Article Thumbnail

Nobody Really Likes Margaritas — Just the Idea of Margaritas

The thought of sippin’ tequila and lime? Nothing better. Paying $14 for a chemical-tasting sour mix at TGI Friday’s? Nothing worse.

Imagine, if you will, Prohibition never happened. Without it, American tourists wouldn’t have fled south of the border to discover a light, refreshing mix of tequila and lime juice locals called “the daisy.” Perhaps the daisy would still exist today as a nice tequila counterpart to the Moscow Mule, a respectable drink anyone can order at any time without it becoming a whole thing

Alas, that world doesn’t exist. 

Americans co-opted the daisy for our American purposes, and despite preserving its Spanish name, we mutated the drink into the grotesque concoction of high-fructose corn syrup, citric acid, sodium citrate, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, cellulose gum, sucrose acetate isobutyrate, polysorbate 60, FD&C Yellow 5 and tequila we call the “margarita.” 

What’s in This?: Margarita Mix

As a result, the modern margarita is a hangover bomb, packed with so much sugar and salt it’s a wonder the human body hasn’t developed antibodies to prepare itself for any future intoxications. Perhaps thinking about future implications and inevitable pain runs counter to everything the margarita stands for, but I simply cannot imagine any situation where such a tradeoff is worth it. 

Maybe you disagree. Maybe you’ve willed yourself into believing that you have, in fact, consumed a margarita that didn’t taste like chemicals, and that you didn’t acutely regret consuming it the moment the next morning’s sun illuminated your eyelids. That definitely didn’t happen within our borders or at a TGI Friday’s, but I will concede that a handful of enjoyable, worthwhile margaritas have existed in the past (again, most likely not made by American hands and only as part of the craft cocktail movement, which was probably way too obnoxious about it anyway). 

However, there’s no doubt in my mind that the height of enjoyment for every single margarita ever imbibed was more about the anticipation of that margarita. This is why margaritas are almost exclusively mentioned in the future-tense: 

You see, the margarita achieves its peak potential when it doesn’t yet exist. The minute it’s birthed from the aforementioned plastic half-gallon of glowing synthesized lime-flavored liquid and coats itself to a blender or drapes itself over ice, that excitement begins to fade

Admittedly, maybe I’m just a grump who once drank too many margaritas at the Margaritaville on Chicago’s Navy Pier and puked into Lake Michigan. But allow me to examine this putrid drink’s most seminal texts: “Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffett, and “One Margarita,” the more recent hymnal by Luke Bryan.

In both, notice how the songwriters take great lengths to craft a world completely disconnected from reality —  and still keep references to margaritas in the future tense. For sake of comparison, Bryan’s song about beer, “Drink A Beer,” is painfully steeped in the real world. Because deep down everyone knows they love the idea of a margarita more than an actual margarita, Buffett and Bryan have to create worlds where decisions have no consequences, where pain doesn’t exist and time stands still. 

Each additional detail used to build these fantasy worlds is more delusional than the last, but none more so than the foundation upon which they’re built: A world in which margaritas are the drink du jour.