The Long-Disputed History of the Margarita & an Easy Recipe for National Tequila Day

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Feb. 22 is National Margarita Day, so in today’s honor, let’s take a look at the long-disputed history of the delicious drink that starts today’s celebrated spirit.

History of the Margarita

It’s difficult to know exactly how this celebrated drink exactly came to be, but it seems that San Diego may have had a part to play.

One story claims that the margarita was first mixed in Juárez, Mexico at Tommy’s Place Bar on July 4, 1942 by Francisco “Pancho” Morales. Morales later left bartending in Mexico to become a US citizen, where he worked as a milkman for 25 years. Mexico’s news agency Notimex and many experts have said Morales has the strongest claim to having invented the margarita.

According to the Smithsonian Magazine, “another top contender for the inventor title is Margarita Sames, a wealthy Dallas socialite who claimed she whipped up the drink for friends at her Acapulco vacation home in 1948.” Sames was friends with Tommy Hilton (yes, that Hilton), who eventually added the drink to the bar menu at his hotel chain.

Anthony Dias Blue explains in The Complete Book of Spirits, that it was Jose Cuervo (who first began importing tequila to the United States) that first used the “Margarita” name. They apparently advertised with the tagline, “Margarita: it’s more than a girl’s name,” in 1945. That’s three years before Sames claims to have made the drink.

One of the more prevalent and oldest stories about the cocktail (according to Wikipedia) shouts out to San Diego and goes like this:

The margarita was invented in 1938 by Carlos “Danny” Herrera at his restaurant Rancho La Gloria, which was halfway between Tijuana and Rosarito, Mexico. It is claimed that the drink was created for customer Marjorie King, who was allergic to many spirits, but not to tequila. This story was told by bartender Albert Hernandez, who popularized the margarita in San Diego after 1947 at the La Plaza restaurant in La Jolla. It is unclear if Hernandez knew Herrera, but he is said to have visited Mexico often.

There are many other origin stories, and the answer to who officially invented the drink is unclear. At the end of the day, though, the Margarita is just a name for a simple drink with a very standard proportion. Want to make this classic beverage? Just remember 2-1-1.

Simple, Easy Margarita Recipe

The margarita is just a sour, and uses a simple proportion of 2 ounces spirit, 1 ounce sweet, 1 ounce sour. Mix tequila, triple sec and lime using this 2-1-1 formula, and you’re set!

Looking for other simple sour recipes?

Start with simple syrup (sweet) and lime (sour). Using the same 2-1-1 (spirit/sweet/sour) proportion, you can make the following:

  • Add rum for a daiquiri
  • Add gin for a gimlet
  • Add vodka for a kamikaze

Swap put the lime for lemon and you can make the following:

  • Add whiskey for a whiskey sour
  • Add gin for a gin sour
  • Add vodka for a lemon drop

Looking for more great margarita’s? Check out San Diego’s Best Margarita Recipes here.

San Diego resident for over 10 years, I now call this beautiful city home. Originally from the Bay Area, I'm a California girl at heart. I love the outdoors, fitness, food, and a good craft beer (from San Diego of course).

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