The lore, origin, and disputed history of America’s favorite “Mexican” cocktail
With illustrations by W. Scott Koenig
Perhaps the most common origin story is that Carlos (Danny) Herrera of Tijuana’s Rancho La Gloria restaurant invented it for Ziegfeld showgirl Marjorie King because she said tequila was the only hard liquor she could abide. He mixed her tequila with lime juice and named the cocktail after her. Another version of the story is set not in Tijuana but in Ensenada’s Bar Andaluz with King cast as the owner.
The star of another popular story is Hollywood actress Rita Hayworth (whose real name was Margarita Casino) for whom the first Margarita was both mixed and named during a Tijuana gig at the Agua Caliente racetrack in the 1940s.
Hussong’s Cantina in Ensenada also claims the Margarita. In 1941, Hussong’s bartender Don Carlos Orozco supposedly mixed it for Margarita Henkel, daughter of the German Ambassador to Mexico. There are various versions of this same story set elsewhere.
The most likely story is that the Margarita was created as a variation of a pre-existing cocktail—the Brandy Daisy—with tequila replacing the brandy in the original. The English word daisy translates to Spanish as margarita and other than the liquor, the two recipes are nearly identical.
Much like the origin of the Margarita itself, no one knows who first put a Margarita and ice in a blender. Most guesses place that origin squarely in the 1950s. But the story of when the Frozen Margarita became a thing is much clearer: 1971 in Dallas. Afraid of losing his bartender—or customers due to inconsistent Margaritas and inspired by the 7-Eleven Slurpee—Mariano Martinez created the first Frozen Margarita machine. Problems solved.
In 2005 the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, DC acquired Martinez’s original Frozen Margarita Machine. It remains in the Museum’s collection today.
The Margarita is the face that launched a thousand variations even if we don’t know whose face inspired the drink. Modern mixologists use different liquors (like smoky mezcal in the place of tequila), sweeteners (like agave syrup, fruit juices, or even grilled fruit), rim salts (perhaps including chiles), and create even more exotic variations.
Must be 21+ to consume alcohol. Please drink responsibly.
1 key lime, quartered
1 ounce good quality white tequila
1 ounce Damiana liqueur (or, if you must, Controy, Cointreau, or other orange liqueur)
1 ounce freshly squeezed key lime juice
Lime peel for garnish
Pour salt onto a small plate. Moisten the rim of a large margarita glass with a quarter of lime and dip the edge into the salt. Pour the tequila, liqueur, and lime juice into a shaker, fill with ice cubes and cover to shake until the liquid is ice cold, about 1⁄2 minute.
Pour in glass and garnish the rim with lime peel.
2 ounces brandy
1 ounce fresh
1⁄3 ounce grenadine
Seasonal fruit garnish
Combine the brandy, lemon juice, simple syrup, and grenadine in a shaker. Fill the shaker with ice cubes and shake until the liquid is ice cold, about 1⁄2 minute. Garnish the rim of the glass with lime peel.
3⁄4 cup Oaxacan Mezcal
3⁄4 cup mango juice
1⁄4 cup lime juice
1⁄4 cup Cointreau
1 mango, sliced
Lime peel, julienned
Combine the mezcal, juices, and Cointreau in a shaker. Fill the shaker with ice cubes and cover to shake until the liquid is ice cold, about 1⁄2 minute. Rub glass rim with used, squeezed limes and dip into a plate of salt. Garnish the glass with a slice of mango and 1 or more strips of lime peel.
In Southern California and Northern Mexico, tequila is the craft spirit with the deepest roots.
Mezcal is a delicious celebration of over 50 agave varieties spread over nine Mexican states.