Origin stories abound about who invented the classic Margarita cocktail. In time for Margarita Month, let’s unveil the mysterious Margarita. Who is she? Is she even a she? Could she even be – gasp – British after all?
There are seemingly more claimants to being the inventor of the Margarita than there are grains of salt on its iconic rim.
One way or another, to us, the mythology of the modern day Margarita probably starts in the 1930s. In 1936 to be exact, an Iowan newspaperman took his wife on a sightseeing jaunt, diverting just across the Mexican border, to Tijuana for a spell. In a travel report soon published in his - teeny, tiny - town newspaper, he recalls their taxi driver talking up a hotspot run by an Irishman(!) by the name of Henry Madden that, by the time, was already dubbed “the home of the famous Tequila Daisy”.
The taciturn barman that the reporter found there eventually admitted that the drink was not so much masterminded as it was mistaken. He was making a Brandy Daisy and reached for the wrong bottle. Yet the customer loved it. Part of the sour family, a Daisy was a common cocktail of the post-prohibition era and included a combination of spirits, orange curacao and citrus juice. By the way, do you know what the Mexican word for the daisy flower is? That would be a “Margarita”. The plot thickens.
The following year, 1937, was the first time a proto-Margarita recipe - sans salt rim – put into print. The recipe can be found on the pages of the Cafe Royal Cocktail Book. It was compiled in London of all places by W.J. Tarling, then president of the United Kingdom Bartenders’ Guild (we imagine they had secret handshakes and matching signet rings). This tippling tome is prefaced with a message that the recipes within are mainly originals from the minds of guild members. You can see it right there - sandwiched between the ‘Piccadilly’ and the ‘Pick-Me-Up’ cocktails - a recipe calling for ¼ part fresh lime or lemon juice, ¼ part Cointreau and ½ part Tequila to be shaken. The only catch? It’s called a “Picador”.
By ‘39 the salted rim, and a lime wedge to garnish, had been added to the mix in print. In The World Famous Cotton Club: 1939 Book of Mixed Drinks, Big Apple bartender Charlie Connolly includes both in his “Tequila Sour” recipe. Yes, it’s still not called a Margarita.
So perhaps the Margarita really was inspired by a woman. But which woman?
Was she a Ziegfeld Follies dancer named Marjorie who claimed to be allergic to spirits other than Tequila when she rocked up to a bar in Baja?
Was she the glamorous Margarita Henkel Cesena who claimed to be the daughter of the German ambassador (probably to hustle free drinks) when she went cantina-hopping in Cali?
Or was she the Texan socialite Margaret Sames who mixed Tequila drinks for party guests attending her Acapulco vacation house…and just so happened to be friends with none other than Tommy Hilton who pinched the drink for his hotel menus?
Maybe the Margarita was invented when a woman requested a bartender in Juárez make her a “Magnolia” but he was too proud to admit he didn’t know how so riffed his way to a classic on the spot while pretending he misheard the order? Coincidentally that bartender, Francisco “Pancho” Morales, went on to marry a woman randomly named Margarita.
Perhaps she was really movie star Margarita “Rita” Hayworth, offered a drink by a star-struck bartender during a Tijuanan theater gig?
Regardless, by the mid-1950s, the Margarita was a known entity being quaffed by holiday makers heading south of the border. It shone as Esquire magazine’s “Drink of the Month” in 1953 and went onto inspire Jimmy Buffet tunes, the pared-back Tommy’s Margarita and the abomination that is the Mexican Martini. That’s half Margarita, half Dirty Martini. We’d still drink it.
With such a simple formula – Tequila, triple sec, lime, a sprinkling of salt - the creation of the drink by a kind of collective osmosis may indeed have been inevitable. No matter who or what we know, or don’t know, about the classic Margarita cocktail; what we do know is this…
She’s salty. She’s sour. She’s sweet. She’s a real treat.
No matter who really invented the Margarita, Curatif are revolutionising it. For Margarita Month we are unleashing, not one, but six new Margarita flavours upon the world. Salted Blueberry, Pineapple, Cherry, Margarita in Blue, Mango and Mezcalita; catch them all in our strictly limited release Masterita Box.
Purchase a Masterita Box or our Tommy’s Margarita or Spicy Margarita this month and you could win a share of nearly $15,000 in prizes. From bespoke solid gold and pink sapphire signet rings crafted by Pinky Blinder, to luxe drinkware, to cold, hard cash; we’re making Margarita Month 2024 the best fiesta yet.