Saturday, September 8, 2012

There Is Nothing Funny About Skinny Margaritas

Look, I made it skinny. Har har har.
Friends, I can stay silent no longer. Finding myself confronted with Skinny Margaritas is not something I often have to worry about too much because I do not generally frequent the types of establishments that serve such abominations. But I've seen it making the rounds enough lately that I feel like it would be shirking my civic duty as a defender of good & proper cocktails not to say something.

I am going to pick on some people on the internet briefly, and I am going to justify it in the following ways:

    1) If you put something dumb/wrong on the internet, it's fair game for picking on. No one made you do it and it's not my fault you didn't fact-check.

    2) I've chosen my targets more or less at random.

    3) I am not going to "out" anyone I pick on because I am not a complete asshole.

I googled "skinny margarita" and clicked on one of the first results. The first paragraph read something like "According to [some bartender], your average margarita contains about 330 calories, and maybe more if you use store-bought mix."

I face-palmed myself like seven times, just reading that one sentence, the reasons for which I will explain later on. But let us keep reading.

The author then shares a few tips for making your big ol' fatty margarita more diet-friendly. Namely:

    1) Using fresh-squeezed lime juice, because it's low-calorie and tastes better.

    2) Ditching those unnecessary sugary "modifiers" (ie, triple sec). Remember, you can always add a squeeze of fresh orange juice! :D

    3) Use agave nectar instead of simple syrup - it's 20% fewer calories! :D

    4) Better yet, get rid of the sugar altogether by using--wait for it--SPLENDA (I shit you not) instead.

It took a lot of self-discipline at this point to continue reading and not hurl my laptop against the wall.

Now we come to the author's "Skinny Margarita" recipe itself:

  • 2 ounces tequila
  • 1.5 ounces fresh lime juice
  • 1 ounce agave nectar

220 calories, folks! Whew! That extra 110 was *definitely* not worth walking, like, a whole MILE over. Or switch the agave out for Splenda for a very demur 140 calorie cocktail & save yourself nearly two miles.

She goes on to suggest other margarita recipes which are in fact not margaritas at all. I can't even talk about those.

Then there's this mess, which I don't even have the words for:

In response, another dieter was all like, "Yeah, I replaced the Diet 7-Up with lime-flavored tonic water, cuz it just feels like fewer calories that way." I am not making this up.

This is probably what hell is like. I mean, not like the Southern Baptist (I can say that because I was raised one), eternal damnation, lake-of-fire hell, but like the Dante-esque, highly-philosophical-and-ironic hell. Fourth circle, maybe. But I suppose that's what a 74 calorie cocktail gets you.

In light of all that, I want to share with you some facts about margaritas and cocktails in general.

1) Cocktails involve booze. Booze has calories. I can't deal with people who act shocked about the number of calories in a cocktail for the same reasons I can't deal with people who write exposés about how fast food is bad for you. FREAKING DUH.

2) If you're going to drink a cocktail, effing own it and DRINK A COCKTAIL. If a few hundred calories mean that much to you, have a lime and soda. Or split one with some friends. Or SOMETHING that doesn't cause your bartender to die a little inside because you just effing walked into a bar and asked for a Skinny Margarita. (Even if it's on the menu, I guarantee you this will still happen.)

3) If you ever come to my house and I offer you a cocktail and you ask me to put Splenda in it, you are dead to me. Just go.

4) While there are some variations on the recipe for a basic margarita, it has three basic ingredients: a) tequila, b) orange liqueur, & c) lime juice. A dash of agave nectar (usually substituted for part of the orange liqueur) to cut the tartness of the lime is acceptable. A freaking OUNCE (as per our lady's "skinny" recipe) is not. If it's boozy lime-flavored Kool-Aid you want, then own it and don't order a margarita. I've been to plenty of bars & restaurants where they add in or substitute all kinds of weird & interesting things & call it some kind of [blank] margarita, and many of them have been very interesting and tasty. But the fact is that if you don't use tequila, orange liqueur, & lime juice, or if you start adding extra stuff in, it's not a margarita anymore. So eff this "lose-the-triple-sec-splash-of-fresh-orange-juice" business right in the ear.

