Cinco de Mayo Fun Facts: History of the Margarita

margarita-instawaresMade from a blend of tequila, Cointreau or Triple Sec, and fresh lime juice, margaritas are the most popular cocktails in the United States, accounting for 18% of all mixed drink sales.  Americans consume more than 185,000 margaritas per hour, making the United States the number one tequila market in the world.

Just like your memory after having one too many, the origin of the margarita remains unclear. Although many have claimed to be the creator of the famed drink, no one knows for sure just who concocted the world’s first. Take a look at these popular stories about the birth of the margarita and decide for yourself.

Tijuana – 1938

According to Mexican legend, the margarita was born in Tijuana at the Rancho La Gloria restaurant in 1938. Carlos “Danny” Herrera created the drink for customer Marjorie King, an aspiring actress who was allergic to all hard alcohol except for tequila. Instead of serving her an overpowering tequila shot, Herrera created a tasty drink that blended the salt and lime flavors from traditional tequila shots into an iced beverage, naming the drink after his customer.

Ensenada – 1941

Southern Californians think that the margarita was first invented at the acclaimed Hussong’s Cantina in Ensenada. In October 1941, bartender Don Carlos Orozco served a mixture of tequila, Damiana, and lime over ice in a salt-rimmed glass to a woman who visited the bar often.  Although the identity of the woman remains a mystery, many believe that she was either Margarita Henkel, daughter of the German ambassador to Mexico, or actress and dancer Rita Hayworth, whose real name was Margarita Carmen Cansino.

Acapulco – 1948

While vacationing with her husband and friends in Acapulco in December 1948, Dallas socialite Margaret “Margarita” Sames decided to create a new drink for her guests to enjoy at the pool. “After all, a person can only drink so many beers or so many Bloody Marys or screwdrivers or whatever. I wanted to make up a new drink”, Sames told the San Antonio News-Express in 1994.

Sames first combined her favorite liquor, tequila, with Cointreau, an orange-based liqueur from France, inventing a cocktail that was not initially appealing to her guests. “I was pushed into the swimming pool quite a few times because some of those first drinks were so bad”, she said. After much experimentation, Sames finally found the perfect blend for her drink, a mix of tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice served in a salted rim glass. Dubbed “Margarita’s drink”, the recipe for the margarita quickly spread across the country via Sames’ friends, including actors Lana Turner and John Wayne, Hotel Bel-Air owner Joseph Drown, Tail O’Clock owner Shelton McHenry, and famed hotelier Nick Hilton.

Galveston – 1948

Texans staked their claim to the margarita in 1948, when head bartender Santos Cruz was said to have created the drink at the Balinese Room in Galveston. Cruz reportedly concocted the drink for singer Peggy Lee, calling it Margarita, the Spanish translation of Lee’s name.