On The Range: Frozen Margaritas

The classification of tequila is determined by the distillation process, presence or absence of adulterants and length of time spent in aging. If the tequila is distilled from 100% blue agave--a succulent plant related to the lily family and not the cactus--it will be labeled as such on the bottle. If not, it will be classified as mixto (mixed), since there are other ingredients such as caramel coloring and sugar syrup present.

Simple as that...almost. There is blanco, gold, reposado, anejo and extra anejo. The latter is the most refined of aged tequilas. If you drink classic margaritas, the reposado and anejo lend the best tequila flavor for cocktails.

Then there's the frozen margarita. Mariano Martinez, owner of Mariano's Restaurant y Cantina, with invented the frozen margarita nearly forty years ago. According to the most common story, Martinez was at a 7-Eleven one morning, watched some kids lining up for Slurpees out of a machine, and had an epiphany.

He purchased a soft-serve ice cream machine (since 7-Eleven refused to sell him a Slurpee unit) and after much experimentation, concocted the drink that, along with fajitas, helped fuel the Tex-Mex craze of the seventies and eighties. Purists despise the frozen drink. Most experts will tell you not to waste good tequila on a slushy version. Yet the invention was considered of such importance, Smithsonian's National Museum of American History has since acquired Martinez's machine.

These early frozen margaritas were quite sweet, due to the addition of simple syrup along with the usual suspects: Tequila, lime juice, and orange liqueur. These days, the "frozen concoction" (to borrow from Jimmy Buffett) is made in all colors and flavors, including apple, melon, and mango, among others. Stephen Kittredge Cunningham's invaluable reference, The Bartender's Black Book, lists dozens of recipes.

Thanks to Martinez and his inventive mind, no restaurant or bar worth its coarse salt would be caught without the alcoholic slurpee.

Red's Patio Grill ups the ante over the typical Tex-Mex joint by offering not only frozen margaritas and several premium versions of the on-the-rocks variety, but also tequila flights to help you choose. With more than 100 premium brands in stock, Red's is ready for margarita fans of any ilk. , and offers cuisine to match. Their double cheese potato cakes, rich with parmesan and cheddar cheeses, are an appetizer that's not to be missed, and moreover, they pair well with the agave nectar. The burgers are distinguished by the use of Montana Legend beef, while Red's bowl of red (chili) is old-school in preparation and execution, and may well be the best this side of Tolbert's.

In fact, the hardest decision you make at Red's may well be whether you select a fresh or frozen margarita, and whether you choose blanco, gold, reposado, anejo, or extra anejo as your tequila of choice.

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Chris Meesey