The Margarita cocktail – the short, salty, mysterious one


It is safe to say that nobody really knows who invented the Margarita cocktail – it’s origin is clouded in mystery. But judging by it’s name it seems likely that it involved a feisty, beautiful woman – or did it?

There are at least as many claims to the birth of the genius mix called Margarita as there are versions of this popular drink. One such story has it that the drink was first created by Mexican restauranteur Carlos Herrera for a voluptious showgirl Marjorie King whom he had a bit of a thing for. King was allergic to all forms of alcohol except tequila, but had an aversion to drinking it neat. More than a little infatuated Herrera felt inspired enough by the beauty to solve this problem by adding salt and lime to the concoction and ‘presto!’ – the Margarita was born! Or so he says in his obituary.

Most classic cocktails such as the Negroni hail from as early as the 1800’s but the Margarita doesn’t begin showing up on bar counters until much later – well into the 1930s and ’40s. The accurate historical facts supporting the origin of the Margarita cocktail has been lost in time (one too many Margaritas, perhaps?) but it is not surprising it began showing up when it did. Round about that time European brandies and Spirits became scarce during World War 2 and with the budding smuggling trade from Mexico into America during Prohibition all of a sudden tequila was the belle of the ball.

Studying the trends of the time it may in fact be that the Margarita cocktail was not named after a beautiful woman after all, but instead may simply be a variation of another cocktail that was popular during Prohibition: the Daisy. Linguists will point out to you that in fact, margarita means “daisy” in Spanish. There is only one difference between the Daisy and the Margarita – the former was made with brandy and the latter with tequila.

There are even those who doubt the Mexican origin of the drink as although the use of tequila does give it a certain Mexican flair, Mexico has never really had a cocktail culture, and according to Imbibe Magazine ‘to this day Margaritas are not really consumed by the locals.”

But whatever the origin or nationality of the drink it is no mystery why the Margarita Cocktail is such a hit. The deliciousness of this drink is down to the perfect marriage of four simple ingredients. For the ultimate classic margarita, all you need is: tequila, lime or lemon juice and Cointreau. Squeeze your citrus to get your juice, add in a shot of tequila, a splash of Cointreau and – Olé!

Margarita Cocktail

Serves 1

  • 50ml Esperanza Blanco
  • 25ml Cointreau or Triple Sec
  • 25ml lemon or lime juice
  • Ice

Add the ingredients to a shaker filled with ice.  Shake and strain into a chilled glass coupe. If you want to get a little fancy, create a salt rim for your glass and garnish with a slice of lemon or lime. But stop right there before your ruin the perfection!

Thanks to Hope Distillery for sharing this cocktail classic. 

Styling Production and Writing: Liezel Norval-Kruger | Photography: Kleinjan Groenewald 

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