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[Photo: Carey Jones]

Want to get messed up? Head to Applebee's. This kid only had the apple juice, and blew a 0.10. And he didn't even finish his sippy cup. "Wow," I said to myself after reading that in the news; "That's the greatest thing since Four Loko. I need to get on that bandwagon!"

As a kid, I'd always ordered the riblets and a Cherry Coke at Applebee's. (Had I known then what I know now, I probably would have been pounding apple juice.) This time, now that I'm an adult (and a chain restaurant aficionado), it's all about their infamous margaritas. And there were plenty to choose from; we tried the Perfect Margarita, the Patron Perfect Margarita, the SkinnyBee Margarita, and the Main Street Rita.

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The SkinnyBee Margarita, made with a sugar-free mix, is reasonably lime-y but with a distinct artificial aftertaste; despite the Hornitos tequila the menu claims, it's basically diluted lime and aspartame.

Drinkability: Like a glass of water, but with an unpleasant aftertaste.

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But my faith in Applebee's returned with the Perfect Margarita. It's made with 1800 Reposado tequila, Cointreau, and Grand Marnier with their buzz-a-baby Perfect Margarita mix. Three virtues: it's tart, it's strong, and it's ample. Waiters serve an empty glass with a lime at the bottom, and pour the drink tableside out of a cocktail shaker. (On our first visit, the salt-rimmed glass had an olive instead of a lime. Oops?) They leave the shaker, which contains at least another full drink. From the first sip, I was pretty impressed. Citrusy, acidic, and strong, it wasn't too fruity or sugary.

Drinkability: Drink the rest? Don't mind if I do!

For comparison's sake, we also ordered the Patron Perfect Margarita, made with Patron Silver tequila, Patron Citronge, and margarita mix. Like its cousin, it's a powerful cocktail; if you don't like strong cocktails, stick to the apple juice, because the Patron Perfect is so boozy it borders on unbalanced. It's not a refined cocktail, but I still loved it. For once, a chain served me a stiff drink.

Drinkability: Professionals only; others, beware.

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More typical of this sort of chain was the Main Street Rita, a frozen margarita with Sauza Gold in strawberry-mango or wildberry-mango flavors. Though again, not too light on the booze, this one was far too sweet, and reminded me of the smoothies with a drop of liquor that Red Lobster served me. I'd shy away from this one.

Drinkability: Strong enough, but cloying.

The Hangover Report

Applebee's is a Cheap Buzzer's paradise; I was so loopy at the end of my visits, I could barely put my credit card back in my wallet.

Frankly, they ought to strip the whole drink menu down to the Perfect Margaritas, and launch an ad campaign: "Applebees, Our Margaritas Get You Drunk." I'm excited that there's one within walking distance of my apartment.

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