Cinco de Mayo this week. On the 5th of May to be precise.
Although it has largely been misappropriated for undignified marketing purposes (I’m looking at you and your chipmunks Spring Lake Dental Group), Cinco de Mayo actually commemorates 1862’s Battle of Puebla, when Mexican forces withstood an attack from the much larger and better-armed French invading forces.
But like 138 cm Mexican President Benito Juárez, the sweet taste of victory was short.
The French advanced again in 1863 and seized power.
Napoleon III installed his cousin Archduke Maximilian as Emperor of Mexico, declaring him to be Max of Mex (can’t actually find any evidence of this, but surely?).
It was all over by May 1867 and Juárez had 34 year old Maximilian executed (in spite of Max having done some undeniably positive things during his reign – like abolishing child labour).
Max’s wife Charlotte was declared insane but it was Max who refused efforts to help him escape because he felt shaving his beard to avoid recognition would ruin his dignity if he were to be recaptured.
So Cinco de Mayo commemorates an unlikely victory – like the Battle of Thermopylae in 480BC, immortalised by Gerard Butler and a supporting cast of abdominal muscles in underwear shouting “Spartans!” in the hilariously-inaccurate 2007 movie 300.
Another unlikely victory that hasn’t had the benefit of a Hollywood treatment (probably because acne is marginally less sexy than abs) is the Battle of Saumur in 1940. A bunch of new teenage recruits from the Cavalry School at Saumar held off 10,000 German soldiers for two days.
The Germans captured 216 cadets but released them a few days later, no doubt thinking that having a POW camp full of bored teenagers was more trouble than it was worth.
Legendary stuff, but Saumur should be celebrated for replacing the bitter taste of the Battle of Puebla and its aftermath with a much more harmonious blend of France and Mexico.
Saumur is the home of Triple Sec, the bitter orange liqueur that together with lime juice and tequila, makes up the most famous (and abused) cocktail in the world: the Margarita.
The origins of the Margarita are hotly contested, with at least half a dozen credible competing claims for ownership.
So here’s what we know for sure. The Margarita was probably invented sometime between 1930 and 1948. Probably in Mexico.
Don’t tell me this blog isn’t informative.
But look, none of that really matters now. What matters is that we get the Margarita back on track. It has been in perilous danger since 1971.
See on May 11 1971, Dallas restauranteur and general killer of class and culture, Mariano Martinez, introduced the world’s first frozen Margarita machine, a scourge more difficult to eradicate than polio.
Martinez says he was inspired by the slushie machines in a 7-11. Now I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if you are inspired to do anything while in a 7-11, you can assume it’s a BAD IDEA.
Martinez’ bad idea no doubt made him a lot of money and his original machine is in the Smithsonian Institute.
I understand the Smithsonian Curators’ objectives here, it is important to preserve this relic in the same way it is important to preserve records of Prohibition – SO IT CAN NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN.
The 1970s were hard in another way. Jimmy Buffett released what would go on to become a massive hit “Margaritaville”.
This is a truly terrible song.
Its genesis may also be from a 7-11 store since Jimmy starts the song with quite possibly the most bizarre opening line ever. Apparently he is nibblin’ on sponge cake.
Jimmy then tortures us for over four minutes with a simplistic and repetitive AABCCB rhyming pattern until our ears bleed.
Try holding your breath for four minutes, it is a loooong time – ask Kiwi William Trubridge who this week set a world free diving record with a dive to 124m which in true under-stated Kiwi fashion, he described as “pretty difficult”.
I was born in New Zealand so I can tell you that listening to Margaritaville the whole way through is “pretty difficult”.
I don’t mind AABCCB – Johnny Cash’s A Boy Named Sue (here) is a great example of it – but Margaritaville is like reading the poetry of a Year 10 student. I can see what you’re trying to do here, but let’s just pop this in a journal, never to be seen again hey?
The sort of shitty writing that would have noted Margarita fan Jack Kerouac rolling in the
grave he went to age 47 after bleeding to death from drinking-related liver damage.
(So Margaritas in moderation please Dear Muddlers).
Yep, Jimmy Buffett is to Music as Slushie-machines are to Margaritas.
Meanwhile, by some cosmic coincidence, I’m writing this post at exactly the same time that hundreds of people are queuing for a chance to work at Buffett’s new Margaritaville Resort.
I am now in possession of the unfortunate knowledge that there are already several Margaritaville resorts, “inspired by the lyrics of Jimmy Buffett”.
Not sure quite what they’re hoping to convey with this but I’m not interested in a holiday where I can expect to spend a lot of time looking for my lost salt shaker and my Havaianas are likely to break.
Margaritaville’s website lets people on-the-go buy their own travel frozen margarita maker. This proves JB is the devil since we have already covered how easy it is to travel and cocktail elegantly.
See, a Margarita is not hard to make (here’s the official IBA recipe). It isn’t a Ramos Fizz where you could be forgiven for taking a couple of short-cuts. It’s a simple recipe, easy to create at home for even the most novice bartender.
Tequila (I used Silver Patron and it’s much better show-cased here than in our very first post on the Tequila Sunrise)
Cointreau or other brand of Triple Sec (IBA official recipe calls specifically for Cointreau but I road-tested Cointreau and a cheaper version and they both work well)
Lime juice – freshly squeezed
Coarse salt for the rim of your glass
First, rub a wedge of lime around the rim of your glass, then invert it onto a plate of salt.
The edge doesn’t need to be perfect, you’re not photographing the damn thing (unless you’re me).
Shake 2 parts tequila, 1 part Triple Sec and 1 part lime juice with large cubes of ice, then pour into your glass.
Place a small wedge of lime on the side of the glass.
If you want a frozen version, put it all into a blender and blend until the ice is crushed. Be warned though, this will significantly dilute the taste.
But still, simple.
So there’s simply no need for something out of a slushie machine. No bartender is so busy that they can’t whip up a decent Margarita. If they offer you that machine crap, walk straight out.
Let’s band together like those plucky Mexicans on Cinco de Mayo 1862 and rise up against the destruction of the Margarita. Never again let us allow the tyranny of the slushie-machine to imprison our Margaritas.
Lime juice belongs inside a lime, liberated just before consumption. Bottles of Mexican and French spirits should proudly stand shoulder to shoulder, together but separate, until it is time to come together to be celebrated, enjoyed and appreciated.
And finally, when you think Margarita, think not of Jimmy Buffet.
Instead, appreciate the incomparable musical stylings of Margarita Pracatan on the Clive James Show as she offers up New York, New York in front of Liza Minelli.