Yes, it’s more than a girl’s name. And yes, we have a woman to thank for America’s most popular drink.
185,000. That’s how many margaritas Americans drink per hour every day, according to the mega spirits and wine corporation Brown-Forman. In a recent Nielsen study, it’s also Americans’ go-to cocktail with 60 percent claiming it as their favorite tipple.
And let’s face it —although not the most exotic choice on the menu, the drink’s perfect sour, salty, bitter, and sweet ratio (four of the five flavor profiles we can identify) is extremely satisfying. More importantly, the drink—no matter in what form, be it on the rocks or frozen —says, “good times are in my future.”
The Margarita also crosses social and economic divides. For example, you can serve it on almost any occasion, be it at the beach or a black-tie affair, as an instant crowd-pleaser.
Perhaps that’s why there are 5.2 million #margarita tags on Instagram -people love to love their Margarita. And hey, what other cocktail has its own song (Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville) touting its ability to induce blissed-out vacation vibes?
So, who’s responsible for inventing it? Welcome to the tequila-laced rabbit hole of margarita myth and legend. In mainstream media, it first appeared in Jose Cuervo ads as early as 1945 with the tagline, “Margarita: it’s more than a girl’s name”. And then in 1965, it debuted in print when the Oxford English Dictionary defined the Margarita as “a cocktail made with tequila and citrus fruit juice.” However, the actual invention probably happened in the 1930s.
We’ll start with the creation story that’s most widely accepted. In 1938, Carlos “Denny” Herrera —bartender and owner of a restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico —went the extra mile for a beautiful, booze-allergic Ziegfeld girl named Marjorie King. Tequila was the only spirit she could drink without getting sick but didn’t like it straight up. So, Herrera added lime and salt for the first Margarita.
The other legend, also female-centric, credits Margarita Sames. Sames, like a retro Real Housewives of Dallas, claimed she mixed up the drink for friends at her villa in Acapulco in 1948. She served tequila and Cointreau. The drink’s popularity, known as “Margarita’s drink,” spread among her socialite friends, including Joseph Drown, owner of the Hotel Bel-Air, and Conrad Hilton, Jr., son of Hilton Hotel chain founder. They began serving it in their hotel bars and, as they say, the rest is history.
Another simplified explanation is it was simply a tequila riff on the Brandy Daisy cocktail, popular in the 19th century. The Daisy cocktail, which translates as ‘margarita’ in Spanish, is a basic Sour recipe (spirit, citrus, sweetener) with a splash of soda water.
Whoever actually invented it, thank you. Today we reap the benefits of living in a margarita mania era with thousands of iterations on craft cocktail menus around the world. Blackberry sage margaritas, mezcal margaritas, mojito margaritas, watermelon popsicle margaritas, vanilla pear margarita, bacon-infused margaritas, jalapeno margaritas and so on…
Try your making America’s most beloved ‘fiesta in a glass’ with this recipe:
- 2 oz. Tequila
- 1 oz. Cointreau
- 1 oz. Lime Juice
Preparation: Rim a glass with a lime slice to make the salt stick. Shake the tequila, lime juice, and Cointreau in a shaker with ice and pour into the glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.