One town over from me, there used to be a terrific little Mexican place with some of the best blue corn tortillas I have ever had. Technically, the menu said it was a New Mexican restaurant, but I don’t think I ever asked if that meant the cuisine was from the state of New Mexico, or just a version of Mexican food that was new somehow. I’m not sure there’s a difference, really, but I’ve lost my chance to ask and now describing the restaurant in retrospect is a syntactical nightmare.
That’s because it’s gone! Or, more accurately, I guess, the menu is gone, along with anyone who had any stake in explaining it to me. The building is still there, and there’s a sign on it, but it says something different now. I can’t remember what it says, but I distinctly remember it being stupider than it used to be. Whatever it is, I don’t like it. It’s, like, “Rancheritos” or something. I forget.
The interior of the place is essentially unchanged as well. It’s still about 65 percent fancier than any taqueria should have any reason to be, complete with a massive, Trump-like chandelier and several ornate glass display cases for holding tequila bottles shaped like crystal skulls, naturally — now empty. It looks like the upscale place I remember, if a couple of guys ran in and robbed ‘em blind the night before. It wasn’t me, though. I have an alibi. I will email it to you at a later date. Moving on.
So it was with great skepticism and hesitation that I dove into the newly reimagined — and what you could perhaps kindly refer to as spartan — single-page menu, looking for anything that seemed even moderately artisanal, to no avail. I think I got tacos. They were terrible.
Knowing what I had gotten myself into (I was the genius who insisted we go for what I thought would be New (New?) Mexican over the loud protests of my family), I bravely trudged onward and ordered the old standby Coronarita. If you don’t know what that is, or think I hamfisted my attempt at typing “Coronita,” here’s the Dave & Buster’s CoronaRita recipe, which I found on a bartender study website:
Dave & Buster’s Coronita
3 ounces Margarita Mix
1 ¼ ounces Sauza Blue Agave
¾ ounce Triple Sec
Glass: Poco Grande
Squeeze lime drop in glass.
Fill glass with shaved ice 3/4.
Fill mixing glass with ice.
Shake and pour.
(You can go to that site and click on the recipe and the computer will read it out loud to you, for reasons that I have thus far been completely unable to divine. It is fun, though.)
Now, with the exception of whatever a Poco Grande glass is, that recipe should look fairly familiar to you. It is, of course, your average Margarita. It’s a Margarita at a chain restaurant more known for 75,000 ticket teddy bears than anything you can eat, so it is obviously a little on the sweet side, but still, the essential components are present and accounted for. There is the matter of the Coronita, however, and we will get to that in just a moment.
My Coronarita, such as it was, did not come in a Poco Grande glass, and I can say that with confidence despite not having any idea what a Poco Grande glass looks like due to the fact that the glass my Coronarita came in would never have a name. No one would think to call it anything but “cup.”
Its basin was a massive cube, and the snaking stem was as thick as a linebacker’s neck. Without a straw, drinking out of the thing would have made it look like I was being inducted into some kind of secret order. I could have worn it as a helmet. It was a massive drink, made all the more imposing by the flag-like Coronita proudly jutting out from its murky depths. I enthusiastically drowned my subpar tacos in it.
The Coronita, if you don’t know, is a small beer. It’s a small Corona, to be exact, and only sometimes is it actually that, to be even more exact. In Spain, at least, a regular-sized Corona is known as a Coronita, making the branding for the ubiquitous, mixer-appropriate 7-ounce miniature bottles some demonymic bastardization I can barely guess at. They say it’s because there’s already booze called Corona there, but if you ask me, the guys who gave us the Spanish Empire shouldn’t get a say in who gets to barge into new places and call stuff other stuff.
So, does the baby beer make the Margarita any better? No. I don’t think so. It adds some bubbles, and it “refills itself,” in the sense that you can keep sucking liquid into your mouth when the Margarita is gone. I’d argue that that’s just a different drink and not a refill, but then we’re getting back into the marketing thing again and the Spanish guys are gonna get mad.
The Coronarita has spawned a cottage industry of bespoke “Margarita Clips” — pieces of plastic whose sole function and utility is to hold the neck of a specific type of small beer at a particular angle into a single style of cocktail at a certain types of restaurant. Depending on what side of the job creation/ecological preservation line you’re on, that’s either really cool to you, or powerfully depressing. So maybe it makes the world a little better, or a little worse.
If you’re like me, you’re leaning toward the latter, and that’s even before you realize that your server is going to forget the stupid little clip half the time, which results in you watering down your own drink manually and knowing a dinosaur died 75 million years ago to get turned into a thing sitting behind the bar that you can’t go get yourself even though you can see it from your damn chair. What’s the point of this, anyway? You should have ordered a beer and a shot, and no food, and gone home and slept through the night with the TV on. This Easter sucks!
I think I don’t like the Coronarita very much.
But sober up for a minute, and you realize: It’s kind of the best of a bad bunch. By which I mean, I am hard-pressed to recall any gimmicky cocktails that are even marginally tastier or more impressive than sticking an upside-down beer into a comically huge Margarita. Let’s review a handful.
Bahama Mama (Applebee’s, Red Lobster)
1.5 ounces light rum
.5 ounce coconut rum
.5 ounce Banana Liqueur
1.5 ounces pineapple juice
1.5 ounces orange juice
I’ve had a few Bahama Mamas, sure. I admit to that. I also admit to having accidentally spit out my gum onto the floor, picking it up, blowing it off, and chewing it again. That is some context for my opinion of the Bahama Mama.
Sangarita (Olive Garden)
1.5 liters Soleo red table wine
10 ounces grenadine
16 ounces cranberry juice cocktail
12 ounces sweet vermouth
10 ounces simple syrup (5 ounces sugar diluted in 5 ounces water)
It’s unclear to me if this mixture is ever offered frozen, but the image of a big cup of wine with ice cubes floating in it has filled me with acute dread and proximate shame. Wine already has alcohol in it, by the way. You don’t have to put more alcohol into it. In fact, I think most vintners and cab drivers would prefer that you did not.
Pink Punk Cosmo (TGI Friday’s)
1 ¾ ounces Smirnoff vodka
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce cranberry juice
1 whole lime
1 strip lemon peel
Pour over cotton candy
Cotton candy is not even that good right out of the machine. Have you ever seen one of those machines, at a kid’s birthday party or horrible adult’s birthday party? It’s essentially a big fan that threads together superfine strands of special sugar. You can pull the top off of it and reach in and try not to cut your hand off with the big fan while grabbing some of the goopy, sticky pink crap that tastes like nothing and ruins your clothes. It’s really great, and if it gets wet, it either turns into concrete or evaporates into thin air. I’m not sure which, but I’m not paying $11.20 to find out.
Spiked Grasshopper Shake (Red Robin)
Mint Brownie Shake
Chewy Brownie Pieces
Sure, the classic combination of vodka and a brownie together once again. How could you not love that? Just slice off a big hunk of brownie and dunk it in some Smirnoff. This is dessert now.
Out of those “Signature Cocktails,” what sounds better to you? What most resembles something you could both order and drink with a straight face, and not as a gag or if you’re a blogger trying to come up with a story? It’s the Coronarita. It’s always been the Coronarita. Through thick and thin, through New Mexican and Old, it’s the gimmick cocktail you can count on.
Actually, just get a regular Margarita. Sorry.