What's the Right Way to Make a Margarita?

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Like the Whiskey Sour, Margaritas look different in every bar. You can get them up or on the rocks, with or without salt, flavored, frozen, pre-mixed, or freshly made. Although they differ greatly in appearance, they all share a common origin.

But figuring out exactly how the drink was first created is more complicated. The original Margarita was a humble combination of tequila, lime juice, orange liqueur (usually cited as Cointreau), and salt. Most stories have it being invented in the 1930s or '40s. It’s been called Mexico’s most beloved export, and it's an almost perfect combination of sweet, sour, salty, and bitter.

It’s also possible that the Margarita came into being when a bartender substituted tequila for brandy in a Sidecar (the Sidecar had been popular for more than a decade before the Margarita rose to fame). Yet another possibility is that the Margarita existed under a different name. In fact, the Picador, a cocktail made with tequila, salt, and Cointreau, appears in the 1937 Café Royal Cocktail Book. After that point, however, it pretty much disappears.

The Daisy, which has since evolved into more of a class of cocktail (like the Sour or the Smash), is another possible evolutionary link. Here, someone used tequila to make the cocktail and renamed it—a very common practice among bartenders then and now.

Even if the original creator did whip up the Margarita using that approach, his (or her) name is lost to history. With that said, there are plenty of people who claim credit, and plenty more women named Marguerite (or Margaret or Margarita) who claim to be its inspiration.

Carlos Danny, the owner of a Tijuana restaurant, claims one of the more interesting origin stories. According to cocktail lore, he created the drink for a dancer named Marjorie King who was allergic to all liquor except tequila. Though we’re not sure how that works, Danny’s tombstone says he created the margarita.

Until recently, Dallas socialite Margarita Sames was most often cited as the drink’s creator. Sames asserts that she created the drink at a party at her vacation home in Acapulco in 1948. Though it’s one of the tidiest stories, it’s not true. By 1945, José Cuervo’s U.S. importer was using an ad that proclaimed “Margarita: it’s more than a girl’s name.” Sorry, Margarita.

The origins of the frozen margarita are a bit clearer. The machine was first created (or repurposed, depending on who you talk to) in 1971 by a restaurateur named Mariano Martinez. It’s thought that either he or someone in his family also created the first margarita mix to use in the machine, but no one ever patented the mix.

No matter the Margarita's origins, it's delicious all the same.

Hit The Lab

Classic Margarita 

2 oz 100% agave tequila
1 oz lime juice
1 oz Cointreau or dry curacao

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously to combine. Strain into a coupe glass rimmed with coarse salt.