Greetings drunkards and drunkards in training. As a public service announcement, The Drunkard’s Almanac reminds you that February 22 is National Margarita Day. Naturally, the Margarita is Drink of the Day.
Now before we get into the history or familial relations of this seemingly well-known drink let’s ask a question: how many of you immediately envision a simple, shaken three-ingredient cocktail, no blender, no strawberries, no flavored tequilas, no cranberry juice, no bizarre floats? Please raise your hands. Yeah, that’s what we thought. Stay with us and you’ll achieve total enlightenment. Gunga galunga.
History of the Margarita
As we have remarked on other occasions the history of many cocktails is clouded by conflicting claims of invention. Let’s face it, drunkards aren’t the best at recording history and the Margarita is no exception. One story is that Carlos Herrera invented it at his Tijuana restaurant Rancho La Gloria around 1938. Some wealthy Dallas socialite named Margarita Sames also made a claim to it, saying it happened at her Acapulco vacation home in 1948. Since Margaret, and Margarita, is not exactly an uncommon name, all these stories revolve around the drink being eponymous with a specific woman. It’s all rubbish.
If we turn to the consummate cocktail historian David Wondrich, the Margarita is really just a variation on a popular Mexican drink, the Daisy. And, by the way, you might note that margarita is Spanish for, you guessed it, “daisy.” Daisies are a family of cocktails that include a base spirit, a liqueur and citrus – exactly what’s in a Margarita – plus a splash of soda water.
But going one step further, let’s stop and remember that this is just the formula for a sour – one of the oldest families of cocktails described by Jerry Thomas in his 1862 book How to Mix Drinks. It doesn’t matter whether one uses sugar, agave syrup or a sweet liqueur – you mix a base spirit with a citrus juice and a sweetening agent and it’s a sour. Whiskey Sour, Sidecar, Daiquiri, Caipirinha, Pisco Sour, Aviation, Gin Sour….you name it, they’re all just variations on the same theme. It’s a family, and a Daisy is just what we mix for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s birthday.
In fact, if you refer to The Drunkard’s Almanac for May 1, Mr. Potato Head’s birthday, you’ll recall that cocktails are just like Mr. Potato Head. Get bored with one configuration, swap out a part or two and it magically becomes an entirely different cocktail. The Margarita is just the family member using tequila as its base spirit.
Speaking of tequila, it has at times been approached with skepticism. In 1897 a Scientific American reporter wrote that “mezcal is described as tasting like a mixture of gasoline, gin and electricity. Tequila is even worse, and is said to incite murder, riot and revolution.”
The Editorial Board of The Drunkard’s Almanac does not share this opinion. We consider tequila an ordinary spirit good for consumption at any time. And that’s helpful because we’re about to make a Margarita. But if you’re in the mood for something tequila-based but a bit lighter try a Paloma.
Note: if you prefer your drink a little on the sweeter side, or you are accustomed to Margaritas made with triple sec rather than Cointreau, you may add the quarter ounce of simple syrup to, as bartenders say, “fatten it up.” Your correspondent thought this practice was highly questionable, but upon editorial review he was overruled by the Chief Protocol Officer who determined that this modification does not rise to the level of qualifying for the Hall of Shame. Hence it is included as an option. Carry on.
- Rub the lime wedge along the upper half inch of a double Old Fashioned glass, halfway around the circumference.
- Roll wet portion of glass rim in salt thereby salting half the rim.
- Add ice to glass, preferably a single large cube.
- Add all other ingredients to your trusty cocktail shaker.
- Shake until frosty cold.
- Strain into prepared glass.
- There is no garnish.
- Rinse and repeat.