3/22/2012 09:56:00 AM

Margarita Smackdown: Tasting 4 At-Home Mixes

Let the mix-off begin! 
So far for Mexican Food Week, we've delved into what your tequila says about you and tasted a margarita infused with kale. That's swell, but what about those nights when you want to have people over for a fiesta at your house (or, just have a fiesta for one, but that's too sad to talk about)? Of course you can make the margaritas from scratch, but there are plenty of pre-made mixes that help you because - well, we're not actually sure why people buy these things, because it's very easy to make a fresh margarita, but they are super popular.

We tasted four at-home mixes (including one owned by a certain reality-TV star) and tipsily jotted down our notes. For the purpose of this test, we made each margarita following the instructions on the back of the label, and used classic Cuervo tequila. Results below, ranked from best to worst:

No. 1: Mr. & Mrs. T's Margarita Mix 

Price: $5.19 a bottle
Calories: 100 per serving
Color: Lime green
Taste: Mr. & Mrs. T pity the fool that uses any other margarita mix - zing! OK, this label has nothing to do with the former member of the A-Team, but it is seemingly geared toward the "foodie" crowd, touting a "made from scratch taste" and nothing that it's "perfected with agave nectar." How artisanal! Well, until you turn the bottle over and see the ingredients: "Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup..."

Even so, this was by far the tastiest of the bunch - and the most visually appealing since it was topped off with that froth that all the best margs have. It was savory and tart - and didn't taste artificial at all, high-fructose corn syrup be damned! This boozy race was easy to call, as this was the only drink that we actually finished.

No. 2: Jose Cuervo's Classic Margarita Mix 

Price: $6.49 a bottle
Calories: 110 per serving
Color: If there was a crayon stuffed in the box dubbed "margarita green," this would be it.
Taste: We don't have the stats in front of us, but we assume that this is the most popular margarita mix, seeing that it's stamped with the "Cuervo" label and we remember drinking WAY too much this stuff back in college (after which we were about to swear off tequila for the rest of our existence).

This mix really lets the flavor of the spirit stand out - we called it agave with a splash of lime. It was the meatiest of the bunch, and would have went well with a sizzling plate of fajitas. Also, the label gets bonus points for being the only bottle to provide proper measurements to fill up a normal sized glass - 4.5 parts margarita mix to 1.5 parts tequila.

No 3.: Master of the Mixes "Light" Margarita Mix

Price: $4.99 
Calories: 10 per serving
Color: "There was just this alarm at the nuclear plant and now everything is glowing" green.
Taste: This low-cal option boasts that there's "no sugar added" and the ingredient list looks legit (aka no high-fructose corn syrup was snuck in). The "light" designation is surely meant to apply to the calories, but it can also describe the flavor. It was very airy and citrusy, not really like a margarita at all - more like a glass of Fresca with tequila in it. While it may not spice up your Mexican-themed party, it won't add to your beer/marg belly, so we think sipping this one on a summer day is just fine.

No. 4: Skinny Girl Margarita

Price: $12.99 a bottle (since this one already contains the hooch, we had to buy it at the liquor store)
Calories: Since spirit brands don't have to list their ingredients or calorie levels by law, who the hell knows?
Color: Though the bottle promises that "caramel" color has been added, this margarita was about as grey as the overcast skies in New York are right now.
The Flavor: As we all know, this is Bethenny Frankel's margarita label, and although it is easy to make fun of for all sort of reality-TV related reasons, we really went in with an open mind. Until we had that first sip. Is it possible for a pre-made drink to taste like cardboard? Well, this one came close. At least on the first sip, because after that it was essential flavorless.

This one has two things going for it: 1. it's super easy to make, you just pour it right out of the bottle and into your glass. 2. it's low in alcohol, ringing in at only 12.7%, which is about as high as a glass of red wine. Which means you can finish the entire bottle like you would the vino. If you're going to have one of those fiestas for one that we mentioned earlier, this is your go-to.


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