Each year on February 22 we take some time to celebrate National Margarita Day. We all love a good margarita. They are a staple drink at any Mexican restaurant, and for the most part the only tequila based drink most people can name. Blended with ice or on the rocks, they come in all flavors in a margarita glass, usually with a salted (or in some cases, sugared) rim. If you are a Dayton native, you know that Elsa’s and their Bad Juans are THE margaritas to drink. You may also know that if you live in or near Tampa, Florida. There is an Elsa’s there, and Bad Juans are served in the Tampa Bay Times Forum Arena, home of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The margarita is a drink that every bartender, amateur and professional, knows how to make. It is one of the basics.
What no bartender knows is where the margarita originally came from. In fact, no one knows. But the stories that hover around the origins of the drink are pretty incredible. One of the most told ones is that a wealthy socialite from Texas names Margaret “Margarita” Sames created the drink in 1948 at a party she was throwing at her vacation home in Acapulco. She stepped behind the bar and started to experiment, and had her guests judge the results. The most popular one was the one that went on to bear her name. It is a great story, but it also ignores the fact that in 1945, Jose Cuervo had an advertisement with the phrase “Margarita: it’s more than a girl’s name”. A story that would fit that timeline is the one where it is created in the 1930’s for a woman named Marjorie King by a bartender named Carlos “Danny” Herrera. She was supposedly allergic to all forms of alcohol…except for tequila. This was made as her drink. Or, maybe a rock star bartender named Enrique Bastante Gutierrez made it for a little known actress named Margarita Cansino. Some bartenders think it was not named for a woman at all, but it is a variation of a classic drink named a Daisy, which in Spanish is margarita. The Daisy was a much more complex drink with a brandy base, and added simple syrup and soda water.
The margarita is a cocktail that comes from a much simpler background, probably relating a little closer to the sours popular in the late 19th century. When we go out, we look to get pitchers, fishbowls, 55 gallon drums, any large container full of a slightly sour, greenish/yellowish beverage. The original recipe is a little closer to this:
1.5 oz. tequila (I am a fan of El Espalon Reposado lately)
1 oz. orange liqueur (Triple sec, Grand Marnier, etc.)
.75 oz. lime juice
Combine the ingredients into a mixing glass over ice. Shake well, and then strain into a margarita glass with a salted rim.
To salt a rim, take a lime wedge and run it around the edge of the glass to add moisture. Then dip the edge into a plate with kosher salt covering it, pressing the salt into the edge. Lift the glass and tap the edge gently, knocking off any excess salt. You want the salt to be on the outside and edge of the glass, not the inside where salt may slide into and contaminate the drink.
The original margarita recipe is very simple. Just three ingredients and you have a delicious cocktail ready to go. Such simplicity has inspired a wide variety of creativity in the margarita realm, much like it has in the martini realm. The core of the drink sill revolves around the tequila, and adding something sweet to it. Some of the variations are very subtle, like the Blue Margarita, Mango Margarita, or a Sour Apple Margarita. Some of them are a little more complicated:
Spicy Cucumber Margarita (via Examiner)
Half a cucumber, peeled and cubed
1 slice jalapeno pepper, minced, no seeds
1 oz. reposado tequila
.5 oz. lime juice (about half a medium lime)
.5 oz. orange liqueur
Muddle the cucumber and jalapeno in the bottom of a shaker, and then add ice. Pour all of the liquid ingredients into the shaker, and then shake. You want to shake it about ten or so times. Strain the drink into the margarita glass, filled with ice and rimmed with salt. You can mix some pepper flakes in the salt as well for some extra kick.
Catalina Margarita (via About.com)
1.5 oz. silver tequila
1 oz. peach schnapps
1 oz. blue curacao
.5 oz. sour mix
Add ice into a shaker. Pour all of the liquid ingredients into the shaker, and shake well. Pour into a margarita glass, rimmed with sugar and filled with ice. For fruitier or sweeter margaritas, a sugar rim is recommended.
Baha Margarita (via The Beer Lady Speaks)
1.5 oz. silver tequila
1 oz. coconut rum (Malibu is an excellent choice)
1.5 oz. lime juice
1 tbsp. simple syrup (optional)
Add ice into a shaker. Pour all of the liquid ingredients into the shaker, and shake well. Pour into a margarita glass, rimmed with salt and filled with ice. The interesting thing here is the use of coconut rum as the sweet element, which marries well with the lime juice.
As mentioned earlier, Elsa’s is the undisputed champion of the margarita in Dayton. However, that is not to say there is not competition for the crown. Pepito’s in Kettering has been known to serve a delicious margarita or two. El Toro can also throw its hat in the ring, offering a wide variety of tequilas as well as variations on classic. El Meson will be celebrating the day with tapas specials as well as Meson Margaritas. Abuelo’s will also be celebrating the day with specials on their premium margaritas. There are plenty of places to go to celebrate National Margarita Day. Just remember this article if you have to work the next day. Cheers!