The History of the Margarita and How to Make It Right | Wine Enthusiast
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The History of the Margarita and How to Make It Right

It’s hard to say definitively who created the margarita, Mexico’s classic tequila sour that has become one of the most beloved cocktails in the world. Stories of its origin are as numerous as the variations of the drink. 

One story claims that the drink was created in 1938, as Mexican restaurant owner Carlos (Danny) Herrera mixed it for gorgeous Ziegfeld showgirl Marjorie King. Supposedly, Tequila was the only alcohol that King would abide, so Herrera added lime juice and salt. 

Other claims include that Texas socialite Margaret Sames (a.k.a Margarita) mixed the first drink at a house party in Mexico during 1948. Or maybe it was named for actress Rita Hayworth (whose real name was Margarita Casino) during a gig in Tijuana in the 1940s. 

In his book, Imbibe, cocktail historian David Wondrich agrees that the margarita was invented during the above timeframe. He says that the drink evolved from The Daisy, a classic cocktail popular at the time that mixed alcohol, citrus juice and grenadine, and served over shaved ice

The original recipe for the Tequila Daisy, he says, called for tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice and a splash of soda. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that margarita means “daisy” in Spanish. 

Today, the basic recipe is blanco Tequila (though reposado is a popular and delicious variation), mixed with lime juice and orange liqueur, often served in a glass with a salted rim. 

No matter the history, one can’t argue this cocktail’s longevity. Here’s how to make the margarita the right way. 

Margarita Recipe


Coarse salt, to rim glass
Lime wedge
2 ounces blanco Tequila
1 ounce orange liqueur
1 ounce lime juice


Place salt in a dish. Moisten the rim of a rocks glass with the lime wedge. Roll rim of the glass in the salt to coat.rnrnIn a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine remaining ingredients. Shake well, and strain into the prepared glass over fresh ice.


How Do You Prep Your Glass for a Margarita? 

Rimming the glass “allows for distinct aromas to interact with complementary flavors, melding in the back of your palate,” wrote Dylan Garret for Wine Enthusiast. “Mix salt directly into a drink, and you’ve got brine. Place it on the rim, and you allow the drink’s flavors to develop in stages.”  

To do it properly, take a citrus slice (like a lime wedge) and rub it on the outside rim of your margarita glass. Try your best to keep the inner rim dry so salt doesn’t stick to it and turn to brine in your drink. Then pour salt on a plate, hold your glass at a 45-degree angle and lightly roll it. It may take a few rolls to get the salt to stick.  

What Is in a Margarita? 

There are many variations of the margarita (see below). But in a classic margarita you will find blanco tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice and a lime wedge for garnish.  

How Do You Make a Frozen Margarita? 

The frozen margarita became popular in the 1950s, as blenders began to appear in bars. But it truly took off in 1971, when Dallas restaurateur Mariano Martinez created the first frozen margarita machine. His original machine resides in the Smithsonian Museum. 

To make one at home, simply put the ingredients in the blender, add about twice as much ice as you have ingredients and blend until you reach a slushie-like consistency. While you can use a regular blender, we suggest you take a page out of Martinez’s playbook and buy a frozen margarita machine.  

To help you get started, check out this frozen margarita that utilizes leftover Champagne.  

What Are Variations of the Margarita? 

Like many classic cocktails that have been around for generations, there are plenty of riffs. For instance, there’s Tommy’s Margarita, which a growing number of bartenders profess is the best version of the drink. Julio Bermejo, the owner of the legendary Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco, is the expert behind this modern classic, which swaps in agave nectar for the standard orange liqueur. 

You can also try the King’s spicy margarita, which utilizes green chili bitters for a spicier twist on this bar staple.  

Not into spicy? No worries, there’s also the blood orange option. “Its citrus and floral characteristics are wonderful,” says Jacy Topps, print assistant editor and Languedoc-Roussillon and Vin de France reviewer at Wine Enthusiast

If none of these stick out to you, no problem! We have plenty of other margarita variations here—just make sure you have the right bottle of tequila on-hand.  

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