When life takes away your limes, make margaritas with the lemons. Or clementines. Or even a little-known fruit called tamarind.
And life, it seems, is taking away our limes. Recently, news broke that lime prices were climbing sky-high. Late last year, heavy rains washed budding blossoms off lime trees in Mexico, the United States’ largest supplier of limes.
Fighting and hijacking of lime trucks by members of the violent Knights Templar cartel, compounded by farmers’ refusal to pay extortion fees to the cartel enforcers, have meant prices for the green citrus from Mexico have quadrupled, reports say.
In early February, a 40-pound carton of limes cost about $25 from most wholesale suppliers. By late March, the price rose to $100 a carton.
Never mind all the other stuff you make with limes — these developments, we immediately thought, were going to spell serious trouble for those of us who enjoy margaritas as the official drink of warm weather.
“The price of cases of limes we purchase has gone up about four times what it normally costs us, and we’re buying from the wholesale supplier,” said Brad Hensarling, owner of The Usual Bar in Fort Worth.
Reports say some restaurants around the country are raising margarita prices, eliminating limes as garnishes or — ay caramba! — ceasing to serve them. (In North Texas, that would be a sin.)
Hensarling said that even though the freeze is costing his industry, he is determined to maintain the quality of the cocktails offered at The Usual. So he and other mixologists around town are experimenting with alternative margarita flavors.
Usually lemon juice is a close replacement for lime juice, and The Usual already offers a lemon-juice-based drink, the Jimador’s revenge, that closely resembles the flavor of a traditional margarita, he said.
Ryan Fussell, bar manager at The Bird Café, said he considers the lime shortage an opportunity to rediscover a close cousin of this cocktail. The paloma, which is Spanish for “the dove,” he said, is from the same cocktail family as the margarita, known as “the daisy.”
“The traditional paloma uses three parts grapefruit juice to one part lime juice, tequila, and then soda water,” said Fussell, adding that The Bird Café’s paloma adds richness with its pineapple juice, a sweetness countered by chile-infused liqueur.
Purists will say, of course, that a true margarita could only be one made with juice from real limes.
But, as they say, desperate times call for desperate measures
With Cinco de Mayo less than a month away, find that lost shaker of salt and start your happy hour early with one of these creative margarita alternatives from local mix-masters that won’t leave you feeling nickeled and limed.