In the limelight

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The margarita was invented by a Mexican bartender with time and lime on hand. He shook up tequila, lime juice and orange liqueur and handed it to a charming patron. Then named the drink after her: Margarita.

Or not. Maybe it was invented in Texas. Or San Diego. Or Isla de Margarita, in Venezuela. It might have paid homage to a Maggie, Margaret, Marjorie or Rita. Perhaps its daisy-fresh flavor inspired its name, daisy. Or tipped its salty rim to an earlier brandy drink, the daisy.

Each cocktail commands its own creation myth. And corresponding creation debate.

Whatever its past, the margarita corners a big chunk of bar menu present, from straight up lime/triple sec/tequila to frothy, frozen, fruit-infused froufrou, with salt.

Margarita has expanded its duties in the metaphor sector, standing in for south-of-the-border, for downtime and for party. Swank work if you can get it.

Margarita also serves as shorthand for the sweet combination of lime and orange, which recently dropped in on my ice-cream bowl. I found the bright citrus/luscious cream contrast strikingly delicious. And even better spiked with tequila.

Margarita ice cream

Prep: 25 minutes
Freeze: 1 hour
Makes: 3 cups

Ingredients:
5 or 6 limes
1 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons orange-juice concentrate
2 tablespoons triple sec
1 tablespoon tequila
1/4 teaspoon fine salt

Zest:
Finely grate the zest from 2 limes. Halve and juice all the limes; measure out ½ cup juice. Save any additional juice for serving.

Mix:
Whisk sugar into lime juice. Whisk in remaining ingredients.

Churn:
Pour cream mixture into an ice cream maker and churn thick. Pack into a plastic container, cover and freeze firm, 1 or more hours.

Serve:
Scoop into small bowls, or, for effect, margarita glasses rimmed with reserved lime juice and salt.

Provenance:
My friend Debbie served this after a Mexican meal. Hers was "virgin," but I followed food writer Nigella Lawson's lead and spiked it.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at leahreskin@aol.com.
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