Casa Baeza serves up the perfect margarita in Truckee | SierraSun.com

Casa Baeza serves up the perfect margarita in Truckee

The classic margarita is a refreshing, thirst-quenching drink, and perfect for a hot summer day.

All too often, unfortunately, margarita mix takes over, yielding a syrupy, sugar-based concoction that needs to be blended with ice to make it palatable.

"It has to be fresh — everything has to be fresh," said Cesar Santibanez, who passionately operates Casa Baeza in downtown Truckee alongside Efrain Nevarez, running the kitchen and bar while taking care of patrons, making everyone who sets foot inside feel like a local.

If you're searching for the perfect light, fresh margarita — the way it should be — look no further than the tequila experts at Casa Baeza.

“All of the tequilas we infuse with different flavors are white or silver tequila. It isn’t aged in a barrel, so it’s cleaner.”Cesar SantibanezOperator of Casa Baeza

For the past 27 years, Casa Baeza has been educating locals and visitors to their North Lake Tahoe tequila bar and Mexican restaurant about types of tequila.

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"We have a couple whiskey and vodka options of course … but this is a tequila bar, we have over 180 different kinds and people can buy so many different kinds here that you can't find at the store," Santibanez said.

Nevarez works the bar, serving spiced micheladas, beer and cocktails; their most popular being the cantarito or "clay pot".

"We use top shelf tequilas and fresh ingredients in everything," he said. "All of the tequilas we infuse with different flavors are white or silver tequila. It isn't aged in a barrel, so it's cleaner."

The pair offered their top five tips on nailing your at-home margaritas using fresh ingredients and keeping it light. Perhaps test your own hand at their below tips this Father's Day and serve up a margarita he'll love.

1. The Beloved Cantarito

North Lake Tahoe locals are no strangers to the clay pot: a margarita-style cocktail served in a terracotta clay pot.

"This is our most popular drink," Santibanez said. "It's refreshing, light and fresh, and we keep with the tradition of serving in a clay pot like we do in Mexico."

The cantarito is a perfect balance of tangy and sweet, using Tenoch tequila, fresh lime juice and a splash of Squirt soda with a salt rim.

2. Ginger-Strawberry Heaven

The margarita masterminds created two new flavors for summer, each packing a unique punch of its own, and each highly recommended to taste for yourself.

The first is their ginger-strawberry margarita: first they infuse Cava de Oro tequila with ginger for 24 hours. Next come fresh strawberries, muddled with fresh lime juice, and topped with organic agave nectar.

Rim the glass with sugar, add your ginger-strawberry cocktail, and top with freshly sliced strawberries for a beautiful presentation that's delicious to the last drop.

"This margarita really balances sweet and tart, and it's nice and light," Santibanez said.

"I'm not a big fan of ginger," Nevarez added. "But I like ginger with my sushi, and in this drink, and that's it."

3. Old Faithful: Citrus

Whenever that margarita craving hits, your taste buds are craving the flavors of Casa Baeza's "perfect margarita".

Keeping things fresh and light, the bartenders infuse Casamigos silver tequila with lemon, lime and oranges, using organic agave nectar to add a subtle sweetness.

After infusing for at least one day, they salt the glass' rim and serve the fresh infusion over ice — no need to blend and masque a harsh tequila or sugar flavor.

"It's just better on the rocks. You will have the same amount of tequila, but when you blend the drink it becomes diluted," Nevarez said. "This, to me, is the perfect margarita; served on the rocks it is a bit stronger, but it's true to what a margarita should be."

4. Jalapeño-pineapple kick

Their second summer margarita is jalapeño-pineapple flavored, and perfectly balances spicy and sweet.

First the pair infuses Casamigos silver tequila with fresh pineapple, adding fresh Serrano or jalapeño peppers for an added kick. They leave the tequila to rest for at least one full day before adding fresh juice and organic agave nectar and serving the delicious, big-flavored margarita.

5. The perfect pairing

In order to experience these margaritas as they're intended, a trip to Casa Baeza is in order — patrons will not be disappointed.

Chips and salsa will only tide you over so far until it's time for the right complement.

Their recommendation for the perfect-paired meal to go with any of their fresh margaritas is either the carne asada plate or the steak ranchero plate.

The carne asada plate is a marinated, thin Mexican-style steak grilled with fajita vegetables, and served with guacamole and sour cream.

The steak ranchero is delicious diced steak with green bell pepper, onion and celery in ranchero sauce, served with potato medallions perfect for dipping.

Both of these mouthwatering dishes are served piping hot with a side of rice, beans and tortillas, and will keep your margarita in good company.

Cassandra Walker is a features and entertainment reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at cwalker@sierrasun.com, 530-550-2654 or @snow1cass.