The history of the Margarita goes back to the 1930s. And like many cocktails with a past, there are a variety of stories that go to explaining the origin but unfortunately none of them are definitive.
The one we rather like is that of a Mexican showgirl called Rita De La Rosa. This story comes via the Tequila brand Jose Cuervo. They say that the cocktail was invented in 1938 by a barman called Don Carlos Herrera who owned a bar called Rancho La Gloria somewhere near Tijuana.
The story goes that Rita was a true beauty of her day, with lips as red as roses and hair as jet black as night. While she liked to drink, she believed she was allergic to most types of liquor but could drink Tequila.
Being a lady Rita never wanted to be seen drinking it straight, so the barman inspired by her beauty, and some say the electrifying nature of her performances, improvised a cocktail using the flavours of a Tequila shot (Lime with a salt rim) to capture her heart.
Less than a decade later, in the mid ’40s, the Tequila maker Jose Cuervo capitalised on the story they told with ads for their Tequila. Although they never mention the story directly, the ads feature the Margarita and show a girl with red lis and black hair. The slogan was, “Margarita: It’s more than a girl’s name.”
Another possible source of the Margarita comes from Hussong’s Cantina in Ensenada, where bartender Don Carlos Orozco worked. During his shift one day, as he was tinkering with new cocktail ideas, Margarita Henkel, daughter of a German ambassador, showed up at the bar. She was supposedly the first person to taste one of his new beverages so the bartender decided to name the drink, the Margarita, for her.
There is even a story reports that actress Rita Hayworth (whose given name happened to be Margarita Cansino) enjoyed the drink at a bar while she was working in Tijuana at a theater in the 1940s and the drink was renamed after her on the spot.
Probably the most accurate story, is the one that claims that the Margarita is simply a version of an American drink that was popular during the Prohibition years that was called the “Daisy”. Since drinking was not only allowed but encouraged across the border, many people regularly went to Mexico to party legally.
Since Tequila was so prevalent in Mexico, it was probably substituted for other liquors like Gin, Brandy or Whiskey in order to make the Daisy. Made with Tequila, Orange-flavored liqueur, fresh Lime Juice and a splash of Soda, the new “Daisy” was dubbed the “Margarita”, which is the exact translation in Spanish.
While there may be argument as to the origins of this Tequila cocktail, there’s no argument that a Margarita is definitely a crowd-pleasing summer classic.