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Monday, March 24, 2014

Margarita Economics: The Cartel, The Rain, and More Reasons to Drink

The margarita tasting.

Four margaritas made with different mixes of lime juice await the big T-lish taste test.

A good restaurant is made up of quality service, food, and vibes. At our best, we’re in control of these three elements. However, the price of the food that we buy in order to prepare your dinner is out of our jurisdiction.

Food prices are dependent on so many zingers—supply and demand, weather patterns, bug infestations, crop disease. And even, apparently, Mexican drug cartels. This brings me to limes, the fruit that we count on more than pretty much anything else at Tacolicious. Limes garnish our tacos, brighten up our guacamole, and add zip to our salad dressings. But most of all, they are integral to our margaritas.

Which is why we’re wringing our hands right now. According to CNN Mexico, the price of Mexican limes has increased over 143 percent since December. We don’t need to read the news to know this. When the crops are plentiful, a case of limes costs us about $15 to $20 per case. Right now, it’s brinking on $120. (Take into consideration that at our four restaurants, we use up to 150 cases a week. At this rate, that’s $72,000 worth of limes a month.)

There are a couple of key reasons for this price hike. As Tacolicious’s director Mike Garcia retold it from our produce vendor, one of them is winter crop damage: “When it started to rain in Mexico, it wiped out all four regions of limes, which are rotated in order to let the limes regrow, and left them with only a ten percent yield from each region. Thus, little supply and a lot of demand.”

Teetotalers, optimists, and environmentalists, skip the next paragraph. Self-serving, shallow, doomsday-driven margarita lovers, read on.

(Of course, this is particularly worrisome because the world’s weird weather patterns are likely due to global warming. Thus, with the world’s end nigh, we need to drink as many margaritas as possible before we all perish!! This is a serious predicament.)

Add to this the reality of the influence of drug cartels on farmers. Sadly, farmers in the state of Michoacan, where the majority of Mexico’s limes are grown, are facing extortion and worse from the Knights Templar. To learn more, you can listen to this interview on NPR with Gustavo Arellano. This article on Bloomberg speaks to the issue of farmers banding together to establish a minimum price, which is another piece of the puzzle. 

So, in keeping with our belief that transparency is everything, here’s our quandry: Do we raise the price of our Tacolicious house margarita, made with solely freshly-squeezed Mexican lime juice (and tequila and agave syrup, of course), from its current price of $9.50 to $12.50? Or do we try to come up with a thoughtful—temporary—solution while this lime crisis plays itself out? In this case, a mix of 50 percent flash-pasteurized fresh lime juice from local juice company Voila!, 25 percent freshly squeezed lime juice, and 25 percent freshly squeezed lemon juice. We did a margarita taste test, pictured above, made of a few different lime-y combinations to come up with this mix and we think it has great integrity and is quite tasty to boot.

Ultimately, our first priority is your happiness. So rather than give you the impression that we’re presenting unfair prices or cocktails that aren’t up to our usual snuff, we’ve decided to give you a choice.

In honor of having it your way, we’re now offering two margaritas: For our usual $9.50, you can order the margarita de la casa, made with our lime concoction. And for $12.50, you purists can order the margarita de la cartel made with 100 percent freshly-squeezed Mexican lime juice, which maybe we should call the margarita del dia del jucio final. But if worse comes to worse, take solace in the fact that there is a simple answer: you can start drinking your tequila straight.