Margarita Economics: The Cartel, The Rain, and More Reasons to Drink

The margarita tasting.

Four margaritas made with different mixes of lime juice await the big T-lish taste test.

A good restaurant is made up of quality service, food, and vibes. At our best, we’re in control of these three elements. However, the price of the food that we buy in order to prepare your dinner is out of our jurisdiction.

Food prices are dependent on so many zingers—supply and demand, weather patterns, bug infestations, crop disease. And even, apparently, Mexican drug cartels. This brings me to limes, the fruit that we count on more than pretty much anything else at Tacolicious. Limes garnish our tacos, brighten up our guacamole, and add zip to our salad dressings. But most of all, they are integral to our margaritas.

Which is why we’re wringing our hands right now. According to CNN Mexico, the price of Mexican limes has increased over 143 percent since December. We don’t need to read the news to know this. When the crops are plentiful, a case of limes costs us about $15 to $20 per case. Right now, it’s brinking on $120. (Take into consideration that at our four restaurants, we use up to 150 cases a week. At this rate, that’s $72,000 worth of limes a month.)

There are a couple of key reasons for this price hike. As Tacolicious’s director Mike Garcia retold it from our produce vendor, one of them is winter crop damage: “When it started to rain in Mexico, it wiped out all four regions of limes, which are rotated in order to let the limes regrow, and left them with only a ten percent yield from each region. Thus, little supply and a lot of demand.”

Teetotalers, optimists, and environmentalists, skip the next paragraph. Self-serving, shallow, doomsday-driven margarita lovers, read on.

(Of course, this is particularly worrisome because the world’s weird weather patterns are likely due to global warming. Thus, with the world’s end nigh, we need to drink as many margaritas as possible before we all perish!! This is a serious predicament.)

Add to this the reality of the influence of drug cartels on farmers. Sadly, farmers in the state of Michoacan, where the majority of Mexico’s limes are grown, are facing extortion and worse from the Knights Templar. To learn more, you can listen to this interview on NPR with Gustavo Arellano. This article on Bloomberg speaks to the issue of farmers banding together to establish a minimum price, which is another piece of the puzzle. 

So, in keeping with our belief that transparency is everything, here’s our quandry: Do we raise the price of our Tacolicious house margarita, made with solely freshly-squeezed Mexican lime juice (and tequila and agave syrup, of course), from its current price of $9.50 to $12.50? Or do we try to come up with a thoughtful—temporary—solution while this lime crisis plays itself out? In this case, a mix of 50 percent flash-pasteurized fresh lime juice from local juice company Voila!, 25 percent freshly squeezed lime juice, and 25 percent freshly squeezed lemon juice. We did a margarita taste test, pictured above, made of a few different lime-y combinations to come up with this mix and we think it has great integrity and is quite tasty to boot.

Ultimately, our first priority is your happiness. So rather than give you the impression that we’re presenting unfair prices or cocktails that aren’t up to our usual snuff, we’ve decided to give you a choice.

In honor of having it your way, we’re now offering two margaritas: For our usual $9.50, you can order the margarita de la casa, made with our lime concoction. And for $12.50, you purists can order the margarita de la cartel made with 100 percent freshly-squeezed Mexican lime juice, which maybe we should call the margarita del dia del jucio final. But if worse comes to worse, take solace in the fact that there is a simple answer: you can start drinking your tequila straight.






Bartender Danny Louie Is in the House

I Thought it Was Apple

I Thought it Was Apple

After five-plus years as the brains behind the Alembic bar program, Danny Louie has decided to make the move from the head shops of the Haight to the hipsters of the Mission. Louie will join Joe and Mike to create the bar program at Chino, our soon-to-be Mission dumpling and noodle spot.

Until Chino opens its doors this spring, you can find Danny bartending at Mosto on Tuesdays.

Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 9.31.34 AM

Look for this guy.

For Mosto, Danny is creating some inventive new tequilacentric cocktails that can stand up to time-tested drinks like the Paloma. Our personal favorite? The “I Thought it was Apple,” a cocktail with a sweetness balanced by a tartness that nips at you … not unlike the Granny Smith variety. Yet, the mystery is that there’s no apple in it all, unless you count the slice that we float on top just to throw you off the trail. In truth, there’s only tequila, orgeat, lime, and Becherovka—an equally curious Czech herbal liqueur. Though unlike something like chartreuse, Becherovka wasn’t developed by monks, but rather quite the opposite—it was concocted by some Austrian-Hungarian distiller who had a couple wives and 16 kids. According to the lore of Wikipedia, at least.

Pop into Mosto on Tuesdays to find Danny mixing, stirring, and chatting. If you ask, he might clue you in on some of his plans for the cocktails at Chino. Or, he might just choose to keep it a mystery.


Chinito (don julio blanco, apple spice, green tea, shiso)

A Bitter Tomorrow

A Bitter Tomorrow (arette reposado, madeira, gran classico)

Green Hornet

The Green Hornet (don julio reposado, green chartreuse, coconut, jalapeño, lime)

Import Export_2

Import Export (7 leguas anejo, cognac, absinthe, gum syrup, bitters)

Giving Back to Public Schools to the Tune of $264,652.76

kids collage

It’s been three years now since we started up our Tacolicious School Project. Every Monday for a month’s time we give 15 percent of our proceeds to a neighboring public school.

We can’t believe how it’s grown. With four locations now, we’ve been able to increase the amount we give back by a lot, more than doubling our fundraising efforts in a year’s time. In 2013 alone, we raised $176,687 (that’s an average of $3800 per school per month). In total, we’ve raised $264,652.76.

The year of the horse—2014—is upon us now. And we’re going to gallop ahead! (Sorry, Joe and I are in Taipei as I write and with all the Chinese New Year decorations around us, I couldn’t help myself.)

Whether or not you’re a parent with kids in public schools or just craving a taco, we hope you’ll continue to come out on Mondays to support education. We can’t do it without you.

Here’s the schedule so far for the year Should you have questions or want to suggest a San Francisco or Palo Alto-based public school that we should work with, please contact Casey Barks at

Chestnut: Claire Lilienthal Elementary
Valencia: Cesar Chavez Elementary
North Beach: Galileo High
Palo Alto: Costano

Chestnut: TBD
Valencia: Leonard Flynn Elementary
North Beach: Yick Wo Elementary
Palo Alto: Addison Elementary

Chestnut: TBD
Valencia: SF Community School
North Beach: Spring Valley Elementary