Choosy Beggars Presents: Your Pre-Packaged Margarita Primer
By now this should be a familiar refrain to you all, but I feel as though it is worth once again issuing my standard disclaimer:
- I have been known, historically, to be less than forgiving to pre-mixed cocktails
- Because, generally, they want me to think that combining as few as two ingredients represents a valuable time-saving activity on my behalf
- When most of the time, the resulting product is actually considerably less delicious than if I had just done it myself
- And I make my drinks stronger, anyway
It’s a difficult relationship that I have with these products, because:
- I am also a total sucker for novelty
You can see the bind I’m in. But fortunately, there is one category of cocktails that represent a handy loophole for me, in that they actually seem to deliver on the promise that pre-mixed drinks are intended to provide. Fiddly to make in the proper proportions, plagued with personal preferences that perennially cloud the picture, margaritas represent the perfect point for a prepared beverage to save the day — not so complicated that I would want the joy of hand-crafting it, just enough of a pain in the ass (or more specifically, the skin and any previously-unnoticed wounds thereupon) to get done, and yet enjoyable enough that I wouldn’t mind one once in a while.
For those who have only ever ordered them in a restaurant, margaritas are a 7:4:3 combination of tequila, Triple Sec (or Cointreau, if you’re feeling whimsically citrus-y) and lime juice. Not lime-ade, not the pre-squeezed stuff that you buy in the little containers that are made to look like limes, but actually-squeezed juice out of what ends up feeling like a bottomless bag of tiny, tropical fruit. Do you know how many limes it takes to prepare a full pitcher of margaritas, adequate to serve guests who happily guzzle them down without a care in the world for your efforts? Approximately too god-damned many, give or take.
Thus, if anywhere, prepared cocktails have a sweet spot in the margarita. With the summer going from hot to hotter even as we speak, now’s the to help you choose a drink that will help you enjoy all the flavor of margaritas, with none of the
aching wrists and seething resentment effort.
In the spirit of full disclosure, we might as well start with a prepared margarita that I already enthusiastically praised. Mike’s Hard Lemonade is a product that first introduced me to casual vodka drinking, not to mention savage hangovers and the as-yet-undiscovered phenomenon of “creeping rotgut.” Despite its shortcomings as a product, Mike’s has never really pretended to be more than it is, which is a candy-sweet alternative for beer that only provokes mild ridicule from other men.
- Authenticity: 5/10
- Drinkability: 7.5/10
- Zero-to-cloying factor: 2.5 drinks
Mike’s margarita is really no different than any of their other products, but at least you know what you’re in for. It isn’t great, but at least it’s honest, even if you need to lie down after the second one.
El Jimador actually as a number of these available in Mexico, all of which are apparently enormously popular and employ the eponymous tequila. In Ontario, two of them are now available — one a grapefruit cocktail, and the other the reason we’re all here today.
The big advantage to these is the presence of actual, honest-to-goodness tequila, which definitely makes a difference to the flavor. The transition to actual liquor from the malt-substitute in Mike’s does add to the experience, though I do have to say that these are still pretty soft-drink-sweet. That’s great at first, but more than a couple of these and you’re still going to find yourself clawing uselessly around you, hoping to randomly strike a bag of chips.
- Authenticity: 6/10
- Drinkability: 8/10
- Zero-to-cloying factor: 3.5 drinks
They may still taste like soda pop, but they’ve got the magic liquor of the agave plant, and your judgmental neighbors will think you’re drinking Sprite! WIN/WIN/WIN.
Blackfly is just… puzzling. You come across these in a store and they represent everything that is visually off-putting about prepped cocktails: the neon colors, the cheap cardboard packaging, the bottles that have more in common with condiments than with beverages. Plus, it would appear that their logo is depicting a blood-sucking airborne insect shortly after being crushed to death, on the front of the box.
So, that’s appetizing.
But once you get Blackfly Tequila Margarita into a glass, a couple of things become readily apparent: first, like the El Jimador offering, this is a drink made with actual tequila; second, unlike any of the others we’ve tasted, this one actually includes the element of salt.
Yeah! That’s right, Blackfly goes to the length of including a mild hint of salt in with the sugar, lime and liquor — exactly as the glass rim intended, to balance the whole drink out and prevent your throat from closing itself. On top of that, the tequila has a flavor pronounced enough to notice, without being so strong as to put you off. There’s still an underlying sugar, but the combined result is a cocktail you can really get behind, not just because it tastes as close to a real margarita as we’ve been able to find, but you can enjoy more of it.
- Authenticity: 7.5/10
- Drinkability: 8.5/10
- Zero-to-cloying factor: 5
We’re not saying this is a drink you’d pour into a pitcher to fake out party guests, but it’s definitely well worth keeping a few in the fridge.
Look, there will always be a situation where you find yourself ankle-deep in pulverized semi-limes or seared in a terrible simple syrup incident, all because there really is nothing like the real thing — but when something close to the real thing is good enough, there’re lots of options available to you.
Whether you want something cheap, cheerful and familiar; or perhaps to tap into something popular from south (or south-south, in our case) of the border; or even to take a flyer on a drink that has no right being so much better than it looks… well, we’ve got you covered whatever way you choose. Just remember, all of these are best enjoyed when you’re too hot, and they’re too cold.