11 Refreshing Facts About Margaritas

A festive margarita.
A festive margarita. / Westend61/Westend61/Getty Images

Cinco de Mayo is the perfect day to kick back, grab the salt and limes, and enjoy a frosty margarita while reading up on this popular summer cocktail.

1. No one really knows who invented the margarita.

There are a lot of theories. The most widely spread rumor is that an American socialite named Margarita Sames created the drink for her friends in 1948. One of her party guests was Tommy Hilton, who added the drink to the bar menu at his hotels. This is probably not true, though: The first importer of Jose Cuervo used the tagline “Margarita: it’s more than a girl’s name” in 1945—three years before Sames debuted her drink.

Another story is that a man named Danny Herrera made the drink in his Tijuana restaurant in the ’30s or ’40s (accounts vary). Marjorie King, one of the showgirls there, was unable to drink any hard liquor but tequila. She wanted a cocktail using the liquor, so Herrera began experimenting. He concocted the now-famous drink and named it after the showgirl (Margarita is a Spanish version of the name Marjorie).

The very first print mention we can find of the drink (but not the name) is in the 1937 book Café Royal Cocktail Book by William Tarling. The drink had a similar recipe but was called Picador, which is a type of bullfighter.

2. Margarita means “daisy” in Spanish.

Margarita with jalapeños and limes.
Margarita with jalapeños and limes. / mitchellpictures/E+/Getty Images

The daisy is an old Prohibition drink that has a base spirit, sugar, and a sour. The cocktail later inspired the sidecar, which is basically a margarita with cognac and lemon. Some believe that the margarita is just a spin on a tequila daisy.

3. The first frozen margarita machine was invented in 1971.

The origins of the cocktail are unclear, but the origins of the machine are pretty straightforward: Mariano Martinez invented the frozen margarita machine in the early ’70s. The 26-year-old Dallas restaurateur was having trouble creating the frozen drink for customers; bartenders complained they took too long, and customers thought they melted too quickly.

After seeing a Slurpee machine in a 7-Eleven, Martinez was struck by inspiration. He transformed a soft-serve ice cream machine into one that pumped out frosty margaritas. The drinks were a huge success, and the machines can now be found all over the country.

4. The salt on the margarita glass’s rim is important.

The salt is there to bring out the sweet and sour flavors of the drink; even just a pinch will help subdue the bitterness and enhance the important flavors. On top of this, salt intensifies the drinker’s perception of the drink’s aromas, making the flavors even more powerful.

5. Margaritas are extremely popular in the U.S.

People's hands holding drinks and "cheers"-ing at an outdoor meal
Margaritas: America's fave mixed drink. / Jamie Grill/Tetra Images/Getty Images

In fact, it’s the most popular mixed drink in the country, according to the restaurant industry software developer Binwise. It’s also the most ordered drink in major cities like Boston, L.A., Miami, New York, and Tampa.

6. There are a lot variations to the standard margarita recipe.

The original recipe calls for tequila, Cointreau, lime, and salt to garnish, but there are a number of creative spins on the cocktail. Peaches, mangos, or pineapple can be added to give the drink a more tropical feel. Some bartenders replace the salt with sugar, or garnish with savory herbs like sage or coriander leaves. Adventurous types will add ingredients like Sriracha or chocolate. Here’s a full list of creative margaritas to try.

7. The world’s largest margarita was made in Las Vegas.

The Flamingo Hotel’s Margaritaville Casino in Las Vegas holds the honor of having made the largest margarita in the world. This enormous drink contained 8500 gallons (32,176 liters) and was “served” in a 17-foot-tall tank. It took 60 people 300 hours to create. The monster drink, called the “Lucky Rita,” was created to celebrate the opening of the casino in 2011.

8. The world’s most expensive margarita cost $1200.

A fancy strawberry margarita.
A fancy strawberry margarita. / Image Source/Image Source/Getty Images

In 2013, 230 FIFTH Rooftop Bar & Penthouse Lounge in Manhattan baited partiers with a frozen margarita that used some super high-end ingredients—the tequila alone cost $1800 a bottle. Even the ice was made from $450 bottles of Lois Roederer Cristal Champagne. The final product was poured into a Ralph Lauren hand-blown Hungarian crystal glass that can be taken home afterward. The decadent drink was for a good cause though—half the money was donated to a charity of the drinker’s choice. 

9. A Texas restaurant sold margaritas paired with diamond earrings.

If you thought $1200 wasn’t too bad to spend on a cocktail, how does $30,000 sound? For Valentine’s Day in 2015, the Iron Cactus in Austin, Texas, offered an extremely expensive margarita that came with a pair of diamond earrings. The bar’s “romance expert” would set the whole thing up; no word on whether all that dough covered dinner, though.

10. Mixologists compete in the annual World Margarita Championship.

The Tucson Originals Restaurants group and the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance get together every year to bring the public the World Margarita Championship. Renowned bartenders from Tucson come to duke it out for the honor of best margarita in Arizona. Visitors also vote for their favorites in a People’s Choice category. The 2022 winner in both categories was a mango tamarindo margarita by Nana’s Kitchen, a family-owned Mexican restaurant in Tucson.

11. Fried margaritas exist.

Why drink your cocktail when you can eat it? This strange amalgam has been served at the Texas State Fair, along with a variety of other food that shouldn’t be fried. Funnel cake batter is put through a margarita mixer, fried, and then soaked in more margarita. The finished product is topped with whipped cream and served in a salt-rimmed glass.

A version of this story was published in 2016; it has been updated for 2023.