Dec 7th, 2017, 07:05 PM

The Margarita Experience

By Alison Thomas
Chipotle Margaritas. Image credit: Alison Thomas
Chipot-yay or Chipot-nay?

It was a dreary Wednesday in November when I first learned of the Chipotle margarita. My initial reaction was "Chipotle has Margaritas?!" I asked myself and pretty much anybody else who would listen. My second reaction was somewhere between "Why" and "Let's go immediately." 

The famous Mexican chain has been serving margaritas since its genesis, yet for some reason, this tidbit of information has flown largely under the general population's radar. That's not to say the drink has garnered no attention: A quick google search reveals a history of sparse buzz, from a review of the limited edition Patron margarita to a recipe for a Chipotle-inspired Margaritas (thank you denise2836). Recently, however, the Chipotle Margarita has leaked into the mainstream. Evidence of the cocktail's impending glory echoes across the social media platforms of AUP students, and it seems that those who have tried it have only good things to say.

Could it be true? Could the perfect margarita experience have really been under our noses this whole time? Or would the Chipotle Margarita pale in comparison to the more prestigious establishments the City of Lights has to offer? Armed with a fistful of euros and an academic sense of curiosity, I set out to find the truth. 

I recruited a friend and headed to the Chipotle in the ninth arrondissement. It was nice, with large windows and generous seating, but alas, it was still a Chipotle. We ordered our margaritas from across vats of beans and meat and watched as the cashier produced a half gallon bottle of bright yellow liquid from beneath the counter, poured it into ice-filled plastic cups, and salted the rims in record time. We paid 5.50 euros each, positioned ourselves at an industrial steel table, and took the anticipated sip. 

Making the Margarita. Image credit: Alison Thomas

And, it was delicious. Perhaps the flimsy plastic cup had lowered my expectations. Possibly I was tired and needed a drink, but maybe Chipotle actually made a fantastic cocktail. Whatever the reason, I enjoyed my margarita. It wasn't unlike drinking candy; the alcohol was almost imperceptible beneath a visage of vividly flavored goodness. "It's the perfect amount of salty and sweet," remarked my companion. 

We quickly found out that it was reasonably strong. In spite of the saccharine taste, it took only a couple sips for us to start feeling the effects of the tequila, and by the time we had downed the full 0.3 liters, we were verging on tipsy. Meanwhile, the tables started filling up. A child's cry began permeating the venue. Someone spilled their guac on the floor. It was time for us to go, but our mission was far from over. We tidied up and made the trek to the Marais for a second round at the famed cocktail and oyster bar, Le Mary-Celeste, to see how Chipotle would measure up. 

The atmosphere at Le Mary Celeste was radically different. The small space was filled to the brim with well-dressed Parisians laughing and shrugging and slurping oysters beneath the ambient light. We were squeezed into a couple of seats by the bar and handed a menu with a long list of complicated cocktails, the cheapest of which was still over twice the price of a Chipotle margarita. A friendly waiter took our order: "margaritas?" he asked, "Are you sure you don't want one of our special drinks?" I explained our mission (then I described what Chipotle is because he had allegedly never heard of it).

Le Mary-Celeste. Image credit: Alison Thomas 

It was indeed a more attractive drink, served in elegant chilled glasses with strategically placed artisanal salt. Note, it was also 12 euros. The cocktail itself was equally pleasant; it was fresher and far less sweet than its Chipotle counterpart. Additionally, the alcohol was even more evident (and of a much higher caliber) in the Mary-Celeste rendition. 

So which was better? Ultimately, it depends on what you like. My companion preferred Chipotle, hands-down. I, on the other hand, was less sure. But at the end of the day, they're both margaritas. The real difference lies in the experience that surrounds them; do we embrace the casual comfort (and occasional annoyance) that Chipotle offers? Or are we willing to pay more to drink in a place with good vibes and bantering waiters? In the end, it's a question of what the margarita experience means to you.