Everyone loves a good margarita. Whether it’s poolside with pals, paired with a Mexican meal or late night in a bar, there’s never a bad reason to reach for the citrusy cocktail. But where did the classic drink originate, and what are the best ways to enjoy it? Read on for everything you ever wanted to know about this legendary beverage.
A brief history
There are several accounts of how the drink was invented. One story goes that in 1938, halfway between the Mexican towns of Tijuana and Rosarito, restaurant owner Carlos "Danny" Herrera created the drink for a customer named Marjorie King. The former Ziegfeld Follies dancer was allergic to all spirits except tequila, so a margarita was the one alcoholic drink she could enjoy (lucky her!) In another tale, bartender Don Carlos Orozco at Hussong's Cantina in Ensenada, Mexico made the drink in 1941 for Margarita Henkel, the daughter of the visiting German ambassador, naming it after her because she liked it so much.
The first recipe
The first known publication of a margarita recipe was in December of 1953, when Esquire magazine named it the "Drink of the Month.” The margarita was made even more popular by Jimmy Buffett’s song "Margaritaville" in 1977, and has enjoyed a steady rise in cocktail fame at bars and restaurants across the U.S. ever since.
To master the classic recipe yourself, start by rubbing the rim of a glass with rind of lemon or lime, then spin the rim on a plate sprinkled with sea salt. In a cocktail shaker or other tall glass filled with ice, shake (or stir) together one ounce of tequila, a splash of triple sec (orange-flavored liqueur) and juice from 1/2 lime or lemon. Pour the mixture into your salt-rimmed glass, garnish with a lime wedge, and enjoy.
Cinco de Mayo
With the vital ingredient being tequila, Mexico’s favorite alcoholic beverage, it’s no wonder we reach for a margarita every Cinco de Mayo (May 5th). The annual holiday commemorates Mexico’s unlikely victory over French forces in 1862. Add a few tacos, chips, salsa and guacamole, and you’ve got yourself a fiesta! Here are 6 more things all margarita lovers know to be true.
1. Salt on the rim is the way to go.
Stop by Olé in Boston for a fresh margarita with plenty of salt on the rim — a traditional touch intended to tickle the palate and bring out the contrasting sweet-sour flavors.
2. Even vegetables go well with tequila.
Chicago’s Bar Takito serves up a Cucumber Margarita, mixing Corazon Blanco tequila, Combier triple sec, aji amarillo (a South American hot yellow chile pepper), lime and agave (sweetener made from the agave plant), topped off with cucumber slices.
3. Some days, you've got to go blended.
In LA, Red O blends up on a frozen House Margarita with Espolon Blanco tequila, house-made limonada (lemonade) and triple sec that’s perfect for all those warm Southern California days.
4. Lots of variations keep them fresh.
Offering twists on the lime-focused recipe, De Cero ¡ Hello Tacos! in Chicago shakes up margaritas in bold flavors like Ginger Cucumber Lemon, Passion Fruit, Strawberry Mint and more, proving there are endless ways to enjoy the classic refresher.
5. A little spice is nice.
BONDST in NYC gives the traditional margarita an extra kick with their Shishito Jalapeño Margarita, made with Herradura Blanco tequila, jalapeño, agave, fresh lime and charred shishito pepper.
6. Fancy or casual, any glass will do.
Whether poured into a water glass, hefty mug or plastic cup, margaritas taste great no matter what. La Urbana in SF proves the drink is as elegant as any when served in a stemmed glass with a pretty salted rim and a lime wedge.