The History of the Margarita: The Mystery Behind Mexico’s Top Cocktail

Like your head the morning after too many strong drinks, the history of the margarita is hazy. There are many plausible stories regarding its origins. But no-one can truly say which is the truth.

However, here are three possible contenders, typically considered among the most likely to be true. Just grab a salt-rimmed glass, fill it with tequila, Cointreau, and lime, and decide for yourself which one you want to believe.


History of the margarita

Story number 1: Marjorie King and Rancho la Gloria

Some say margaritas were invented by Tijuana restaurant owner Carlos “Danny” Herrera for the Ziegfeld showgirl and B-movie star Marjorie King.

A regular at his Rancho la Gloria bar, King was reportedly allergic to all spirits except for tequila (which she didn’t like to drink straight). To please his patron, Herrera combined the ingredients of a typical tequila shot (tequila, salt, and lime) into a cocktail and named his creation the margarita – the closest Spanish name to Marjorie.

Story number 2: Margaret Sames´ Christmas creation

An alternative version of the margarita origin story involves Margaret Sames, a rich Dallas socialite with a penchant for mixology. Having unsuccessfully attempted to invent a rum-based cocktail on vacation in Cuba, Sames turned her attention to tequila while on holiday in Acapulco over Christmas 1948.

According to Sames herself, her first attempts were so bad she was pushed in the swimming pool several times by her unfortunate guinea pigs. Eventually, however, she found a nice balance between tequila, Cointreau, and lime, decanted into a salt-rimmed glass. Sames served the drinks to her guests, including a member of the Hilton family – of Hilton hotels – who put it on the cocktail menu of the hotel chain, sparking its world-wide fame.

Story number 3: Danny Negrete’s wedding gift

Others believe it was bar manager Danny Negrete who invented the margarita. Attending his brother’s wedding at Garci Crespo Hotel in Tehuacan, Puebla, Negrete gifted the drink as a wedding present to his new sister-in-law, Margarita. One version of the story says Margarita would always add salt to her drinks, which helps to explain the salt-rimmed glass.


History of the frozen margarita

The history of the frozen margarita from a machine is, thankfully, far-less contentious. The slushie version of the drink that comes was created by innovative restaurant owner Mariano Martinez in Dallas, Texas in 1971.

With high demand for his iced margaritas, Martinez sought a way to speed up the mixing process and, at the same time, make the quality more consistent. His solution was simple, mix the ingredients together in a repurposed soft-serve ice cream machine.

It was a masterstroke. Now, Martinez´s original frozen margarita machine is sitting in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, while the next generations of Martinez’s invention crank out frozen margaritas across the world.


Explore Mexico’s food and drink with Journey Mexico

To uncover Mexico’s rich gastronomic heritage, take a VIP food and drink tour with Journey Mexico. We provide discerning travelers with exclusive access to the best distilleries, arrange cooking classes with world-class chefs, and book foodie tours around Mexico’s most famous culinary regions. To find out more, take a look through our sample Food and Wine itineraries.

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