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Margarita & NachosAmerica’s favorite cocktail, the Margarita, with its favorite accompaniment, nachos. Photo courtesy of Frontera Foods.
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February 2009
Last Updated February 2012

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Cocktails

The Margarita Cocktail

Page 1: Margarita History & Facts

 

CAPSULE REPORT: The Margarita is the most popular cocktail in the U.S. It was created by an American on vacation in Mexico, which is home to the tequila that is essential to the drink. And the original was made with Cointreau, not Triple Sec, a cheaper substitute. Learn more about the Margarita below, and enjoy a classic and frozen Margarita with recipes courtesy of Casa Herradura, a leader in the production of top-quality tequila. National Margarita Day is celebrated on February 22nd. This is Page 1 of a three-page article. Click on the black links below to visit other pages.

 

Margarita History

There are many claims to the invention of the Margarita, but the prevailing credit goes to Margaret “Margarita” Sames, a wealthy Dallas socialite. As the story goes, the cocktail was born over the Christmas holiday in 1948. According to an interview in 1994 in the San Antonio News-Express, published in the town where Mrs. Sames had retired on the 45th anniversary of the cocktail:

Margarita and her husband, Bill, invited some friends from Dallas to visit them in Acapulco. Their cliffside hacienda was under construction, so they borrowed a home from a local friend, with luxurious grounds and a pool with a swimming bar. Sames wanted to make a refreshing drink that could be enjoyed poolside before lunch. “After all, a person can only drink so many beers or so many Bloody Marys, or screwdrivers or whatever,” she said. “I wanted to make up a new drink.”

Margarita had initially tried to invent a rum drink, inspired by her visits to Cuba, but had no success. Tequila was her favorite spirit, so she turned there. Having tasted and enjoyed the orange-based French liqueur Cointreau, she decided to combine the two.

At the time, she said, there were no mixed drinks using tequila, which was served in classic style in a shot glass, with salt and a slice of lime.

(Maybe that was true in Mexico, but Eric Felten, cocktail columnist for The Wall Street Journal, cites the Tequila Daisy, popular in World War II, a mix of tequila, citrus juice and grenadine served over shaved ice that was derived from the Gin Daisy and Whiskey Daisy. Eric also details other claimants to the invention of the Margarita. But let’s get back to Mrs. Sames’ story, as told to San Antonio News-Express reporter Susan A. Markner.)

  Cointreau Margarita
The original Margarita was made with Cointreau, a top-shelf orange liqueur. Triple sec is generic orange liqueur.

Mrs. Sames’ mixology attempts were not immediately successful.

 “I was pushed into the swimming pool quite a few times because some of those first drinks were so bad,” she recalled.

As she experimented with various combinations of tequila and Cointreau, they were either too sweet or too sour. Eventually she found a recipe that suited her, with lime juice used to balance the alcohol and a light dusting of salt on the glass rim to add pizzazz.

  Agave Fields
The beautiful agave fields of Casa Herradura tequila. Photo courtesy Casa Herradura.

Over the years, Bill and Margarita served the drink to their guests, referring to it as “The Drink” or “Margarita's Drink.” After Bill gave Margarita a set of champagne glasses etched with her name, the drink got its final name. The cocktail recipe was spread by some of the couple’s friends and guests, who included hotelier Nick Hilton, Tail O’ the Cock owner Shelton McHenry, Hotel Bel-Air owner Joseph Drown, movie stars Lana Turner and John Wayne, and other world travelers who subsequently served the drink in their hotels and restaurants.

While Mrs. Sames is confident that her recipe was the first incarnation of the Margarita, Eric Felten cites a recipe called the Picador, published in 1937 in London in the Cafe Royal Cocktail Book. It is made of tequila, Cointreau and lime juice (no salt). The first appearance in print of a drink actually called “Margarita” is the December 1953 issue of Esquire magazine. This gives credence to Margarita Sames’ 1948 invention; it gives time for the private home recipe to germinate through the influence of famous friends. Margarita Sames’ original cocktail recipe is on Page 3.

Margarita Sames was 35 years old when she invented the cocktail that would become America’s favorite. No matter what your age, as long as you’re of drinking age, you too can invent an immortal cocktail. Just be sure to do a lot of blogging about it, so there won’t be any question years from now, that it started with you.

Continue To Page 2: Margarita Facts & Trivia

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