Few cocktails can boast global popularity on the scale of the illustrious margarita. Comprising tequila, lime juice, and triple-sec orange liqueur, this concoction, served on glasses with salt-kissed rims, is the quintessential drink for an afternoon sip.
Tequila-based cocktails emerged wherever the spirit found a presence. By the 19th century, a specific region in Central Mexico garnered such acclaim that its alcohol became synonymous with tequila, borrowing the name from a singular village, akin to the nomenclature of Champagne for sparkling wine. Tequila's exceptional quality ensured its expansion beyond local confines, reaching the United States by the century's end, with Tequila Sauza making its mark at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.
Although early recipes are scarce until the mid-20th century, tequila likely made its debut through simple substitutions. This improvisational approach likely birthed classics like tequila old-fashioneds and tequila sours. Yet, it was this particular substitution that eternally linked the American psyche to this Mexican staple.
Legend has it that the genesis of the Margarita traces back to 1938, courtesy of Mexican restaurant proprietor Carlos (Danny) Herrera. The muse for this iconic concoction was the stunning Ziegfeld showgirl Marjorie King, who, despite having an allergy to all types of alcohol except tequila, was not fond of consuming it directly. Herrera, the inventive mixologist, purportedly found a solution by introducing salt and lime, thus crafting what is believed to be the world's first Margarita.
Yet another narrative attributes the Margarita's origin to Texas socialite Margaret Sames, who is said to have concocted the cocktail at an Acapulco house party in 1948. Alternatively, some argue it was inspired by actress Rita Hayworth, and a bartender who was smitten with her may have offered it to her during a performance in Tijuana theatre in the 1940s, and subsequently christened the drink after her.
Another story goes that the drink’s birthplace was Galveston, Texas, and its name was inspired by singer Peggy Lee. Since Peggy was a common nickname for Margaret, hence the drink came to be known as Margarita.
Cocktail historian David Wondrich suggests that the Margarita likely evolved from a drink called the "daisy." This cocktail, a blend of alcohol, citrus juice, and grenadine served over shaved ice, gained popularity in the 1930s and 40s. With variations like gin daisies and whiskey daisies, it was only a matter of time before tequila daisies emerged. The original recipe included tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice, and a splash of soda.
The Mexican-inspired daisy eventually adopted its Spanish moniker, margarita, which translates to "daisy" in Spanish. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term "margarita" referring to a cocktail with tequila and citrus fruit juice was first documented in English in 1965. However, alternative sources suggest that Margaritas were already making appearances in Jose Cuervo advertisements as early as 1945.
Add tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice and agave syrup to a cocktail shaker filled with ice, and shake until well-chilled.
Strain into a margarita glass with salt rim.
Garnish with a lime wheel.