Let’s get one thing straight: no-one really knows who invented the Margarita. The first mention in print of a Margarita cocktail is in the December 1953 issue of Esquire magazine where it states simply that, ‘She’s from Mexico, Señores, and she is lovely to look at, exciting and provocative’. That recipe only called for an ounce (30ml) of tequila, a dash of triple sec and the juice of half a lime or lemon. While it was certainly one of the earliest tequila cocktails, the very first – according to drinks historian Greg Boehm – goes to the Young Man’s Delight, mentioned in My New Cocktail Book (1930) by G. F. Steele.
In the iconic Café Royal Cocktail Book, published in 1937, author William J. Tarling mentions a drink called a Picador, which lists as its ingredients tequila, Cointreau and lime juice. Sound familiar?
One could argue (quite rightfully) that the Margarita is simply a tequila Sidecar (with lime instead of lemon), a cocktail which had been in circulation for at least a decade prior to the Margarita’s ascent in the mid 1930s. So while there were no drinks at this time called a Margarita, there were certainly prototypes with the same recipe being made under different names.
I actually find it difficult to believe
that a Mexican invented this drink as Mexico
has never had a cocktail culture
The most common – and perhaps widely believed – story involves an American socialite of the 1940s called Margaret ‘Margarita’ Sames. This Dallas native was known for throwing lavish parties at
her Acapulco holiday home and she credits herself (what self-respecting socialite wouldn’t?) with creating the drink in 1948. Though ask yourself: when was the last time you saw such a person
pick up a cocktail shaker and morph into a mixologist? Soon Paris Hilton will be claiming she invented the Cosmo. But also negating this story is the undeniable fact that Jose Cuervo was running
ad campaigns as early as 1945. Sorry, Marge.
Carlos ‘Danny’ Herrera – whose obituary in 1992 states that it was he who created the Margarita – opened the Rancho La Gloria restaurant just south of Tijuana in 1935 with his wife. His family claimed that he invented the drink around 1938 for one of his customers – a showgirl and sometime actress who called herself Marjorie King. Apparently she was allergic to all hard liquor except tequila, and she didn’t like to drink that straight. Hmm, I don’t see how someone would be allergic to all spirits except tequila but let’s not let the truth get in the way of a good yarn.
I actually find it difficult to believe that a Mexican invented this drink although it is completely possible that it was invented on Mexican soil. This is because Mexico has never had a cocktail culture, and to this day Margaritas are never consumed by the locals.
It is quite possible that the drink was created sometime during or just after Prohibition. During the Great Experiment, rich Americans fled their homeland en masse in search of well-created drinks, served in public. Cuba, London and Paris were popular destinations, as was Mexico, especially Tijuana which is just a stone’s throw from the border.
One oasis for the rich and famous was the Agua Caliente Race Track, which opened in 1929. Danny Negrete, who worked at the track in 1944, is also credited with creating the drink at the Garci Crespo Hotel in 1936 for his sister-in-law, Margarita, as a wedding present. Or it could have been named for Margarita Cansino (later known as Rita Hayworth) who as a teenager in the early 1930s would perform at, guess where, the Caliente.
It is quite possible that the
drink was created some time during or
just after Prohibition
Meanwhile, yet another theory concerns the Daisy, a cocktail which had its own time in the limelight during the early 20th century to a point where the Albuquerque Journal of 19 July 1939 called it ‘ubiquitous’.
There have been many incarnations of this once popular libation, one of which included a base spirit mixed with citrus and curaçao. Again, we see our Margarita starting to take shape. Even though there are several mentions of Tequila Daisies as early as 1936 in the Syracuse Herald, almost none of them actually cite a specific recipe. For reasons unknown, the Daisy eventually went to the great cocktail cemetery in the sky but it would seem plausible that the Spanish word for Daisy (Margarita) was simply translated and thenceforth took its place in the cocktail pantheon as the Margarita.
THE MARGARITA MECCA