The drinks card in the Cayman Margaritaville listed only two wines — red and white. It reminded me of a cardboard sign in a rural Texas bar many years ago: “Red Wine $10. White Wine $10. No Substitutions.”
As one would expect in Margaritaville, the drinks card lists an impressive array of available margaritas, some flavored with scotch, bourbon, and assorted brandies but all seasoned with the prerequisite doeses of tequila and orange brandies, of course with a salted rim of the glass. Under palm trees and next to a swimming pool, surrounded by tables bearing colorful iced drinks, it was hard to make wine appealing, especially with piles of highly-spiced nachos coming continuously to our table.
Tequila comes in many forms and qualities. Fortunately, I was not confronted with the one presented to me by a Mexican host as a kind of honor, the one containing a coiled rattlesnake whose eyes met mine as I partook straight from the bottle. Tequila is the national pride of Mexico and is as protected there as Champagne is in France. It has been honored by becoming the base for one of the most popular cocktails, created, some say, in 1941 by a bartender who named it for the daughter of an ambassador who was the first to try it.
I’ve never been sure where the salt comes in. Some say it offsets the acridity of lower class tequilas ,but it seems to accompany even the most prestigious of this agave-based clear brandy. Having watched experts concoct a margarita, holding a thinblefull of salt in place on their hand so as to drizzle it just right into the drink or along the glass, then toss the rest over their shoulder, I have concluded that tossing the salt may be part of a traditional ritual. But no matter, the concoction does wonder for one’s spirits when wine won’t do.