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by Gretchen Gaede
The delicious, refreshing, versatile and occasionally mind-altering concoction that is the margarita has been a popular drink for ages, but as of late it has become the crown jewel at bars and restaurants that have nothing to do with Mexican cuisine. Since one of Fort Collins’ most iconic establishments, The Rio Grande, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this June, I thought it could be fun to give a nod to the classic cocktail and delve into why we fancy the margarita like we do.
While many classic cocktails have deep roots dating back to the 1800s, cocktail historians report that the margarita did not make it on the scene until the 1930s. There are conflicting stories about its origin, but most give a nod to a Dallas socialite named Margarita Sames, who debuted a version of the margarita at a holiday party by combining two of her favorite spirits: Cointreau and tequila. She then completed the drink with a garnish of fresh lime.
Regardless of its origin, the margarita is muy popular, and it’s hard to find a bar or restaurant that isn’t trying out an elevated version of the cherished classic. Shaken, stirred, or straight up; with salt, sugar or chili pepper; infused with lavender, cucumber, Sriracha, and the list goes on and on. So it’s easy to see why drinkers, mixologists and culinary masters alike love the drink’s very adaptable spirit.
If you are a connoisseur, a bad margarita is a travesty, but fortunately for us in Colorado the stakes are high and the margaritas are most often delicious. What makes a margarita a true margarita is debatable, as the lines are becoming more blurry all the time. However, most agree that tequila and a citrus component are important foundational elements, and beyond that, anything goes. I personally love the countless grapefruit versions that grace bar menus today, but one of the most surprisingly delicious ones I have had recently is an avocado margarita at Ed’s Cantina & Grill in Estes Park.
Of course, with the inspiration of this article being the Rio Grande, we can’t ignore their traditional marg, and the ever so wise limit of three that kicked off the craze well before it truly began. In Fort Collins, and likely many of the Rio’s other Colorado locations, the drink is a rite of passage. So much so, that the Rio is holding a 3oth anniversary contest that invites you to share your Rio story on Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #MyRioStory. Can’t wait to see what tale the winner has in store.
Congratulations to our beloved Rio for 30 years of margarita madness. It’s fun to look back on a legacy, even if most of the memories are foggy ones, because as the saying goes, the only thing better than a margarita, is two margaritas, but never more than three.