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How To Make A Margarita In All Camping Situations


Pro tip: whenever I am cooking in a kitchen outside of my home, the only bread I will bring along is a big ol’ pile of tortillas. Loaves of bread are squishy, the demands of camp life are not always forgiving, and for reasons unknown to culinary types the world around, crushed bread quickly loses its flavor and appeal. On the upside, breakfast is usually in burrito form and dinner is always in burrito form—maybe tacos if I’m feeling crafty.

With so many tortillas on hand, one will eventually start to crave a margarita. One can also come to crave a margarita after a warm day spent soaking in the sun or after a job well done. 

No judgment, you do you. Like most casual margarita drinkers, I prefer to have them made for me—usually on the rocks in a ridiculously shaped drinking vessel with a salted rim. I also may or may not be sitting by (or in) a pool, on a beach, or enjoying a sufficient quantity of guacamole at the same time. As perfect as all of this may seem, there is a good chance you could do with a margarita in any number of places.

We had been camping in the mountains when the desire for a margarita struck, hard. The sun was setting on a hot day and the cast iron was frying up the requisite peppers and onions for the evening’s fajita feast. Since we were camping, tequila was easy to come by and someone had the foresight to bring triple sec. Fajitas were on the menu, so salt and lime were readily present. A quick rinse of that morning’s coffee cups and we were well on our way.

There is such a thing as a perfect margarita. I cannot tell you how to make it. Only you have the insight into knowing what is perfect. I’ve experienced margs dashed with everything from habanero peppers to chocolate sauce (not recommended). At the base of every recipe, you more or less have the following:

Ingredients: 

  • 1 part triple sec
  • 2 parts tequila
  • 2 parts lime juice
  • 3 parts water

Most will add some type of natural sweetener. Simple syrup or agave is preferred, Sweet & Low will work in an emergency. Sort of.

An essential ingredient to any margarita is the ice. When you are camping or on the road with your RV or doing any sort of travel off the grid, ice is hard to come by. Before the days of refrigeration, ice was shipped from halfway around the world or cut from lakes in the winter and held in uniquely vented rooms through the warmer months until the last, slushy bits melted off in the August heat. These were the days when ice was expensive and complicated—just like traveling on the road.

Yet, ice is essential to the margarita experience. On a warm day, how refreshing is a drink without ice? What are your options?

How far back is the last convenience store?

They might have ice. I strongly recommend a separate, dedicated cooler exclusively for your ice. There are few experiences more horrifying than ice which has rubbed elbows with your deli meat.

Have power, but no refrigerator?

Pull out the science books, pack along your bell jar, and hook up your vacuum pump. In the same vein of how a pressure cooker cooks, a vacuum chills—the lower the air pressure, the colder the air molecules.

In the same line of thinking: head up the hills.

Up the mountains. No, don’t stop here, keep going. It’s time to earn that margarita. Climb above treeline and to the places where glaciers exist year round. Endless ice. Better mix up another.

Are you the twisted type who doesn’t discern between a cold drink and an iced drink?

Find yourself a brook, creek, river, or lake with a shady shore and submerge your margarita (in an airtight container) below the water level. I hear this also works for beer cans.

Camping in the early spring or late fall?

Mix up your margs and leave them outside overnight. The dropping air temperature will chill your drinks overnight and pair perfectly with your morning meal. I suggest huevos rancheros or chilaquiles. If this happens on a Sunday morning, no one will bat an eye—it’s called brunch.

Survival demands creativity, but it shouldn’t require depriving yourself of the finer things in life. If all else fails, at least pack a lime to garnish your cerveza.

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