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Bartenders with blenders

Andrew Harley

It’s a salt-rimmed showdown at Sanctuary in Vail on April 9, as local bartenders compete in Taste of Vail’s Margarita Mix-Off.

It’s a Taste of Vail tradition to put on a cocktail mixer that showcases local bartenders, and this year the margarita has received the nod.

“We have seven different bartenders from the top restaurants in the valley,” said Taste of Vail Seminar Coordinator Jim Lay. “They can make their signature margaritas, or they can come up with one that they think they can win with.”



Toasted as “tasty tequila,” the history of the margarita is as hazy as a person who has downed a few.

Among the popular histories is the story of Texan Margarita Sames, who, in 1948, hosted a pool-side party at her vacation home in Acapulco, Mexico, during which, she combined three parts tequila,



one part lime and one part Cointreau.

Another colorful legend about the margarita’s roots allegedly dates back to 1938 when a showgirl named Marjorie King, who was allergic to most alcohol but not tequila, was visiting Rancho Del Gloria Bar in Rosarita Beach, Mexico. She asked bartender Danny Herrera to mix her a cocktail with tequila. Herrera poured it over shaved ice, added lemon and triple sec and translated Marjorie’s name into Spanish and called it “Margarita.”

Regardless of history, the Margarita Mix-Off is sure to feature some drinks as good as the first margarita.



“I ran the seminar the first year this started, I backed off and now I’m back on board this year,” said Lay.

The bartenders competing in the Margarita Mix-Off will be provided El Tesoro Platinum tequila, blenders, ice, shakers and glassware. Bartenders will be allowed to bring garnishes and fruit juices, purees, infusions and other products designed to enhance the taste of their margaritas.

“It’s a chance to showcase some of the best talent for bartenders in the valley, their specialties and what they’re known for and what their restaurants are known for,” said Lay.

The winners of the competition’s “People’s Choice Award” will receive a bottle of El Tesoro tequila, which is worth about $140. And braggin rights.

Tequila, the key ingredient in a margarita, has a clearer history. Tequila was born in the 16th century when the Spanish came to Mexico and began to experiment with the fermentation of agave plants. By the time the 17th century rolled around, tequila was being produced in a town called, of course, Tequila.

“(The Mix-Off) is a chance for people to try margaritas they may not have had before. If someone has a mango or a raspberry margarita, it’s something different and unique,” said Lay.


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