One part lime juice, two parts triple sec, three parts tequila. Shake, pour, enjoy.
It’s a formula that will be replicated over and over (and for some, over and over again) this Friday as Americans across the country celebrate Cinco de Mayo. The holiday, which marks our southern neighbor’s victory over invading French forces in the Battle of Puebla on the May 5, 1862, has gained popularity throughout the United States, with millions of revelers donning sombreros, clobbering piñatas and – of course – enjoying a couple margaritas. It’s quite the annual fiesta.
But did you know that that last critical component wouldn’t be possible without global trade? In fact, no matter how you take it – classic or flavored, frozen or on the rocks – every margarita you enjoy this week (and all summer long, for that matter) will likely feature several ingredients that were produced outside the United States. Sit back and sip on these statistics.
Let’s start with the signature ingredient, shall we? Our country imports nearly 40 million gallons of tequila from Mexico every year, representing about 80 percent of the country’s total annual exports of its signature liquor, and that figure is growing rapidly. In part, that’s thanks to a historic U.S.-Mexico tequila agreement signed in 2006 that enabled the continued bulk export of tequila over the border and into the American market. And for those counting, that 40 million gallons is enough tequila to make 3.4 billion standard margaritas.
It’s not just the garnish (though that’s pretty important, too). Nearly every margarita recipe calls for a healthy helping of lime juice – and here again, we would be out of luck without our neighbors to the south. Nearly 98 percent of the limes consumed in the U.S. now come from Mexico – though that wasn’t always the case. Back in the middle of the 20th century, southern Florida was home to a budding lime industry, but it was later wiped out by crop disease and a series of brutal hurricanes, leaving Mexico to support our demand for the sour fruit. Americans now consume 10 times more limes per person than we did in 1980.
What’s a margarita without a salt-lined rim? On this one, we have to thank our northern neighbors. The U.S. imports nearly 12 million tons of salt for consumption every year (valued at roughly $358 million), 5 million tons and $150 million worth of which comes from Canada. Never thought a Cinco de Mayo mainstay would be dependent on Canada, eh? Welcome to the world of global supply chains.
Strawberries and Mangoes
Looking for something a bit more fruity? You’re not alone. Flavored margaritas have skyrocketed in popularity, and they’re even more dependent on global trade. While the U.S. is the world’s largest producer of strawberries, we do not grow nearly enough to keep pace with our demand, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture research. So we import more than 350 million pounds of fresh strawberries and 224 million pounds of frozen ones every year, most of which are grown in Mexico.
Another increasingly popular variation? Look no further than mango-flavored margs (or mango-flavored anything, for that matter). Mango imports have exploded in recent years, with Americans consuming more than 19 million pounds of imported mangos last year, up nearly 50 percent over the past five years (13 million in 2010). Once again, most imported mangos come from Mexico, though a large share come from Peru and Ecuador, too.
Searching for an even more creative twist? Maybe it’s time to try a so-called “Coronarita;” that is, an upturned Corona (or another Mexican beer) plunged into an otherwise typical margarita. An increasingly common sight at Mexican restaurants and Cinco de Mayo parties, these concoctions wouldn’t be possible without global trade, either. In 2016, the U.S. imported nearly $2.9 billion of beer, and 2 million tons of that beer imported was Coronas and Modelos, making beer Mexico’s largest agricultural export to our country. So whether you enjoy your south-of-the-border brew the old fashioned way or upturned in the middle of a margarita, you can thank trade.
While we’re not sure how we feel about blending the green goodness into your margarita, there’s no shortage of recipes for just such a beverage on the Internet. Either way, no one is eating or drinking much guacamole without international trade. In 2014, 85 percent of the 4.25 billion avocados Americans consumed were imported from outside our borders, most of them coming from Mexico. That means 70 million of the roughly 80 million avocados Americans are expected to eat on Cinco de Mayo will come from outside the United States.
Oh, and for those of us who stick to the old fashioned chip-and-dip method, it’s worth noting that the vast majority of the tortilla chips you'll be plunging into your guac will come from inside the U.S., mostly from California.
So just remember, if you find yourself wasting away again in Margaritaville this Cinco de Mayo, you can thank international trade – particularly our friends in Mexico. Our relationship with our southern neighbor isn’t limited to one cocktail or one day of the year, though. U.S.-Mexico trade last year eclipsed $580 billion, with American businesses selling $236 billion in goods and about $31 billion in services to Mexico and Mexican businesses exporting $295 billion in goods and $22 billion in services to the United States.
So, here’s to our third largest goods trading partner (and second largest export market) in the world. ¡Salud!
About the authors
Former Executive Director, Communications and Strategy
J.D. Harrison is the former Executive Director for Strategic Communications at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.