5) Let's examine the caloric content of a properly made margarita. Here's how we make them at home:

  • 2 ounces tequila. Tequila has ~65 calories per ounce, so we're at about 130 right there.
  • 1 ounce lime juice. Lime juice is basically water with a very small amount of acid and sugar, so maybe ~7 calories per ounce.
  • .75 ounce triple sec (or, lately, Creole Shrubb). An ounce of triple sec has ~125 calories, so say 94.
  • .25 ounce agave nectar. ~80 per ounce, so say 20.

(For the sake of completeness, here - mix all ingredients together in a shaker with a goodly number of ice cubes, shake until you can't feel your hands, and double strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.)

This makes for a DELICIOUS cocktail and runs about 282 calories, only about 60 more than the "skinny" recipe above. Allow me to gently point out that if 60 calories are worth a shitty cocktail to you, then you're probably better off skipping the adult beverages altogether & having a delicious, low-calorie mocktail. (I'm not being sarcastic here - they do exist and I make them semi-regularly.)

6) Skinny business aside, note that "nasty disgusting pre-mixed vaguely lime-flavored syrup" is not listed in the ingredients above. It is not the fault of margaritas that you're putting that shit in your drinks. The number of calories in sugar syrup has nothing to do with margaritas at all.

Just for kicks, I looked up the ingredients for a popular brand of margarita mix. Ahem: "Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Benzoate, Cellulose Gum, Gum Acacia, Polysorbate 60, Natural Flavors, Glycerol Ester of Wood Rosin, Sodium Metabisulfate, Yellow 5, Blue 1." Is that what you want in your drink? Really? It's like a billion calories/grams of sugar/ooky chemicals AND it tastes shitty. It's a lose-lose, people.

Articles & recipes like this bug me because I think they speak to a larger issue re: our dysfunction with food as a society (or at least large segments of it). I am all about trying to eat and cook healthier most of the time, but personally I think this is best done by using fresh, unprocessed ingredients as much as possible, asking yourself whether the four pounds of cheese / butter / oil / etc. in the original recipe is really necessary (sometimes they are!), and having smaller portions of delicious, well-made food. I am NOT about trying to make food as artificially low-calorie as possible by using abominations like low-fat cheese and artificial sweeteners just so I can eat nine servings of it & not feel bad. And when I have a craving for something rich and decadent (like a cocktail, fancy dessert, or authentic Southern cooking), I believe in doing one of two things: 1) having and enjoying it in all its glory, or 2) owning that the calories are more important to me at that particular point in time & having something else.

And don't even get me started on this:

For a cocktail nerd, this is nothing short of blasphemy. A friend emailed the link to me earlier this week with the subject line "Angela-baiting." The first part of my response is not fit for polite conversation. The second part was, "Kill it with fire."

And now if you'll excuse me, I have to go make a real, genuine, non-food-dysfunctioned big-girl cocktail.


  1. I am marking this as one of my favorite blog posts of all time. You are hilarious and I couldn't agree with you more. I hope that you cocktail was good. :-)

  2. I'd add low fat/sugar free chocolate chip cookies and non-alcoholic beer to the list...there's just no good reason why these need to exist. Funny and well-written post :-)

    1. Thanks! Totally agree. I've had some pregnant friends lately who love beer & even they gave up on the stuff.

  3. Thank you! If people don't want the calories, they shouldn't cut a few calories and drink something that tastes horrible. Water actually tastes pretty good, so they should choose that option.

  4. Lol on this post!
    I went to a tequila tasting, and I believe the only ingredients we used was tequila, lime juice and agave nectar. Don't think we used triple sec. But to each their own!