Imagine: it’s a hot sunny day, and you are watching surfers ride waves in Acapulco. A perfect afternoon calls for an even better drink, and what possibly can quench your thirst better than a margarita?
This modern classic is one of the most popular cocktails ever invented, ideal for summer evenings, beach bars or pool parties. Made with freshly squeezed lime juice, triple sec and good tequila, a margarita requires nothing more than a good mood and even better company.
Today there are over 70 different variations of Margaritas, from raspberry and strawberry, to pomegranate, chocolate, and even a refreshing cucumber mint. They are all served in cocktail glasses rimmed with either salt or sugar, straight up, over ice, or frozen.
So, when was Margarita invented, and how? Let’s find out.
The Origins of the Margarita
Margarita is considered the best “Mexican” cocktail, but its origins are not entirely Mexican. Although nobody can tell for certain who invented this delicious mixed drink, there are many stories about it, and some of them really did happen in Mexico.
Carlos “Danny” Herrera, 1938
One such story talks about Carlos “Danny” Herrera, an owner of the “Rancho La Gloria” restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico. Namely, Carlos invented the Margarita in 1938 when a picky dancer named Marjorie King said she was allergic to all alcoholic drinks besides tequila, but she also didn’t want to drink it straight. So, Herrera poured some tequila, added some Cointreau and lime, then salted the rim of a cocktail glass. He named his invention Margarita, the closest name to Marjorie in Spanish.
Margarita Sames, 1948
Herrera is not the only person who wants to take credit for the invention of the world’s most popular cocktail. Another “inventor” said that the mixed drink is based on her name.
Margarita Sames from Dallas claims that she came up with this cocktail when she was organising a party for her friends in Acapulco, 1948. Her friend, Tommy Hilton, later introduced this cocktail to the menu of his Hilton hotels.
This is a story about, yet another woman named Margarita. While working as a manager at Garci Crespo Hotel in Puebla, Mexico, Danny Negrete’s girlfriend, whose name was Margarita, often came to visit him. Apparently, she liked salt in her drinks, so Danny made this new cocktail as a present for her. But the story goes on. Danny also had worked at the Agua Caliente Racetrack, where a young woman named Margarita Cansino was performing. She later changed her name to Rita Hayworth and it is said that the cocktail was named after her.
But perhaps, our Margarita wasn’t named by a beautiful woman at all. Instead, it could be that it was invented as a variation of another cocktail that was quite popular during Prohibition: the classic Daisy cocktail.
David Wondrich, a cocktail historian, agrees that the drink evolved from The Daisy and mentioned that in his book, Imbibe. The Daisy is a classic cocktail of mixed alcohol, citrus juice and grenadine, served over shaved ice. In fact, Margarita means “daisy” in Spanish.
The only difference between the Daisy cocktail and the Margarita is that the first one is made with brandy and the other with tequila.
The Difference Between a Classic Margarita and the Tommy’s Margarita
There are many variations of a Margarita cocktail, and the most popular might as well be Tommy’s Margarita. This fabulous drink was invented by a bartender named Julio Bermejo in the 1990s.
Julio worked at Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant, owned by his parents, in San Francisco. When Bermejo was introduced to agave nectar, it was still very expensive, but he preferred the agave flavour more than the citrus in a Margarita. So while a classic Margarita makes a divine drink by blending tequila, triple sec and lime juice, the Tommy’s Margarita mixes tequila, agave syrup and lime juice. The sweetness of the agave syrup emphasises the flavour of the tequila rather than the strong citrus flavours.
Cointreau vs Agave Syrup
A Margarita cocktail was so popular that bartenders had to play around with different ingredients just for the fun of it. As a result, today, there are over 70 different variations.
One of the more consistent ingredients has been Triple Sec, a type of dry orange liqueur. Cointreau is the original Triple Sec, made with bitter orange peels, almost essential for a good Margarita.
Agave syrup, on the other hand, is not only used to make tequila. It creates the delicious taste that is a Tommy’s Margarita. Agave syrup is a bit sweeter than sugar and tastes like honey. It doesn’t leave a bitter aftertaste as some artificial sweeteners do, making it ideal for this modern classic.
A good tequila will make a Margarita even better, so make sure you use only the best. You can use two types of tequila to make a good Margarita: blanco and reposado.
For the best results, use a 100% agave white tequila or puro de agave tequila blanco. This type of tequila is not aged. The flavour is more agave-centric, with notes of pepper and citrus, with a spicy finish.
But if you prefer more of a nuanced flavour, then try the reposado. Tequila reposado is aged from 2 to 12 months in oak barrels, giving the tequila a smooth flavour, with oak, vanilla, and caramel notes. Here are a few tequilas you can give a try:
- Tromba Blanco
- 1800 Silver
- Espolon Blanco
- Don Julio Blanco
- Sierra Silver
- Tromba Reposado
- Clase Azul Reposado
- Casamigos Reposado
- Milagro Reposado Select Barrel Reserve
- Herradura Reposado
Give both types of tequila a try and find your flavour.
How to Mix the Perfect Margarita
You don’t have to be an experienced bartender to make yourself a good cocktail. Although it takes some time to master the recipe, the right ratio is always a winning combination. Can you make a perfect margarita at home? You can certainly try with the following recipe.
- 40ml tequila
- 20ml triple sec
- 30ml lime juice
- 1 slice of lime and coarse sea salt for rim
- Lime wedge for garnish
Step 1: Use the lime wedge to moisten the rim of a cocktail glass. Put the salt on a plate. Dip the rim into the coarse salt. Place ice cubes in the glass and freeze the glass while you prepare the drink.
Step 2: Place ice in a cocktail shaker. Add tequila, triple sec, and lime juice. Shake vigorously. Pour into the frosted glass and garnish with a slice of lime.
Step 3: Enjoy your perfect homemade Margarita!
If you like your Margarita more on the sweet side, add a dash of agave syrup.
The Cocktail Revolution Making Margaritas RTD
RTD (ready-to-drink) cocktails are the convenience trend that had to happen. They are ideal for consumers with busy lifestyles that can’t be bothered buying the ingredients to mix their favourite concoction at home or people who need cocktails to go.
Having your favourite cocktail ready to go saves time and money – after all, who needs a pantry full of ingredients for one cocktail recipe? But do RTD cocktails deliver on taste? There certainly have been mixed answers to this question, but the fact that the canned and bottled cocktails category grew 214 per cent from 2009 to 2019 speaks for itself.
So, whether you decide to go with a RTD Margarita, make one at home from scratch, or run to the closest bar to have a professional make one for you, a Margarita cocktail will ensure you enjoy each sip of the journey.