The margarita seemed like a natural choice to kick off my drink series, as today happens to be Cinco de Mayo.** For historians, this means that it is the 152nd anniversary of the Battle of Puebla, in which the Mexican army kicked the collective asses of the occupying French forces. For those who like to celebrate other nations’ achievements by getting drunk and wearing culturally-appropriative clothing, this is an opportunity to drink tequila and wear sombreros. Luckily, a nice tequila cocktail can be enjoyed the other 364 days of the year, as well.
The most likely origin story of the margarita is that it was first mixed to little fanfare in 1942 by Francisco “Pancho” Morales at a bar near Cuidad Juárez. There are, however, some fantastical contenders to the throne of First Margarita. It may have been poured in 1938 by Carlos “Danny” Herrera at his Rancho La Gloria restaurant for Marjorie King, a Ziegfeld Follies dancer who was allergic to most liquors — but not tequila. Or it may have been the German Ambassador’s daughter Margarita Henkel who first drank bartender Don Carlos Orozco’s libation in 1941. No matter who invented it or who it is named for, the ingredients were always the same: tequila, lime juice, and orange liqueur.
Today, however, the margarita is a complicated affair. It has engendered a seemingly infinite number of variations, including a daiquiri-style frozen beverage which may or may not contain some sugary red-dye syrup that passes for fruit — strawberry margarita, peach margarita, blueberry-pomegranate margarita, etc.
In my opinion, the past seventy-odd years of fruitifying, blending, and general tinkering hasn’t much improved the margarita. The basic original still reigns supreme. I like my margs on the rocks, mixed as follows:
- 2 oz. silver tequila, such as 3 Amigos Tequila Blanco
- 1 oz. lime juice
- 1 oz. Cointreau (may be substituted for Triple Sec in an absolute, DEFCON 1, FEMA-deployment emergency; Triple Sec is otherwise unacceptable)
- 1/2 oz. simple syrup
- 1 lime wheel to garnish
- salt garnish
Wet the lip of the glass with lime juice, then rim with salt. Pour tequila, lime juice, Cointreau and simple syrup over 3 large ice cubes in rocks glass. Garnish with lime wheel. If you prefer without rocks, shake liquid ingredients with crushed ice and serve in salt-rimmed margarita glass. If you prefer those slushy frozen margaritas, pour some booze in a Slurpee from 7-11.
** It is not to be confused with Mexican Independence Day, which is celebrated on September 16th.
Sources: Dias Blue, Anthony. A Complete Book of Spirits: A Guide to Their History, Production, and Enjoyment. HarperCollins, 2010. eBook. "Once Upon a Time in Mexico: The Origin of the Margarita." Imbibe Magazine. March-April 2010. Accessed 2 May 2014.