This was a tough one for me. Not that celebrating a margarita is hard. It’s rather enjoyable. I’ve done that several hundred times. Really. That’s what kind of makes celebrating it today so odd.
As many of you know, my previous job was for a company that sold a bunch of margaritas. It fact, it was kind of their thing. And I, being the company man that I am, made sure I was enjoying the fruits of our collective labor throughout my career there. I was never a big fan of a margarita before I started with the company. They were always too tart or too sour or too tequila-y. Then something changed. I think it started the moment I tried their secret recipe during my rigorous training – man these suckers were good! That was back in 1997. Over the next 19 years I would go on to enjoy a lot more margaritas. In fact, the last twenty years of my life were surrounded in some way by margaritas. That sounds like a Jimmy Buffett song. My song however ended in August, rather abruptly at that. Now I’m still trying to figure out where a nice frothy margarita fits in my life.
The margarita has been around since the 1930s although tequila has been around for centuries. There is debate as to the root of the actual margarita drink. The most popular tale says that it was invented by bartender Carlos “Danny” Herrera at his Tijuana-area restaurant, Rancho La Gloria, around 1938. An aspiring actress named Marjorie King was allergic to all hard alcohol other than tequila and she asked Herrera to make her a drink. He came up with the margarita. Another story puts the margarita as the invention of a wealthy Dallas socialite named Margarita Sames who claimed she whipped up the drink for friends at her Acapulco vacation home in 1948. Among her well-connected guests was Tommy Hilton, who eventually added the drink to the bar menu at his hotel chain. However that story has a few holes in it as Jose Cuervo began advertising using the name margarita in 1945. What is known for sure is that the first frozen margarita machine was invented in 1971 by Dallas restaurateur Mariano Martinez. That invention made the frozen cocktail much more accessible and consistent. It has become the crutch of the chain restaurant world for making frozen margaritas. (Info from Smithsonian.com)
Margaritas have been popular since their advent and keep growing in popularity as more and more people discover this delicious cocktail. Yes Jimmy Buffet has contributed to that popularity. He’s helped the masses associate it with carefree days at the beach. And even though I’m not a fan, there’s nothing wrong with that philosophy. That’s how we should celebrate a drink like this. It’s perfect for the beach, but it’s perfect in the dead of winter too. We recently made it through a tequila shortage that increased prices on margaritas nationwide and that led to it plateauing in popularity. We should also pay attention to the current administration’s claim that they will pay for a wall by placing a tax on all Mexican imports. That would cause a steep increase in tequila prices. Jimmy Buffet is going to get angry.
Last year on National Margarita Day I was in New York City as we were part of a televised segment on Fox & Friends. We drove there from New Hampshire with a truck full of margarita supplies, set up at the studio at 5:30 in the morning and served those knucklehead anchors a tasty margarita during their show. In retrospect, seeing how much our so-called President likes watching morning news, I wonder if he was watching? He would have probably said we were “tremendous.” We did a lot of work behind the scenes to make National Margarita Day a thing. Not that it was just us making it happen, but we were early adapters to acknowledging the day as a holiday of importance to a Mexican restaurant. We pushed it. We made it into an event at our restaurants. Thinking back, our work at making these national days significant definitely influenced the start of this quest. It’s probably where the germ of the idea began. That’s why it was weird to celebrate National Margarita Day today. It was like celebrating your anniversary after a divorce.
I’m a trooper however so if today called for a margarita, I would not let my baggage stop me. I was going to grab the tequila and go (also a possible Jimmy Buffet song title). When happy hour rolled around, I decided to make myself a margarita. I busted out the margarita essentials: tequila, triple sec and margarita mix. This quickly brought back memories of my old job as I was using some tequila I had received as a ‘professional sample’, I was using a margarita glass that I had acquired at some point through the restaurant and I was using the restaurant’s signature margarita mix. I still had some in our fridge. It was probably a little older than you would want, but knowing the sugar content of the mix, I was pretty sure it was well preserved. It smelled fine too. I will say that they had the best margarita mix. It was sweet and sour, made fresh in the restaurant and would make the prefect margarita. It always makes a nice and frothy drink (as long as you shook it properly). I have been told that there is a fresh margarita mix in grocery stores now called Natalie’s which is pretty fantastic too. They sell Natalie’s orange juice at Clement’s Market, but not the margarita mix. I may have to petition them to bring it in. That’s my back up plan once my current supply is gone. The margarita is two parts tequila, one part triple sec and then three parts margarita mix. Then shake like hell. That’s what I did and a perfectly foam-topped margarita poured out into my glass. Because it was still light out and somewhat mild, I went outside for my first sip. This was basically me hoping for the arrival of Spring.
Just like I remembered. Frothy, sweet and sour. I used Corazon tequila for this which is a bit stronger than what I usually like for a margarita. I prefer a nice blanco or plato tequila, like Hornitos. Corazon has a strong tequila taste which made it not as smooth of a cocktail as I had wished, but still damn tasty. It’s a great sippin’ tequila however. The key to a margarita to me is that froth on top. That’s how you can tell it’s nice and fresh and that the bartender gave it the shaking time it needs to become magnificent. It may have been bittersweet, but it was as delicious as ever. In fact, I ended up having two (just to be festive).
Someday I’ll figure out what this all means. There’s lots of things that I was part of over the last 20 years that I was proud of and have given me great memories. I don’t think because we have gone separate ways that I have to give up custody of tequila, tacos or margaritas. I can still enjoy them for what they are. I can also still smile at the happy times I have had with them over the past two decades. I can (and will) still celebrate. I won’t let them stop me. They can have their celebrations, and I’ll have mine. I can be grateful that they introduced me to the delights of a margarita. I can know that my history of enjoying margaritas has a lot of markers inside their restaurants. That’s ok. It’s the future history that will be the most tastiest and matter most. That’s where I’ll take this. Today, I’ll just raise my glass and toast the beverage: the beverage that changed my life. Salud!
Next up: National Banana Bread Day