Where Was The Margarita Invented? Margarita is a widely-enjoyed and loved cocktail and it may even be called the most known tequila-based cocktail. Margarita has a lot of variants and is often served in bars, restaurants, parties and resorts as an alcoholic beverage.
In this article, we will explore everything about the margarita but most importantly the very debatable origin of the margarita’s existence.
1. What is Margarita?
Margarita is an alcoholic drink made of tequila, lemon juice and triple-sec orange liqueur. It is usually served on the rocks (with ice) or frozen (blended with ice). It is a widely versatile drink, it can possess several flavours.
Margarita has a balanced taste of sweet, tangy and sour flavours. The tequila has a fruity, earthy and sharp taste from the agave nectar which blends well with the orangy taste of sweet liqueur and contrasts well with the citrus, subtly spicy taste of the citrus juice.
Margaritas are served in a salt-rimmed glass quite often as salt enhances the flavour, adding to the contrast of the sweet and sour tastes.
The alcohol content in a margarita cocktail varies from a virgin margarita with 0% alcohol to a super-sized margarita with 55% alcohol. The average alcohol content remains around 18-25%.
2. The Ingredients And The Recipe of Margarita
To get to know better about margarita, we will take a quick dive into its making.
A Classic Margarita just has the very core elements of the margarita without variations. The ingredients of it are as follows:
- 2 oz (60 ml) tequila
Usually, silver or blanco tequila is used for margaritas.
- 1 oz (30 ml) triple sec or any orange liqueur
Brands like Cointreau and Grand Marnier are used for orange liqueur in margaritas.
- 1 oz (30 ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
- Ice cubes
- Salt (for rimming the glass)
- Lime wedges (for garnish)
Note that the quantity can differ according to the need and variants of margarita. But for a classic margarita, the tequila, orange liqueur and lime juice are ideally taken in a ratio of 2:1:1. The first published original recipe of the Margarita describes it as “one-ounce tequila, a dash of triple sec and the juice of half a lime or lemon”.
2.2. The Recipe
Making a margarita is quite simple, the process is not complex. Here is how one can prepare a classic margarita.
- Rimming the Glass
The very first step is to rim the glass. A margarita glass is the most commonly used for serving margaritas. A margarita glass or cocktail glass looks like an open, wide but shallow bowl with a long, narrow stem.
The glass’s rim is rubbed with a lime wedge. This is usually to moisten the rim. Salt is also added to the rim but inverting the rim on a plate of salt so that the rim of the glass gets coated with it. Although, salt is optional.
- Coming to the Cocktail
The next step involves filling a mixer or shaker glass with ice cubes and then tequila, triple sec and fresh lime juice are added to it in the desired ratio.
- Shaking the Drink
Shaker glass is covered with a lid and it is shaken for 10-15 seconds. This helps to mix the ingredients well.
- Straining and Serving
The mixture is poured into the margarita glass with ice cubes. It may be served with blended ice as well. That would give it a smooth, slushy texture.
- Garnishing the Drink
A slice of lemon is tucked into the rim of the glass to give it an appealing, fresh look.
3. The Dubious History of The Margarita
There are several stories and tales about the history of the Margarita’. A lot of claims of different people having invented it. Its origin also lies in several places across. It is commonly known that the Mexicans invented margaritas but there’s a more complex, obscure history to it.
3.1. Tequila Daisy
This goes way back to 1936. The first connection to the existence of the margarita lies with its name.
This account of the margarita’s possible origin resides in an account of a trip by James Graham, the owner and editor of the newspaper Moville Mail. In an article titled “Graham’s Sightseeing”, Graham talked about his trip to Tijuana, Mexico with his wife where he visited one of the bars that survived the Prohibition era. An Irishman called Madden ran the bar. Graham and his wife were informed of Madden’s famous drink-mixing skills and the “Tequila Daisy” by their taxi driver.
Curious, Graham interrogated Madden about the Tequila Daisy and he was told the drink was invented by accident. The Irishman told Graham, “In mixing a drink, I grabbed the wrong bottle and the customer was so delighted that he called for another and spread the good news far and wide.”
Why is this important? Well, because Margarita is the Spanish word for ‘daisy’. Daisies are the cocktails where a base spirit, liqueur, and citrus are used. If you replace the usually used brandy in daisy with tequila, you might as well get Margarita.
16 years before the first mention of the Margarita, in 1937, the Cafe Royal Cocktail Book by William J. Tarling, published in the UK mentions Picador. The recipe and the ratio of elements used in Picador are way too similar to the Margarita.
