The Shackboy Labor Day Marg
I love the characters in our world. They color things, make everything interesting, and so often dwell on the fringe. Maybe it was a compliment when my friend, The Chief, got lectured by his father: “When are you drifters gonna move out of the gray area and join the human race!”
Another such character, The Danimal – Dan Gambino, more formally – and I have a connection first forged in beer, climbing, and the Big Lebowski. And, as such, Labor Day weekend seems an appropriate time for this post, given our mutual lack of labor back in the Shack days.
We’d met at my wedding, when he crashed it. He was friends with my buddy Pete, who invited Dan, who then bivied in mine and my soon-to-be-then wife’s house and puked in one of our gift boxes – though he denies it and blames Pete, who denies and blames Dan. No wonder the marriage didn’t work.
We became Shack Brothers in 2000, when we both lived in what was once publicly decried – in front of a packed banquet at some fancy-pants climbers’ dinner – as a “foul pit of climbing ambition and dirty dishes.” Yes, the storied local guide’s shack in Estes Park. The Almighty Shack to us. PBR cans and trash littered the floor, daylight shone through the gaps in the wall, and the mice and rats so infested our humble abode that, at times, I’d hear the Danimal going ballistic, chasing them around and hurling food cans at them. Every evening, after work our fellow climbing guides came to hang, swill PBR (for the record: this was long before frat boys and hipsters glommed onto PBR as a cool slummin’ brand), and tell outrageous stories about their day.
[The Danimal in action, circa 2000. Photo: Kelly Cordes]
No running water and no central heat (we forgot to buy firewood – scarce and expensive around here, unless you buy early – and the stove was a five-star fire hazard anyway), but the price was right: $65 per month each. That equals a lot of climbing time. We used the yard as a urinal, the window as a compost pile, and lived there for a year, both of us cold and single (surprise, surprise). When we were politely asked to leave, the owners gutted and renovated it, and nobody blamed them.
I moved across town to the Chicken Coop (a bit small at 7x11 square feet, but per square inch it was a far nicer) for another three years, and Dan got married. He’s now a photographer, a stay-at-home dad to an adorable little girl, and he’s still the Danimal. Maybe just a slightly refined version.
Reminiscing about the Shack days makes me think about friends, and how bonds form. It feels connected to living passionately – whether in a shack or something nicer (like the Coop) – and to a long weekend like this, when we spend time with people we enjoy (or with the in-laws), do things we love, and – as we have since the beginning of time – enjoy tasty beverages as a celebration of all things important.
The Shackboy Marg
The Shackboy marg, or, this weekend, the Labor Day marg, is nothing more than my basic margarita. Nothing too fancy, nothing too nasty. Easy to make, and it’s solid.
No swill margs made with nasty sours mix and rot-gut Juarez tequila here. At the same time, I am a climber, which means I’m also cheap.
Hornitos reposado tequila (by Sauza) makes for a great marg. Not too expensive, not good enough for sipping, but damn good for margs. A great value, too – probably $3–5 more per liter bottle than Cuervo Gold, but exponentially better than that spring-break belly-shots junk, which isn’t even real tequila, really. I mean, OK, so to be real tequila it has to be at least half agave. Any tequila worth a damn is 100% agave. I think Cuervo Gold must be 51% agave, 49% paint thinner. Don’t be fooled. An agave plant fermenting in your clothes hamper would be better than that swill. The step-up to Hornitos is well worth it.
Side note: no matter how cheap, always get 100% agave tequila. Granted, we are in a recession, but just how much value do you place on true happiness?
Not needed with higher-end tequila, but it helps smooth-out the mid-range and below stuff. I go cheap on the Triple Sec: DeKuyper, Hiram Walker, whatever. On special occasions – say, special episode of Cops on TV – I go big and use Cointreau, but it’s way pricey.
Do two parts tequila, one part triple sec. That’s half your marg.
Mix: Minute Maid Limeade mix and Water
First, a rule: Never use sours mix. It’s an abomination that can ruin an otherwise good marg. If desperate, you’re better off with some pre-bottled mix (it’s nasty by comparison, but Freshies makes half-decent mixes; or use Simply Lime juice). So, if you aren’t using fresh limes and simple syrup (see my last marg recipe), then the best mix isn’t a “marg mix” at all: it’s Minute Maid frozen concentrate Limeade mix. Don’t go generic on this one – get the Minute Maid. Go big. It’s worth the extra 50 cents. BUT – and this is key – don’t follow the on-label instructions. Here’s your correct Marg Mix Ratio (learned years ago from my friends at Ed’s Cantina, who make great margs – which is important to note, because you can’t always trust the margs at restaurants, as some use sours mix and rank swill tequila):
2 cans water : 1 can mix.
There, that’s the other half of your marg.
Half tequila, half mix. Add a splash of OJ. Shake it all together. Salt the glass, ice, enjoy.
A couple of things to remember, for the uninitiated:
•Real men don’t drink blended margs. On the rocks, with salt.
•Shaken, not stirred.
•I know I said this last time, but it’s worth repeating, especially since we’re just getting started: no umbrella.
[Above, right - A standard evening in the Shack. Photo: Dan Gambino. Bottom - Kelly climbing in his backyard, at Lumpy Ridge, Colorado. Photo: Dan Gambino]