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Five Lies You’ve Been Told About Margaritas

Is a Monster Energy Margarita legit? How great is that song ‘Tequila’? Let’s find out the truth.

The world is full of lies, and it’s hard to get through life without taking a few on board. Luckily, we’re here to sort the fact from the fiction, and find the plankton of truth in the ocean of bullshit. This week: Margaritas! Are Parrotheads onto something? Is ice the key to it all?

Lie 1: “Ahh, Lovely, A Blue Gatorade Margarita!”

Is it? Is it really? Despite countless recipes for margarita variants involving everything from Monster Energy to carrots, there’s a fairly classic recipe when it comes to a margarita. However, the word has come to be connected to pretty much any mixed drink with tequila in it. 

“Part of it is a linguistic thing,” says Elliott Ball of the Cocktail Trading Co. “Drinks have things added to them and changes made and end up retaining their names. It’s like how an espresso martini is a delicious and important drink that has nothing to do with a martini. You take the same spirit that is typically involved in the original drink, do whatever the fuck else you want with it, and call it the same name.”

Part of why this happened is just how well-known a drink the margarita is. “When it was created, it quickly became very trendy,” says Ball. “It was seen as quite an adventurous thing originally, quite an out-there choice, interfacing prestigious American cocktail culture with something so outrageous as tequila, a Mexican distilled spirit that was seen as much less auspicious.”

Rather than reaching for the Gatorade, Ball opts for two parts 100 percent agave tequila, one part freshly-squeezed lime juice, one part triple sec and a little squeeze of agave syrup to balance out the acidity. Shake it with ice, strain and pour into a glass. A salted rim is a matter of personal preference, but if going for it, he says, use flakes rather than granulated salt.

Lie 2: “‘Margaritaville’ Is A Song By Jimmy Buffett”

It is, somehow, so much more than that: It’s an entire industry. This totally adequate song about a man eating a cake, drinking a few cocktails and hurting his foot somehow turned into an empire, with restaurants, hotels and casinos in multiple countries. Despite the Cayman Islands branch closing down as a result of COVID-19, there are still 16 Margaritaville Hotels, with another 10 in various stages of completion. 

In the entertainment-based theme restaurant world, it’s a pretty big deal. Doing some extremely rudimentary math, the Margaritaville hospitality juggernaut dwarfs Planet Hollywood and is about a third the size of the Hard Rock Cafe, which is nuts when one of them is themed around a whole media industry, one around a whole genre of music and one is dedicated solely to Parrotheads.

It’s really quite an extraordinary thing. The lifestyle of Hawaiian shirts, deck shoes, afternoon cocktails and deep tans is manifestly in the public domain, but Buffett has successfully marketed it. He’s even started retirement communities in Florida, so Boomers can see out their final days surrounded by other Parrotheads, making cocktails from Margaritaville-branded kits in their Margaritaville-branded blenders, eating a Margaritaville-branded taco from the Margaritaville-branded cookbook, then playing Margaritaville-branded pickleball dressed head-to-toe in Margaritaville-branded clothing, encouraging their kids to put themselves through college by becoming Margaritaville University lifestyle ambassadors. And then, one day, when life gets too tough, stepping off a Margaritaville-branded stool from Bed, Bath & Beyond

It’s easy to sniff at, of course, but the more you think about it, the more appealing it all becomes. There are much worse things for a community to be based around than a love of country-tinged acoustic rock and drinking in the daytime. There has to be something pretty nice about getting to the closing chapter of your life, hanging up your suit and tie and rolling up to a town where everyone likes the same music as you and has a fridge full of drinks for new friends. Plus, retirement communities spring up around things like golf clubs and fishing resorts all the time, both competitive and traditionally masculine pursuits — alcoholism is accessible to, and winnable by, everyone

Being a Parrothead seems to be about embracing the simple things in life rather than working yourself to death, and there’s a lot to be said for that. One singer making a fortune out of an idea like that possibly says more about the messed-up nature of modern life than anything nefarious. (Plus Jimmy Buffett, to be fair, seems like a pretty good dude. He seems extremely grateful for the whole “turned singing about not wanting to work into a $2,000,000,000-per-year corporate behemoth” thing, and does a lot for charity. Also, if by any chance he read this piece and wanted to send the author this particular shirt, nobody would stand in his way.)

Lie #3: “What A Boring Choice of Pizza!”

A margherita (the pizza is a margherita, the cocktail a margarita — both have tedious and disputed backstories about their names) can seem like a pretty dull choice when there are so many wacky and wonderful pizza choices out there — goofy shit where the crust is full of sausages, silly crap like where they’ve slapped a fucking cheeseburger on there, weed pizza, all sorts of stuff.

But pizza purists love a margherita. The simplicity of just a few ingredients — the crust, the tomatoes, the cheese and a little bit of basil — lets connoisseurs umm and aah about subtle differences and balances in ways it’s difficult to do with, say, Hong Kong Pizza Hut’s Flying Fish Roe Salmon Cream Cheese Pizza.

L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele in Naples is famed as one of the best pizza restaurants in the world. It’s been going since 1870 but is (perhaps unfairly) best known for being featured in Eat, Pray, Love. They only do two types of pizza — margherita and marinara — and have pizza devotees lining up for hours every day to take delight in the delicate balances of flavor and intricate interplay between char and chewiness.

Think about it — if Domino’s introduced its own Flying Fish Roe Salmon Cream Cheese Pizza, ascertaining which was the best Flying Fish Roe Salmon Cream Cheese Pizza wouldn’t be a question of subtleties, it would be whichever godforsaken monstrosity was smaller.

Lie #4: “Whoever Wrote That Song ‘Tequila’ Must Be Super Rich!”

He isn’t — he’s dead. And even when he was alive, no. The catchiest song of all time (and a favorite of Pee-Wee Herman’s) was recorded at the end of a long day in December 1957 by a bunch of session musicians, and was never intended to be more than a B-side. The hastily-named The Champs laid down the mostly-instrumental track, written and arranged by saxophonist Danny Flores, whose bandmates suggested the title to him as a nod to his love of the stuff. Flores was signed to another label as a vocalist, so he used the stage name Chuck Rio, despite singing a total of one word three times in the song.

Flores is the guy on the left here, and if anyone knows what the hell the deal is with the guy next to him’s legs, good on them:

Despite millions of sales, Flores signed away the U.S. rights to the song in the 1960s under mysterious circumstances possibly connected with his heavy-drinking lifestyle at the time. He continued to perform — including playing “Tequila” multiple times most nights — until health reasons forced him to retire around the millennium. He died in 2006, with his widow Sharee saying of him, “We had the best life we could ever hope for. When I met Danny, he made all my dreams come true.”

Lie #5: “Ooh, Lovely, Homemade Margaritas!”

As Elliott Ball points out, one of the most common mistakes people make when making cocktails at home concerns the ice going straight from the freezer to the cocktail shaker. “Ice is meant to dilute as well as chill,” he says. “When you’re in a bar, the ice is out in the open and at zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit). Ice straight from a freezer at home will be at -15 (5 degrees Fahrenheit) or -20 (-4 degrees Fahrenheit), so shaking a drink with freezer ice will make it cold but not add any dilution, and it just won’t taste right.” He suggests either getting the ice out a little earlier to let it come up to temperature, or adding one part of water to your concoction before shaking it. 

So there!

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