The History of the Margarita and How to Make It Right

Margaritas on the Rocks with Limes

It’s hard to say definitively who created the margarita, Mexico’s classic Tequila sour that has become one of the most beloved cocktails in the world. Stories of its origin are as numerous as the variations of the drink.

One story claims that the drink was created in 1938, as Mexican restaurant owner Carlos (Danny) Herrera mixed it for gorgeous Ziegfeld showgirl Marjorie King. Supposedly, Tequila was the only alcohol that King would abide, so Herrera added lime juice and salt.

Other claims include that Texas socialite Margaret Sames (a k a Margarita) mixed the first drink at a house party in Mexico during 1948. Or maybe it was named for actress Rita Hayworth (whose real name was Margarita Casino) during a gig in Tijuana in the 1940s.

In his book, Imbibe, cocktail historian David Wondrich agrees that the margarita was invented during the above timeframe. He says that the drink evolved from The Daisy, a classic cocktail popular at the time that mixed alcohol, citrus juice and grenadine, and served over shaved ice.

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The original recipe for the Tequila Daisy, he says, called for Tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice and a splash of soda. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that margarita means “daisy” in Spanish.

Today, the basic recipe is blanco Tequila (though reposado is a popular and delicious variation), mixed with lime juice and orange liqueur, often served in a glass with a salted rim.

The frozen margarita became popular in the 1950s, as blenders began to appear in bars. But it truly took off in in 1971, when Dallas restaurateur Mariano Martinez created the first frozen margarita machine. His original machine resides in the Smithsonian museum.

Another popular variation is the Tommy’s Margarita, which a growing number of bartenders profess is the best version of the drink. Julio Bermejo, the owner of the legendary Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco, is the expert behind this modern classic, which swaps in agave nectar to replace the standard orange liqueur.

  • Coarse salt, to rim glass
  • Lime wedge
  • 2 ounces blanco Tequila
  • 1 ounce orange liqueur
  • 1 ounce lime juice

Place salt in a dish. Moisten the rim of a rocks glass with the lime wedge. Roll rim of the glass in the salt to coat.

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine remaining ingredients. Shake well, and strain into the prepared glass over fresh ice.

Published on October 2, 2017