History of the Margarita Cocktail

The margarita cocktail is a popular drink with disputed origins. A classic margarita can be served frozen or iced and is a refreshing combination of tequila, Cointreau, and lime. Frozen margaritas are blended and served, while an iced version is on the rocks. Glasses are rimmed with salt and garnished with a lime wedge before serving.

No one can quite agree of the origins of the margarita, making its history a mysterious one. The only common denominator among the stories is that they all occur around the 1940’s. The earliest account of a margarita is when an Iowa newspaper editor named James Graham reported in 1936 to have discovered a cocktail in Tijuana, Mexico, that resembled the American drink, the Daisy, which is made with brandy as opposed to tequila. An account from 1941, claims a bartender by the name of Don Carlos Orozco as the original inventor.

This rendition states that during a slow day in Orozco’s bar, Hussong’s Cantina, in Ensenada, Mexico, the daughter of a German ambassador walked in while Orozco was experimenting with new drink mixtures. Orozco decided to serve the mixture to the woman, named Margarita Henkel, and give the drink her name.

Another origination story was spread by bartenders Carlos “Danny” Herrera and Albert Hernandez. The bartenders claimed it was Herrera who invented the drink in the Rancho La Gloria Hotel in between Tijuana and Rosarita, Mexico. The drink was reportedly made for Majorie King, a Ziegfeld dancer. Hernandez is remembered as introducing the drink to popularity in the 1947 La Plaza restaurant in La Jolla, California. The third creation myth comes from Galveston, Texas. As legend goes, bartender Santos Cruz created the drink for the singer Peggy Margaret Lee in 1948 at the Balinese Room and named the drink after the Spanish variation of her name.

Variations of the margarita don’t stem too far from its basic ingredients. A popular variation substitutes Cointreau for blue curacao for a “blue margarita”. Another popular variation comes from a 1953 issue of Esquire magazine, by suggesting using triple sec in place of Cointreau. By just adding strawberries and sugar to the original margarita recipe, a strawberry margarita is born. A peach margarita follows the same simple addition of sugar and peaches. Essentially, any fruit can be used with the addition of some sugar for a sweeter, fruitier margarita.

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