2022 World Margarita Championship Winner), Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizzeria, and much more. 

A growing list of competitors can be gleaned from the SAACA website.

World Margarita Championship Menus

Casino Del Sol – Chef Ryan Clark
  • Margarita: Sandia Negra – Blended-charred watermelon margarita
  • Featured Menu Sampling: Watermelon and Bay Scallop Ceviche – Compressed melon, bay scallop, agave vin
Dante’s Fire – Chef Ken Foy
  • Featured Margarita: Horchata Margarita – Rumchata Margarita with Rumchata, Tequila, Cinnamon Simple Syrup, Fireball, Lime Juice
  • Featured Menu Sampling: Habanero Seafood Cocktail
Loews Ventana Canyon Resort – Chef Ken Harvey
  • Featured Margarita: Salted Watermelon Margarita
  • Featured Menu Sampling: Jalapeño Chocolate and Raspberry Truffle Torte with Sonoran Spiced Bacon
Maestro Dobel Tequila
  • Tequila Sampling
El Taco Rustico – Chef Juan Almanza
  • Featured Menu Sampling: Taco with choice of meat or veggies on a torched tortilla
Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse
  • Featured Margarita: The Peak Watermelon Crawl – Yippee-ki-yay watermelon!
La Botana Tacos – Chef Arnoldo Silva
  • Featured Margarita: Morada Margarita – Jamaica with Blue Curacao and Margarita Mix
Mama’s Hawaiian BBQ – Chef Sam Alboy and Chef Tammie Wagoner
  • Featured Margarita: Hawaiian Margarita – Sweet and tropical, great for summer
  • Featured Menu Sampling: Lemon Macadamia Nut Bars – Sugar-dusted Toasted Lemon Macadamia Nut
Malta Joe’s Baked Goods – Chef Joseph Gauci
  • Featured Menu Sampling: Southwest & Pinchi Bean Pastizzis – Malta Joe’s Pastizzi, are golden brown pastries made with hand-crafted Phyllo dough and filled with delicious savory fillings. $5 each
Queen Ceviche – Feliz Zaborsky
  • Featured Margarita: Crusty Drunkard – Tequila, hibiscus, citrus, and spices
  • Featured Menu Sampling: Queen Ceviche Salsa
Howdy Juicy – Celycia Quihuis
  • Featured Margarita: Cosmic Cowgirl Margarita – A tangy and fresh marg with a kick
Ventana Canyon Club & Lodge – Chef Wendy Busby
  • Featured Margarita: Signature Margarita
  • Featured Menu Sampling: White mole chicken over poblano cilantro rice
Zio Peppe – Chef Devon Sanner
  • Featured Margarita: Contarito Margarita
  • Featured Menu Sampling: Elote Arancini
Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizzeria – Chef Rocco DiGrazia
  • Featured Margarita: Smoldering Basil Margarita
  • Featured Menu Sampling: Fusilli with Pesto Trapanese – A mint and basil Sicilian-style pesto
Noble Hops – Raquel Lennerton and Eric Reese
  • Featured Margarita: Noble Rita – The Taste of Oro Valley
  • Featured Menu Sampling: Noble Hops Beer Cheese & Pretzel Bites – Homemade beer cheese with pretzel bites
Vero Amore
  • Featured Margarita: Italian Margarita
  • Featured Menu Sampling: Vegan Puttanesca
Borderland Spirits
  • Featured Margarita: Bacarita – Bacanoras and Sonoran spirits
Transit Tea
  • Featured Margarita: Transit Margarita
  • Featured Food Sampling: Transit Tea Samples

All proceeds from the 2023 World Margarita Championship will benefit youth and creative aging programs presented by SAACA, as well as a portion going directly back to Tucson Originals Restaurants. 

Tickets are on sale now for $75 each and are anticipated to sell out. Raffle tickets are also available for purchase to be entered to win over $2,000 in local gift cards and baskets.

The World Margarita Championship will take place at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, 7000 N. Resort Dr. For more informaion and to purchase tickets, visit saaca.org.

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