3.3. Tequila Sour
In World Famous Cotton Club: 1939 Book of Mixed Drinks, Charlie Connolly mentions a drink called Tequila Sour. The recipe is even more similar to the Margarita than Picador as it was served with a wedge of lime and salt rim.
3.4. The First Mention of the Margarita
In Michael Demarest’s article titled “Memo from Mike” which was published in The Press Democrat on 17th September 1953, we find the first mention of tequila daisy or tequila sour as it is known today: Margarita. Mike mentions a meal in Ensenada where he had a Margarita.
Later that year in December, Esquire mentioned the recipe for the Margarita in their issue.
4. Where Was The Margarita Invented?
There are several folktales surrounding the invention of the Margarita, some may be true, some quite not. Nobody can tell which claims are true because none are supported with credible proof. In this section, let’s look at some of these stories about the invention of the Margarita.
4.1. Bertha’s Bar
A Mexican folklore expert, Sara Morales, claimed that Dona Bertha created the margarita way back in 1930 at her bar, Bertha’s Bar located in Taxco, Mexico.
4.2. Agua Caliente Racetrack
Another story is that David Daniel Danny Negrete made the first margarita for his girlfriend who liked salt in her drinks and gave it to her as a gift. At that time he worked as a manager at Hotel Garci Crespo in Tehuacan, Puebla, Mexico in 1936.
He relocated to Tijuana in 1944 and bartended at the Agua Caliente Racetrack which is also referred to as Margarita’s birthplace.
4.3. The Tail O’ The Cock
The cocktail historian, David Wondrich, has questioned the accuracy of the following story but he believes that the story isn’t entirely fabricated.
In 1937, Vernon O. Underwood worked as a salesman at Young’s Market Company. The company he worked at was Jose Cuervo’s LA distributor. He allegedly asked Johnny Durlesser, the head bartender of The Tail O’ The Cock, to come up with a new drink.
Another version of this story says that the drink was already invented and he checked it.
It was said that Underwood named the drink after his wife, Margaret but his wife’s real name was Adrienne.
Apparently, Underwood said, “No name had been given to it. We named it. They were serving a tequila drink at The Tail O’ The Cock, but really it was more or less nameless. We and the owner of the restaurant named it the Margarita.”
4.4. Rancho La Gloria
One of the earliest stories about the invention of margaritas is from 1938. Carlos “Danny” Herrera apparently invented the margarita at his restaurant Rancho La Gloria which is located between Tijuana and Rosarito. Marjorie King, a guest of his and former dancer, was allergic to many spirits but not to tequila. Carlos used the original tequila shot and added Cointreau, lime, and the unique salt rim to it to make the margarita. He allegedly named the drink after her.
This story was later debunked by San Diego Reader in 1992.
4.5. Rita de la Rosa
José Cuervo, one of the best-selling brands of tequila, claims another story. According to the company, the Margarita was invented in 1938 in honour of Mexican showgirl Rita de la Rosa.
“A bartender, inspired by her electrifying performance, improvised a margarita to capture her heart.”
4.6. Hussong’s Cantina
Hussong’s Cantina in Baja California, Mexico has gained popularity as the home of the original margarita. It is believed that in 1941, bartender Don Carlos Orozco made the first drink and named it after Margarita Henkel Cesena, his Mexican-German patron who frequently visited the cantina.
4.7. Tommy’s Place Bar
Notimex believes that the strongest claim of being the inventor of the Margarita comes from Francisco “Pancho” Morales. It is believed Morales first made this drink at a bar called Tommy’s Place Bar in Juárez, Chihuahua on July 4, 1942. He later left Mexico and worked as a milkman in the US for 25 years.
4.8. Acapulco, Guerrero Vacation Home
A Texas socialite Margaret Sames allegedly made the drink for her guests at her Acapulco, Guerrero vacation home in 1945. Tommy Hilton brought the drink to the Hilton chain of hotels from there.
But at that point, José Cuervo was already running campaigns for the Margarita for three years.
4.9. The Balinese Room
Another popular claim is that the bartender, Santos Cruz, in 1948, made a margarita for singer Peggy Lee at Balinese Room in Galveston, Texas. It was allegedly named after the Spanish version of her name.
There are several places that are called and believed as home to the Margarita but none of the claims really have any concrete proof to support them. Amongst all the stories, looking for truth is nearly impossible but what we do know is that the Margarita is one of the most enjoyed drinks worldwide and if anything its history makes it more fascinating.