Landing at No. 47 on the Forbes list of Celebrity 100 Earnings, Jimmy Buffett‘s hardly a beach bum. Yet, the beloved singer has managed to create a $51 million empire selling that laid-back vibe at branded restaurants, hotels and retirement communities, all “inspired by the lyrics and lifestyle of Jimmy Buffett.” We recently stopped by Margaritaville Beach Hotel in Pensacola Beach, Florida, to try the famous signature cocktail.
Getting in the spirit
Margaritaville sits on 800 feet of gulf-front, about 10 miles from historic downtown Pensacola. Wander in the lobby, and there’s a gift-shop selling all sorts of merch designed with Parrotheads in mind. Even before checking in, you can splurge on a “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere” beach chair or a colorful T-shirt that reads: “When Life Gives You Limes, Make Margaritas!” Jimmy Buffet album covers hang throughout the lobby and there are plenty of reminders of his large catalog of hits. The featured restaurant is named Frank & Lola… Love Pensacola from Buffett’s 1985 Last Mango in Paris album.
While Frank & Lola and its bar enjoy amazing water views, if you want to get the true beach treatment, head to nearby LandShark Landing. This all-ages venue has loads of outdoor seating among the famous white sand, including a few hammocks. Inside, it’s a lively atmosphere with surfboards and various nautical flotsam hanging from the ceiling and a long list of tiki drinks to consider. Anchoring that lineup are half a dozen variations of margarita including a rendition featured on Radio Margaritaville that contains coconut water and coconut cream. (Which sounds a lot more like a Pina Colada, doesn’t it?)
A friendly bartender was doing a spectacular job juggling various orders, but mixed up a classic margarita as if it was the most important beverage he’d made all day. Maestro Dobel Diamante and Milagro Silver Tequila were poured over ice in a cocktail shaker, followed by a splash of orange liqueur and a generous shot of fresh lime juice. A quick shake and the mixture was poured over ice, a lime wedge on the side. Because it’s served in a plastic glass, the salt rim disappeared as soon as the margarita hit the ice. The bartender offered another, freshly salted glass, and a couple sips in, it was clear this was a fine $10 drink. Nothing life-changing, but perfectly well-balanced so it didn’t taste too tart or too boozy. And like most margaritas worth their salt, it packed a punch strong enough to trigger cravings for a cheeseburger in paradise.
Thirsty for more? Read about a special trip to Mexico in search of a famous margarita.