Have a Drink: Margarita


A date with “Margie” is a fun diversion for the weekend

Almost everyone I know enjoys margaritas. They’re a staple of most restaurants and bars, and very popular, especially in the United States and Mexico. Sweet and salty at the same time with just the right twist of lime and tequila, many of my favorite stories from my travels in Mexico involve having 2 for the price of 1 margaritas at this little hole in the wall bar known as El Rapto.

A good friend of mine and I would frequently visit Mexico, and our drunken tales of debauchery usually started with some tacos or “lonches” purchased from the street vendors, followed up by excessive drinking, which always started with the margaritas before proceeding to “bandera” shots and Mexican beer. (By the way, the only Mexican beer I like that much is Negra Modelo…for what it’s worth).

It seems there are people practically fighting with each other over who invented the cocktail. Here are a few stories which claim credit for the drink.

One of the earliest stories is of the margarita being invented in 1938 by Carlos “Danny” Herrera at his restaurant Rancho La Gloria, halfway between Tijuana and Rosarito, Mexico, created for customer and former Ziegfeld dancer Marjorie King, who was allergic to many spirits, but not to tequila. This story was related by Herrera and also by bartender Albert Hernandez, acknowledged for popularizing a Margarita in San Diego after 1947, at the La Plaza restaurant in La Jolla. Hernandez claimed the owner of La Plaza, Morris Locke, knew Herrera and visited Mexico often.

A commonly accepted origin story of the Margarita is that it was invented in October 1941, at Hussong’s Cantina in Ensenada, Mexico, by bartender Don Carlos Orozco. One afternoon, Margarita Henkel, the daughter of the then German ambassador visited the cantina and Don Carlos who had been experimenting with drinks offered her one. The cocktail consisted of equal parts of tequila, Mexican orange liqueur called Controy (A.K.A. Naranja in the United States), and lime, shaken and served over ice in a salt-rimmed glass. As she was the first to try the drink, Don Carlos decided to name it after her and the “Margarita” was born.

There are also claims that the margarita was first mixed in the El Paso-Juárez area at Tommy’s Place Bar on July 4, 1942 by Francisco “Pancho” Morales. Morales later left bartending in Mexico to become a US citizen, where he worked as a milkman for 25 years. Mexico’s official news agency Notimex and many experts have said Morales has the strongest claim to having invented the margarita.

Others say the inventor was Dallas socialite Margarita Sames, when she concocted the drink for her guests at her Acapulco vacation home in 1948. Tommy Hilton reportedly attended, bringing the drink back to the Hilton chain of hotels. However, Jose Cuervo was already running ad campaigns for the margarita three years earlier, in 1945, with the slogan, “Margarita: It’s more than a girl’s name.” According to Jose Cuervo, the cocktail was invented in 1938 by a bartender in honor of Mexican showgirl Rita de la Rosa.

Another common origin tale begins the cocktail’s history at the legendary Balinese Room in Galveston, Texas where, in 1948, head bartender Santos Cruz created the margarita for singer Peggy (Margaret) Lee. He supposedly named it after the Spanish version of her name, Margarita, and it has been a hit ever since. (Margarita is a German form of the name and was introduced to Mexico with no Hispanic origin).

In any case, here’s a simple and delicious recipe if you want to throw together one of these mean green concoctions this weekend. You will need:

  • 6 oz. can frozen limeade concentrate
  • 6 oz. tequila
  • 2 oz. triple sec
  • Salt

Fill blender with ice. Pour in limeade, tequila and triple sec. Blend. Pour into glasses and serve. And of course, salt the rim of the glass for the classic mixture of sweet and salty that makes for the best margarita experience. Enjoy!

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