You Could Bathe a Small Child in That Margarita. But the Sink Would Be Cheaper.
My wife and celebrated our anniversary this past July with a romantic weekend in Miami Beach. If we hadn’t bought tickets to see Kassav in concert at the Jackie Gleason Theater we wouldn’t have even considered submitting ourselves to the stifling mid-summer heat and humidity that permeates the South Florida air like molten Jell-O.
Hot? Frying eggs on the sidewalk was mere child’s play. We saw two guys grilling brats in mid-air as we drove by Flamingo Park.
After we checked in, we wandered down to Ocean Drive where the art deco hotels feature sidewalk cafes with umbrellas the size of flying saucers. Most of them also feature gorgeous, but aggressive young women with mysterious accents accosting passersby with discount cards 2-for-1 drinks. We had only walked a couple of blocks when the sight of couples nursing drinks under the shade of billowing umbrellas began to have an effect.
And oh what drinks!
I know it was only an illusion created by the clever shape of the glasses (wide as a hubcap but shallow as a thimble) but they still looked like you could bathe a small child in one. As sweat pooled around our feet we decided it was time to dive into one of these enormous margaritas.
We were in luck. The next café had a few empty tables. The girl manning the sidewalk released her grip on a fleeing family of five and greeted us in an English dialect that could only have been acquired from a childhood spent raking dirt on a farm in a former Soviet Socialist Republic that surely ended in -stan.
“Two? Dinner?” she asked.
“No. Just drinks,” I replied. “The 2-for-1 special.” But just before we sat down, I did something I’ve never done in a bar or café. I asked her how much the drinks were.
I don’t know what drove me to it. I’ve been in lots of bars from Orlando to New York to Chicago to LA. I’ve had $12 dollar martinis off Central Park and $2 bottles of PBR in Portland. I figured South Beach would be at the upper end. Maybe $10? But still. I asked.
She hesitated. “Um. $29.”
“Not counting tax and tip,” she added.
I did the math. $29 for the drink. 7% sales tax. 2% food and beverage tax. 1% homeless and domestic violence tax. Then the 20% tip that’s automatically and inexplicably added to each tab regardless of the service. It came out to almost 40 bucks.
But we were hot, in the shade, and on vacation. And it was 2-for-1. We certainly could splurge for a large margarita, couldn’t we?
“Okay. We’ll take the 2-for-1 one special. I’ll have one. My wife will have the other.”
“Sorry. No sharing. One drink special per customer. You each have to buy one.”
What?! $80 for two orders of margaritas? I looked around at the other tourists enjoying their drinks and wondered if they knew how much their final tab would be. I shuddered as I heard a couple to my left order a second round.
Cha-ching. $160 worth of drinks for those two.
To my right, a Fabio-look-alike leapt to his feet and tossed his chair aside while screaming something that vaguely sounded like Portuguese. The woman with him looked mortified.
I assumed he had just received his tab. Oh, my. Looks like they’d ordered appetizers, too. Ouch.
I turned back to our hostess. “No thanks,” I said.
We wound our way back out to the sidewalk and continued our journey south until we spotted a lonely café off the beaten path. A waiter clearing tables out front invited us in for the ‘mojito drink special’.
I smirked. “How much?”
I smiled, grabbed my wife’s hand and wandered into the cool and shade.
Sometimes it pays to ask.
CLASSIC MARGARITA FOR ONE
Kosher salt for rimming the glasses
1-1/2 ounces good tequila (blanco, 100% agave nectar)
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce Cointreau (or Triple Sec for a sweeter margarita)
Fresh lime slices for garnish
1. Place the salt in a shallow dish or saucer. Moisten the rim of the glass with a slice of lime then dip into the salt.
2. Fill the glass with ice (crushed is optional). Add tequila, lime juice and Cointreau. Stir until chilled. Garnish with a slice of lime and serve immediately.
Warren Caterson is the author of Table For Two: The Cookbook For Couples. You can read Warren’s other musings on food at: www.tablefortwocookbooks.blogspot.com. Just be sure to bring along a sense of humor and a doggie bag.
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