Margarita 101 – Everything You Need to Know

National Margarita Day is on February 22nd, and from snowy ski resorts to the sandy beaches that line our coasts, the margarita will undoubtedly be ordered and enjoyed nationwide! While it recently lost its spot as the nation’s favorite cocktail during the resurgence of cocktail culture across the US, the margarita is still one of the nation’s favorite cocktails. A good margarita is the sign of a good bar and there is a lot you can do with the margarita to make it your own. Where did it come from and what can you do with it? Let’s find out!

History

“Margarita” is Spanish for “daisy”, and it is said that the cocktail originated in Mexico. Surprisingly, this wasn’t during Prohibition, when many wealthy Americans went abroad to drink alcohol.

A cocktail’s origin is often hazy, and the margarita is no different. The first story about the margarita was from an Iowa newspaper editor in 1936. He journeyed to Mexico and found the cocktail in Tijuana. Its invention was apparently a mistake. The bartender reached for tequila instead of brandy when making a pre-Prohibition cocktail called the Daisy.

The margarita also appears in a cocktail book in the UK in 1937, but the ingredients and ratio are actually for a cocktail called the Picador. Another story comes from 1938, when bartender Carlos “Danny” Herrara created the cocktail for former Ziegfeld dancer Marjorie King in Baja, California. She was allergic to many spirits but not tequila.

There are many other stories and claims related to the first margarita, but we’re here to make ‘em and drink ‘em not to go around in circles trying to discern historical fact from fiction!

The Classic Recipe

The International Bartender Association’s official ingredients for a margarita are:  

  • 3.5 cL (7 parts) tequila
  • 2 cL (4 parts) Cointreau
  • 1.5 cL (3 parts) lime juice
  • Glass: Margarita glass
  • Garnish: Salt Rim
  • Method: Shake and strain into rimmed glass

While this is their official recipe, most bars use the “golden ratio” of 2:1:1 (tequila: triple sec: lime juice). They also often add in 1- or .5-part measure of simple syrup or agave nectar to tailor the cocktail to our modern, sweeter taste buds.

The margarita is often served over rocks, usually the rocks it’s shaken with. The entire contents of the shaker are poured into a salt rimmed glass, typically a pint glass or mason jar. Many bartenders will add a dash of orange juice to the recipe to thicken the mouth feel of the drink. It’s common for bars and restaurants to use pre-made sweet and sour mix in lieu of lime juice.

Although not done by many bartenders, it’s a good idea to wipe the salt from the inside rim of the glass after rimming the glass with salt. No one wants salt in their beverage and this little trick stops you from adding it to the beverage itself.

Variations

There are multiple variations of the margarita, and the most popular is the frozen margarita. Simply blend the above recipe with ice and voila, you have a frozen margarita.

Second on the list is the Cadillac margarita. For this, make a regular margarita with high end tequila and pour the entire contents of the shaker, rocks and all, into a glass. Top with a float of Grand Marnier. The triple sec in the recipe can also simply be replaced by the Grand Marnier.

Next are flavored margaritas. Replace triple sec with a fruit flavored liquor, such as raspberry, black currant, pineapple or with a fruit puree. With frozen margaritas, it’s common to use frozen fruit and directly blend it with the margarita ingredients. There are many recipes for flavored margaritas and we recommend testing them out before putting them on your menu.

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Benjamin Michael Beddow

Benjamin Michael Beddow

Food and Beverage Professional

As a food and beverage professional for over ten years, Ben has spent most of his time behind the bar, giving him a broad and in-depth knowledge of all things drinkable and drink related. Now, as a traveling freelance writer exploring the gastronomy, drinks, and food service industry of the world, Ben has taken his knowledge and experiences to the world wide web to share with others. The love for the trade never dies and Ben can still be found running around restaurants and slinging drinks in ski resorts in the USA during the winter season.

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